Monday, March 31, 2008

Thoughts On Unity And The Cross

Art by Paul Soupiset

I've been thinking a lot over Lent and Easter about the idea of Christian Unity. This is a theme heavy on my heart, because it is so very lacking in the framework of Christianity these days.

We are soo divided over doctrine be it the theory of atonement, Biblical inspiration, or social issues like homosexuality. But there is a commonality between all who call themselves "Christian"...and that is Christ; esp. Christ on the cross. Now I know that some would say that Christ did die on the cross, but the story of his death and resurrection is metaphorical and not historical. So the other side says "we can't call you a "Christian" because you don't believe what I believe." But the other side says, "Why not? to be a Christian is to 'follow' Christ and live the life God created us to live, and Christ taught us to live. We are 'little Christs' which is a better translation for 'Christian'."

Just to clarify, I personally believe in the death and resurrection of Christ.... But I'm trying to look at things from multiple sides.

No one that I have known or read denies the crucifixion of Christ. I know that both of these sides (and all in-between) can't seem to reconcile their beliefs, but there is a sense that when we celebrated Easter, we were all standing around the empty cross (whether we were looking at it as he was raised, or that it was just empty and the Christ had been removed). We were all looking at the cross and could all celebrate the NEW BIRTH (a very common theme in the Bible) of a that we would eventually call "Christianity". I know many would argue, "you can't celebrate Easter because we are celebrating the resurrection!", but those on the other side would say, "we are celebrating the meaning of Easter, and the tradition of the death and resurrection theme of Easter. We are celebrating the history of the tradition, and what it means in our own lives."

Yet instead of uniting us, we (as the picture shows) put a lock on Christ and the event of the cross. Mostly, I find it is the side that believes in the traditional Easter (resurrection) saying, "no, this is our holiday, and you can't celebrate it and call yourself a 'Christian' unless you've done/believe A, B, and C!" How can we deny others to come to the foot of the cross? Who are we to say such a thing??? We spend so much time trying to divide, and in this instance (as an example, but I think we do this a LOT), push others away from the cross!!! What would Christ say to that?

I know it happens from both sides, but I see less tolerance and acceptance on the more traditional than the historical. Either way, I think we let ego get in the way of the spirit!!!! I'm as guilty in my life as anyone, hence why I spent so much time thinking about this before posting.

But back to unity. I prayed this Lent and Easter for more Unity in the coming year. I pray for more discussion and less militant debate. I pray for less name-calling, and more embracing. At my discussion group last week we were talking about the ability to end poverty, world hunger, economic issues, etc... and a statement was made that hit me so hard.

I asked, "Is there hope for religion to solve the world's problems? Is it possible that a religion like Christianity can alleviate something like world poverty." The answer I got was this from several people (collaborative paraphrase): " can't. It hasn't and it never will because the religious institution (constructs) is made built in such a way that it is naturally divisive. It draws lines to separate, no attempt to unite. Religions of the world have had how many years to unite and alleviate problems in this world? And they have yet to do so, because all they can do is draw lines and dig in."

I'm sorry to be pessimistic, but to an extent, I have to say that statement is true:/

Another thing that I wanted to share was something I read in Cokesbury Catalog; a statement by one of (if not THE) best renowned Old Testament Scholar, Walter Brueggemann. He States:

"What i am really interested in is the wrestling with the Bible in the church in the culture wars and the fact that the Bible is odd and does not fit any of our conservative predispositions or any of our liberal impulses.

I think the Bible puts us all on edge and reminds us of our idolatries. But what strikes me is how people who disagree can be together around the Bible. A personal note on that is that i reflect from time to time the spectrum of places to which I get invited to speak. I'm on the liberal Episcopal circuit with Marcus Borg, but in the spring I'm speaking to a Nazerine college. I think the reason I have access across the interpretive spectrum is that I try to stay close to the text and give people room for their own hearing of the text. As best we can, we have to try to hear the Bible without imposing our particular slant on it too soon. This is not easy, but we have to work at it. We have to give each other room and I think that is what it will take to recover energy for our mission.

What that gathering around the Bible requires is for EVERYBODY to give up CERTITUDE(Emphasis mine). Our lust for certitude is fed by the depth of anxiety that is in our society. for the church to name the anxiety so people can see what's going on is a big step toward moving toward the Bible in a way that lets us stay on edge.

If the anxiety is unnamed, you have to find ways to tone the Bible down, or it just feeds the anxiety. But if the anxiety is named and hailed, we have a chance of being addressed.

I am heartened by the new generation of evangelicals that is pulling back from right-wing craziness and I imagine the rising generation of liberals is likely not to be so shrill and imperialistic. So I have this hope that we may be arriving at a new posture, so we can practice the unity of the church, to which we are ALL called (Emphasis mine). That does not mean that we have to agree, but it means that we have to LISTEN to each other as we are all addressed. "

Look at his new book here!!!

I for one am really heartened and challenged by this great man's words. If we can't center ourselves around the cross, then we all go to the Bible as our MAIN source for Christian living. Regardless of our interpretation...perhaps acknowledging THAT can be a start???


I'm not the smartest person in the world...all I know is that I long for unity within our world, and ESP. within our faith. If we want to help people find a better way to live, and we believe that Christ is a better way to live than the way the majority of people are living, then we need unity! If we want people to acknowledge Christ and his "way" (however you interpret that), then we cannot deny them access to the cross! If we want to change this world to mimic the Kingdom of God that Christ speaks of (in whatever way you interpret that), then we have to rally around our sacred scripture, no matter our interpretive differences, and stop attacking, but begin to dialog! Let our anxiety be known...confessed if you will. To God, and to each other!

It's time for us to take the lock off the cross and once again allow access to "all who are thirsty."


  1. Great stuff man. It's cool to see conversations we have had with the group in your blog.

  2. Hey,
    You know how much that group means to me!!!! I've been talking about it back at scott's blog too. See back at Emergent is dangerous post for link. some GREAT conversation going on there!

    I'll miss you buddy,
    see you after the 8th!

  3. great post!

    say, u never have told me where exactly in NC you are from...

  4. Hey Scott,
    thanks buddy.

    I thought I mentioned it, but who knows with the hecticness that's been going down of late.

    I'm in Apex, NC 15 min from Raleigh and 20 min from Durham.