After my internship this summer, I’m quite under the realisation that God is much bigger than how our own contexts usually confine God. God is equally in the 10:30 am coffee break between the 9:30 am and 11am service as God is in the shout or the contemporary version of the ring shout.
I’ve struggled with what to call these Sunday Morning thingamajigys, I’ve used revelation, and last week I used realization and today I’m just going to call it a coffee break.
Today’s topic: Who Defines Christianity?
Liberals usually holler that the religious right has hi-jacked Christianity and made it some secret club that only select members can get in. While that is true, I turn toward my fellow companions on the left and ask them, just how should Christianity be defined then?
After sitting in the core requirement of Church History 1, I realise that currently, our primary “text” from which we do Christianity isn’t the Bible, but really church dogma beginning with Paul, the martyrs and people like Clement and Ignatius. We’re really interpreting the political contrivings of the church fathers and placing them on the biblical text. From those various jump off points we have actually machinated doctrines of Trinitarianism, atonement, deification, sanctification and justification that have been passed down through the years and have placed them on the biblical text. Because of that, I am convinced that some very interesting doctrines have been placed on our contemporary times that don’t necessarily make sense.
I see how Christianity was defined back in the day, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s all conjecture and up for debate. If one side has proof, so does the other side–it’s all up to interpretation.
What I don’t like that the religious right has done is made Christianity an us versus them dichotomy. This isn’t new talk for me, I’ve said it before in some of my other religious slanted posts, but for the life of me, I just can’t figure out why? But of course, if one traces the roots of many of the mainline denominations in existence in America, many of them split over the issue of slavery–hence Southern Baptists for example. They were quite clear that Christianity for them was to look like the monochromatic backdrop of people at a Sen. John McCain-Gov. Sarah Palin rally.
Scripture aside (because one could debate back and forth all day everyday) why is it that some Christians feel as though one must look a certain way, act a certain way, talk a certain way–or to be more pointed, must say a certain creed (Apostles or Nicene), be baptized, receive the right hand of fellowship–in other words be initiated into their club in order to receive full membership rights? Too many self-professed Christians are treating the church as nothing more than a sorority or a fraternity.
The church is full of “if-then” clauses propagated from the pulpit “If you tithe, then God won’t curse you” (Mal. 3:8) setting up a legalistic God that operates under retributive justice, but of course the church uses that to their advantage when they want to, and then preaches and teaches grace when something bad has happened–just ask Juanita Bynum (but who really knows what she’s talking about anyway).
Personally, I think the Old Testament as we know is nothing but conjecture. I don’t hold the Bible in high authority like I used to. Here’s an example: I think Martin Luther King’s “Letter to a Birmingham jail” is as equally inspired by God, and is just as much the Word of God as Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. This is not to say that there isn’t good preaching material in the Bible or that some passages hold eternal truths that align with my understanding of God, but I have problems with a biblical understanding of a God who “tests” humans by telling them to go kill their own son (Gen. 32). As far as I’m concerned, the only real book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes–Qoheleth is quite clear that “all of it is vanity.”
However, when I ask who defines Christianity, I would suggest this particular Bible passage (because some of y’all wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t pull a scripture to support my point) John 13:35 that, in my own interpretation, says “They’ll know that we are followers of Christ by our love.” The beloved community has a responsibility to love conditionally–that one condition is that we should love, otherwise, unconditionally.
As Christians we may say that we love our enemy, but we really don’t show it often. When it is reported that at McCain-Palin rallies that supporters have been allowed to call out “Terrorist” in reference to Obama or even the more damnable “Kill him” and receive nothing more than a lukewarm smile from McCain and a Dick Cheney-esque smirk from Sarah Palin, then it’s quite clear that we have allowed the wrong people to define who we are and what we stand for as followers of the one who was and is to come.
I knew it was really bad when Soul Jonz informed me that one our colleagues at school, who is much more Pentecostal in her practices told him that “Obama is a Muslim” (and thank God not a “Muslin” <– make sure you click on that link) and that “He kills babies” as though he was personally involved in alluded abortions. As followers of the Way, I believe we have a responsibilty to not shape and remake Christianity into our own image as the left, but rather place it in the public square and have a discussion that brings us all into full fellowship with one another.
I can guarantee you that if I wasn’t a church kid, I wouldn’t want to be Christian. Admittedly, the pro-black side of me might have found appeal to a Jeremiah Wright (and I must say that white folk got another thing coming if they think that we’ve done away with the rhetorical powerhouse that is Minister Louis Farrakhan), but if mainline Christianity that has been presented in the public domain is promoted as being all white and patriarchal, why oh why would someone want to profess a belief of Christianity?
Who do you think has defined Christianity? Do you think that God can or should be defined or confined to how we see it or do you think I’m just off my liberal rocker?
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL