I recently had the opportunity to read some words that are going to stick with me for a long time. They’re from Brian McLaren (see below) and have encouraged me to ponder these questions:
What if Christianity moved from being an organized religion to an organizing religion?
Not just some organized effort to promote and protect propositional beliefs, but more — so very much more — an organizing religion for compassion, contemplation, spiritual connection, and human flourishing?
What if we could see this happen? What if folks could participate in it happening?
Here’s what Brian McLaren has to say:
“For centuries, Christianity has been presented as a system of beliefs. That system of beliefs has supported a wide range of unintended consequences, from colonialism to environmental destruction, subordination of women to stigmatization of LGBT people, anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, clergy pedophilia to white privilege. What would it mean for Christians to rediscover their faith not as a problematic system of beliefs, but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion, that makes amends for its mistakes and is dedicated to beloved community for all? Could Christians migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?
“For centuries, Christians have presented God as a Supreme Being who showers blessings upon insiders who share certain beliefs and proper institutional affiliation, but who punishes outsiders with eternal conscious torment. Yet Jesus revealed God as one who ‘eats with sinners,’ welcomes outsiders in, and forgives even while being rejected, tortured, and killed. . . . He preached that God was to be found in self-giving service rather than self-asserting domination. . . . What would it mean for Christians to understand, experience, and embody God as the loving, healing, reconciling Spirit in whom all creatures live, move, and have their being?
“For centuries, Christianity has presented itself as an ‘organized religion’—a change-averse institution . . . that protects and promotes a timeless system of beliefs that were handed down fully formed in the past. Yet Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation. . . . What might happen if we understood the core Christian ethos as creative, constructive, and forward-leaning—as an ‘organizing religion’ that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbor, enemy, and creation?
“Many people today are leaving the belief systems of their parents and grandparents. This is a mass exodus from institutional faith that demographers are calling ‘the rise of the Nones.’ Nones comprise about twenty percent of all Americans, and one-third of Americans under thirty. Having little patience with (or appreciation for) mystery, as well as so little humility or basic love for groups other than our own, maybe Christianity in its present formulation has to die for a truly universal and love-centered spiritual path to be born. I sincerely wonder if this might be true.”
What do you think?