I don't much like bumper stickers. I am frustrated that social discourse in American society has boiled down to what fits on an eighteen inch long piece of sticky paper, complex problems boiled down to a snatch of catchy phrase meant to be read and digested going 70 miles an hour on the interstate. There are no answers in that approach, only smug comeuppance. And yet, I confess, I find some pretty funny. There are driving safety bumper stickers that make me smile -- "Get off my tail or I'll flick boogers on your windshield." There are philosophical bumper stickers I like -- "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana." And, winning the prize for clever turn of phrase and double meaning, "The Religious Right is Neither."
It is, too, my experience with fundamentalist (but not evangelical) Christianity in general. The religious language of my culture railroaded to talk of limits and small circles and closing people out. For a long time I accepted that interpretation without question. Accepted it and railed against it. Yet as I've read Scriptures over the last few years I find them inclusive and full of love and openness. Not that every passage resonates with me, some sections are pretty mean spirited and violent. But as I sit with the Gospels and the Hebrew Testaments I see the breadth of human behavior full of strengths and foibles, of inspiration and pettiness, essentially unchanged over thousands of years. More importantly I see openings leading to connection with both the Divine and my sisters and brothers of the human race. I see hope and love and wonderful possibilities.
William Penn called it "primitive Christianity revived." It sure could use some reviving again. Is re-reviving a word? And I don't especially care if you don't use the "J word," or if you see Jesus as a wise teacher, or if you call the transforming presence of God in worship Christ. Some of us carry wounds of childhood religious upbringing, some of us were "unchurched" as kids. Some of us resonate with Eastern approaches in finding a closeness with God and some of us think mostly about action and little, if at all, about a personal relationship with God. All that is fine, but join me in a little rekindling.
Wander back in time--way back--before the endless discussions of how many angels will fit on the head of a pin--before the long standing subjugation of women--before the Inquisition and the pain and suffering it caused--before Constantine's convenient conversion and his order to have crosses painted on all the soldiers' shields. Allow yourself to go back in time before all those things happened. I don't want to ignore those injustices; I want to ensure they will never happen again. Spend some time with those early followers of Jesus, the men and women that knew him and those who followed the first disciples. What I read in Scripture and what I know of lives given up to God among Friends as well many other faith communities is not the world that the Religious Right and fundamentalist Christians represent.
I see forgiveness, not judgment. I see seeking unity not seeking exclusion. I see a call to embrace community, whatever it calls itself, seeking the kingdom of God, the experience of the Divine, in daily life. I see people who hold the certain knowledge that faith and action are inescapably connected. We need to be bound in love and relationship not in dogma.
Join me in a revitalization. Call it what you will. Call it Christianity. Call it primitive Christianity revived. Call it Jeudo moral-ethical infrastructure with a Greek philosophical overlay. Call it good common sense. Whatever you call it, consider it. Consider living close to God and close to each other. Join with others to bring about a time and a place without the occasion of war, where we all can live a life close to God and close to each other.
How's it done? Good question. I was given a gift of Scripture this past summer that sums it up pretty well:
Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don't mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:9-18 Contemporary English Version)
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