Let’s be honest, Christian is a bad word these days. A formidable conservative group of people with an affinity for Donald Trump, a commitment to heterosexuality, and a clarity that women don’t have bodily autonomy have hijacked ‘Christian.’ It’s been a long hijacking, actually, and this particular stolen flight has its beginnings with Ronald Reagan, televangelist Jerry Falwell, and the advent of the ‘Religious Right.’ Donald Trump, with his own particular gift for hijacking, has re energized the RR and brought these group of Christians back to the table where they wield undue political and social influence.
I have practiced Christianity all of my life and that practice has had several iterations including Christian fundamentalism and ‘witnessing’ on the Las Vegas Strip, respectable, button-down Liberal Protestantism, and Social Gospel with a Liberation Theology chaser. At present, I would characterize my practice in the following way: I dig Jesus, The Universe has my back, and I’ll be more into church when it returns to the living room or the den.
For all the changes in my life these last several years; my new teaching career, my music and writing pursuits, my travel interests- Jesus continues to compel me. I see him as someone who accepted and embraced the people that others rejected. I see him as someone who stood up to the powerful interests that cared more for their own position and status than they did for the people that their power could serve. And, I see Jesus as someone who tapped into an energy and managed to use it with some significant results.
Before becoming a teacher, I worked as an Episcopal priest. Now that I’m out of the pulpit, I can say a few more things than I couldn’t have said during the years I was on Jesus’ payroll. I don’t much care for the theological constructs about Jesus’ divinity, his relationship to sin, or the efficacy of his shed blood. I’m still Christian not because correct theology is important to me but because I still dig Jesus and Jesus helps me do my best to love the world rather than reject it.
The Universe has my back. I absolutely believe this. My wife gets upset with me because I say that more and more. When she hears me utter it, she thinks it means I don’t believe in God. I still believe in God, but my concept of God has changed. I believe less in a deity that is distinct and separate from the Universe and more in a deity that IS the Universe. The technical term for this belief is panentheism; the belief that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond space and time. I have a fancy four-year seminary degree that taught me some pretty sophisticated stuff about church and God. At this point in my life, however, the above definition, courtesy of Wikipedia, will do. I am actually beginning to see that God is indeed in all things; in music, in my students, in a day’s drive through the Great Basin. I think part of Jesus’ success lay in his ability to see God in everything and pretty much in everyone, even the assholes who executed him.
I don’t have a place or much opportunity to talk about or reflect on my new Wikipedia theology. Church isn’t the place. Church is pretty much like my classroom. My classroom is all set up before the students get there. They come in, they sit where they sat before, they get my handouts, and they do what I want them to do. Church bears a disconcerting similarity to my classroom. People come in, get their handouts (bulletins or programs) from the greeter, sit in their same pews, and pretty much do what the priest tells them to do. Here’s a thought: make church less like school and more people might come.
The Christian Church, in its first iteration, you know, before it went legal and legit, met in the living room. I’ve been in living rooms. People talk to each other in living rooms. Sometimes they eat in living rooms. Sometimes they leave the living room and have a cigarette somewhere else beside the living room. When you have church in the living room, it’s more informal. Paradoxically, informality is not always comfortable because it’s unpredictable. Strange things can happen, surprise can manifest itself, people can start getting their theology from the internet rather than seminary and begin calling God the Universe. If you can do Christian in the living room, maybe it would be more real for folks. I think it would be more real for me. There is a downside to living room church. So happens, that during the same time Christians gathered in homes, they got chomped up by nasty coliseum lions and impaled by pretty much the same assholes that nailed Jesus. This may explain why the the living room model didn’t stick.
I’m still Christian. I like saying that. I like being Christian. I love Jesus. I do. He’s like my hero. He is my hero. I worry some of my friends and others who are theological sophisticates, might cringe at my simplicity. I hope not. Maybe because I am beginning to see God like Wikipedia does-in everything-I’ll worry less about what folks think and more about, well, seeing God in everything. I wish I could talk about this this morning in my living room or someone else’s, read about Jesus, say some prayers-even for Donald Trump-break some bread, and then say goodbye in peace. Maybe one day.