Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Question" Christianity

Imagine a person, tired of the hypocrisy and short-sightedness, closed-mindedness and inhospitableness of Christian community they have experienced, finding new life in Christian community somewhere else.

This shouldn't be very hard. We all know someone injured by Christian community. In fact, in all likelihood this person is us.

A new community emerges that promises a feeling of safety and empowerment. This community shares my questions and concerns, and has transcended the dark matters I have been hurt by.

But then problems and struggles begin to show. Even some of the same problems the previous community had exhibited. It turns out this wasn't the pure community they had hoped for. So they move on, seeking out an even more pure Christian community.


Quite a lot of Christianity is focused on "getting it right" over against the faulty/heretical/morally bankrupt forms of Christianity exercise by others. In some ways, the development of the faith is nothing but this.

ELCA Elevator speech
The disputes used to be between confessional communities--Lutherans vs. Calvinists, Papists vs. Waldensians, or between schools of thought (Alexandrian or Antiochian). More recently, brought up against the sheer face of the proliferation of "secularities," it seems that the progressive Christian movement has set itself up in a unique way not as one school of thought over against others, but rather as the final and last resting place for those who wish to move beyond all beyonds, for those who no longer question specific confessional positions over against other ones, those who inhabit no specific confessional position at all, but simply "Live the Questions."

Now, let me confess that I have a lot invested in this form of Christianity myself. As a pastor, I hope to host Christian community where questions are allowed, even encouraged. Like the elevator speech of my denomination, I really do want to embrace people as whole persons, their questions, complexities and all.

I have, however, come to the awareness that this type of Christianity can function as self-superior posturing. Any movement that simply "embraces the questions" ends up not standing for much of anything other than living the questions themselves. Even though the progressive Christian movement wants to claim it is open to the questions, it is actually only open to certain types of questions, certain kinds of questioning.

The posturing takes one other mode: It tends to assume that all the other Christianit(ies) are somehow more morally suspect than progressive Christianity. They are rife with corruption and hypocrisy, have launched crusades, and funded suspect televangelists (http://www.whychristian.net/about/). Progressive Christianity, in its questioning, "Why Christian?" approach, offers itself as the resolution to these problematic forms of Christianity.

Herein lies the danger. If progressive Christianity is the resolution to the "problem" of Christianity, then it has to be "pure." It can't be guilty of any of the failures it observes in the Christianity of others.

Yet, if history is any guide, it is a truism that no pure Christianity exists. Each movement is corrupt, hypocritical. The danger comes when any particular movement stops applying the hermeneutic of suspicion to itself that it applies to all others. The danger comes when a movement offers itself as the "answer" to all the questions. The danger is especially present when the questions become the answer.

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