Posted by: smstrouse | September 9, 2010

“Who Do You Say I Am?” The Battle for Jesus

Someone (I don’t remember who) once said that the next big church fight will be over Christology, that is the questions of who/what Jesus/Christ was/is.  I think whoever said it is right.  And even though many churches are still fighting over issues of sexuality, the battle for Jesus has already begun.  ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’  ‘Is it Christian to burn a Qur’an?’  Opposing bumper stickers proclaim ‘Proud Member of the Religious Left’ (mine) and  ‘Proud Member of the Religious Right.’

Some have already left the battlefield. Many disenfranchised Christians have joined what John Shelby Spong calls the ‘church alumni society.’  Others have moved themselves into the “spiritual but not religious” category.  Still others have abandoned the name “Christian” in favor of “follower of Jesus.”  I guess Anne Rice would fall into that category.  I admit that I go back and forth on the issue.  Some days I definitely do not want to be identified as a Christian, but am happy to be called a follower of Jesus.  Other days I insist that we cannot abandon Christianity to those who do not represent me or the Jesus I know and love.  There is no doubt that Christianity is in a time of flux.

One of the places where this question of Christology becomes especially important is in interfaith dialogue.  The title of my doctoral thesis was “Passing Over and Coming Back: What Does It Mean to Be a Christian in an Interfaith World?”  And what I learned in the process of writing was the need for intra-faith dialogue – where we explore and interact with other traditions, and then come back to our own to see what impact the encounter has had.   

Christianity has long been an exclusivist religion (at least in the West), but it does not have to be so. However, even the open-minded stumble over passages such as ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)  How can we reconcile such passages with our belief that God loves everyone?  Do we still accept the Bible as authoritative or do we pick and choose the parts we like and throw out the rest?  These are the questions of intra-faith dialogue.

Which is why at First United we are considering the possibility of having our second annual interfaith conference take on the intra-faith issues of Christianity.  The reasons are two-fold: 1) to help our own members and other Christians work with these questions; and 2) to let the ‘church alumni’ folks and other doubters and questioners know that there is a place for them where they do not have to check their brains at the door.

So stay tuned for news about the conference – probably in the spring.  And I would welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions about it.

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Responses

  1. I don’t really have any thoughts, comments or suggestions about your upcoming conference, but speaking one of those “church alumni” folks, I think the questions you raise are good ones to think about.

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  2. Hi Pastor Susan,

    Very interesting blog. It is refreshing to find a clear voice that openly discuss theological questions. I think using interfaith as a catalyst for intra-faith study is a great idea – I know that it works for me.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the Creedia project, which is of great relevance to the interfaith and intra-faith discussion. The main idea is for people to share their values and beliefs with others, creating kind of spiritual identity album.

    Check some profiles here (click on any one of them):
    http://www.creedia.com/en/members

    The main idea is that people feel comfortable with their profiles, so we have and we’ll continue to do the most to address comments or suggestions. In particular creed statement can be marked with multiple religion symbols but each member can select which (if any) of the religious symbols to show on his/her profile, etc. All content is added by the community.

    Some of the concerns you elaborate on in interfaith discussions are also reflected here. Not all people feel comfortable openly sharing their spiritual identity and celebrating the commonality and diversity with others.

    You are welcome to join and build your profile – It is rather easy – just press the join-us button on the front page and fill-in the details. I’m sure that your profile will be inspiring to many.

    Best regards and good luck with the conference
    Ron

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