Hello friends, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at what my typical weekly newsletters look like. Below, you will find the writings from the previous two weeks.
Hopefully, it inspires you to SUBSCRIBE and participate in the discussion!
WEEK OF MARCH 15
Hi and welcome to my newsletter Reclaiming Faith. Through these short weekly writings, I hope to discuss the ways we as Christ-leaning individuals and communities can sort through the clutter of our past faith and bring back anything of worth to our present—without losing the freedom many have found outside traditional faith.
This is the first regular installment of a conversation I hope will continue for a while. If you know anyone who would enjoy these discussions, please be sure to share!
In the next weeks, I will relay my own experiences growing up as a pastor’s kid and church rat, but first I wanted to describe the broad concepts driving the interpretation of my own experience (and what I hope to do with them).
I remember first encountering Phyllis Tickle’s theory of the Church’s 500 year rummage sales, in which every half-millennia or so, the Judeo Christian traditions reinvent themselves. Faith, it seems, must either adapt to the changes of the world it has helped create or else die.1
So about 2,000 years ago, early Christianity emerged from its mother faith in the religious delta of the first century’s Pax Romana, then flourished (and became compromised) under the protective umbrella of imperial power, then split under the weight of its own internal conflicts in the Schism of 1054, then split again in the midst of the Reformation/Renaissance’s vast technological and informational changes about 500 years later, and now . . . .
The last century has brought unparalleled technological advances, enabling a previously unimaginable spread of information and migration of people. And, while models such as Tickle’s are always too broad to tell the full tale, they are instructive for understanding the seismic shifts rumbling our cultural foundations.
The world has changed: we live in ways that leave the experiences of nearly every generation prior to the 20th century almost alien to ours—including and most importantly for our discussion, the lives and world views of the Christian tradition’s founders. Their faith must adapt in this world or continue to hemorrhage followers.
So that’s the broad historical context. The world changes and faith must respond, and the people caught in the middle are those most likely to find themselves tumbling in the tidal shifts, searching for a footing.
Next week I’ll talk about why those of us caught in the waves should still care.
WEEK OF MARCH 22
Last week, I spoke of the historical changes moving the Christian faith: how every 500 years or so, the Christ-way finds itself responding to shifts in the world it has helped create. We now find ourselves in such a season, only this time the Church finds itself in a position it has not known in over a millennium.
Not since the Good News was relatively fresh in people’s ears has the faith been in such a state. No longer is Christianity a global political force in its own right—no longer are the leaders of the Church also the leaders of the world. The people who are in charge, however, wish to either ignore or co-opt the message of Jesus for their own ends—as a tool for both conservative and progressive policies. Many also simply wish the faithful would disappear into the mists of history, or at least have the decency keep to themselves. In a growingly pluralistic political and religious context, the Church’s claims of uniqueness seem out of touch.
And in many ways, they are.
Let’s be clear: I am not advocating for the return of Christendom, nor do I particularly believe that Christianity holds a more exalted place among the major world religions. Though there are reams of scholarly work dedicated to proving the faith’s singularity (the ones I’m most fond of are by Girard and Altizer, both of whom liberally work with Nietzche’s critique of Christ), I just don’t find the claim strong enough to become binding for all people in all places at all times.
But you and I, dear reader, are decidedly not all people.
Rather, most of us were raised in a decidedly Christian context: to varying extents, the Bible is the mythology2 through which we have filtered our lives. The teachings in and surrounding the Christ Story have shaped our moral imagination and vocabulary, legitimized and gave shape to our inner spiritual experiences, and often provided the community through which all this was lived out. And that’s a good thing.
(Well, some of it.)
See, while many of us have had traumatic experiences within the Christian context and though some of the teachings we received were harmful, we cannot escape the ground in which we’re planted. Whether we like it or not, some soil works better for certain crops, and we have been rigorously tilled and treated to grow the Christ fruit.
So the question is: in the midst of these surging waves of change, how can we gain enough perspective to see that some of what we received is good, without utterly succumbing to our trauma or falling back into patterns of belief we have come to recognize as harmful.
And, once it has been reclaimed, in what ways can the faith of our youth be useful to us today?
2. *Unless otherwise stated, “mythology” is always a good thing in my writings.↩