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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Christianity's Progress

I was reading a book recently that had a quote from Albert Schweitzer. I'd like to discuss it a little, so before we do, let me put in the quote:

  • What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus. --- Albert Schweitzer

So many thoughts come to mind as I think about these words & the man who wrote them. I think of Paul speaking about when a child, I think as a child --- through the glass darkly & then face to face, etc.

My mind goes through the history of Christianity. I think of the early followers who knew Jesus and/or his disciples. I think of the fervor, the commitment, the courage & the faith in that 1st century. I think of the ordinary people who opened their hearts & lives & became made new.

But I also think of the shift into political/military take over of the movement. I think of the non-Christian, Constantine, who used Christianity to unite his empire & wasn't even baptised until his death bed. I think of the warrior popes & bishops & those who lived off the backs of the poor & called themselves Christian. I thought of the enslavement of people with the excuse that they would be rewarded in the next life. So much of "Christian" history has nothing to do with the life & teachings of Jesus Christ.

Of course, the fanatical shifts that took place from time to time are obviously painful to look at. We have the dreadful inquisitions, crusades, witch hunts & other terrible things that come from the extremely cruel, crazy & power hungry who hijacked our faith far too frequently. In this moment, we can see those very same kinds of people hijacking another faith to make it something violent & ugly & not at all Godlike.

But my concern is with Christianity. We might be able to save our future if somehow we could hear Schweitzer deep within ourselves & awaken to full-grown Christianity.

So how can we become a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus? How can we grow up?

Jesus told us that his central message was the 2 great commandments. In fact, he said that by following them, we fulfill ALL the law & the prophets. That is quite a statement! In order to do that, what we need to do is love each other fully & completely & love God fully & completely.

Far too seldom have these 2 commandments been the focus of our spiritual walk. Jesus hung out with sinners, with all sorts of people, & he loved them. His love healed many of them. Many Christians historically & today avoid some of the groups Jesus spent time with, even condemning them & excluding them. Some act as if they are too pious & too good to lower themselves to be with some group or the other.

Jesus didn't say love only those you agree with, only those who behave the way you want them to, only non-sinners. In fact, he said to even love our enemies.

There is an interesting balance between being a sincere follower who endeavors to be congruent while not slipping over into fanaticism.

One of the things that I like about the heritage Christianity grew out of, Judaism, is their historical, & more or less constant, inquiry into to their own scriptures. They dissect, discuss & even argue over meanings & applications of just about every line of what we call the Old Testament. They try to clarify their teaching & their faith.

I find it amazing that some Christian groups in this day & age refuse to discuss anything from the Bible. They have decided they know what it means & it is literally God's word dictated to men. They refuse to consider idiomatic sayings of the days, cultural & historical context, scientific understandings, surrounding myths, actual other words that could have been translated (such as dimensions or mansions from the Greek in in my fathers' house are many mansions/dimensions), etc. These groups, of course, do not & cannot follow all of the directions given, especially in the Old Testament. They do not eat Kosher, do not follow the cleanliness practices & other traditions, never mind the 10 Commandments.

It seems to me, that if Christians could follow the 2 Great Commandments, we could have meaningful discussions that would lead to real, actual spiritualization of our lives. The church has fractured into many groups, most of which claim to know THE Truth while other groups do not. So, at best they argue. We do not have a dialogue across most group lines that discusses our faith, explores our scriptures, allows for various understandings, encourages one another, etc.

I imagine Jesus is not happy with us. We cannot even follow the simple commandment to love. How can we bear witness to Him, if we are not endeavoring to be like Him? How can Christianity grow up if we don't?

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