Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-31-12

Scripture: Luke 2:41-42
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.

Thought for the Day: “I can’t believe another year has come and gone!”  How many times have you said that?  As I get older, I say it more and more.  I wonder if the parent’s of Jesus said it as they were preparing to participate in the Passover festival.  I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever said, “Let’s just skip this year.”  Maybe…but I doubt it.  Though these events come around each year, they are important.  The ritual experience teaches us and shapes us in those things we value.  Today is New Years Eve, and though it comes around every year, that’s no reason to ignore it.  In fact, naming it and celebrating it teaches us to let go of the past and prepare for the future.  It quietly forms us in those things that are of value.

Prayer: Holy and Magnificent God, I give you thanks for your amazing gifts of love and mercy.  As special holidays and anniversaries occur this year coming year, may they give reason to celebrate and reconnect with your wonderful works of grace.  Amen.

Brian McLaren’s New Book: Part 2

As I continue on with Brian McLaren’s book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, I find myself struggling with the tension Brian names.  I describe the tension found in our choice between ‘hostility toward other faiths’ or ‘hollowing out our own’.  For far too long, we have assumed those were our only two options, and frankly, if I must choose, I will always hollow out my own faith before choosing hostility.

For far too many others, they would rather choose the way of hostility.  They quite often decorate it with flowery religious language and hold it together with a holier-than-thou border, but such an attitude almost always gets stopped in its tracks when it encounters another human in a true ‘I-Thou’ relationship.  It is easy to hurl insults and contempt at a caricature sketched in TV soundbites and viral email, but encountering the soul of another human being through conversation changes everything.

McLaren asks, “Does sincere faith in the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ require one to see other faiths as false, dangerous, or even demonic?” (p. 32).   Why is it that so many Christians have been willing to be nice to Muslims “when necessary in order to convert them to Christianity; otherwise, see them as spiritual competitors and potential enemies.  In effect, this approach tended to dehumanize the other, turning others into ‘evangelistic targets’” (p. 30).

We must find another way, one that is not hostile to those of other faiths, while still allowing each faith group to maintain a strong sense of one’s self and one’s convictions.  Could it be possible that our mistrust, hatred and violence toward one another comes, not from a place of strength, but from a terrified sense of our own frailty?  McLaren suggests that we “need to become better Muslims, better Jews, and better Christians…But doing so will demand a high cost from us.  It will subject us to criticism and maybe even threats and worse–from our religious fellows” (p.51).

The journey into a third way is a bit daunting, in part, because the road will be lined with many who will want nothing more than to see us fail.  The sad thing is that these same people will be those with whom we sit with every Sunday morning.

Give me your thoughts…