Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Door Opens

To get insurance on a pet dog remains one of the most bewildering facets of western civilization. That aside, an interesting phenomenon is explained quite well during the process of application.

Question #486
- Is the dog a pure-bred, cross-breed or mongrel breed.

I believe that within this question lies a peculiarly useful critique of Western Christian theology and practice.

Pure-bred dogs have a smaller gene pool. By consequence there is more inbreeding and genetic anomalies. In some breeds there are fewer examples of prime specimens then there are of giant pandas - and pandas are, after all, an endangered species.

Insurance companies know that pandas are an endangered species... hence you pay through the nose to insure a pure-bred dog (makes sense?). The issue is that to some extent denominationalism has been the catalyst for inbreeding of theology and praxis in Christianity for centuries. The Smiths wont talk to the Jones', the Brown's kids threw rocks at the Wilsons and somewhere at some point schisms ceased to be of necessity and we didn't notice. The rude question is why.

So we wont ask that question.

I was raised in what I am increasingly understanding was something of a 'fire-breathing' Pentecostal church. It didn't seem weird to me at the time, just to everyone else. I understand now why others did not take me seriously. I can see now how the anti-establishment flavour may have offended people. I can see how some of the things in our practice would have seemed Spiritually dangerous - even reckless to others. The problem is that having swum in the deep water of Western Evangelicalism this past decade (and then some) it is blatantly obvious that the messy, strange, fluidic and unpredictable Spiritual nearness and assurance which was so normal and plain and on occasion even dull, is salivated for by people who cannot claim a culturally conditioned hunger as an excuse.

The Anglican schooling was a strange cross-pollination. Robes. Candles. Eucharist not communion. Prayer books. Pointy hats and strange hand gestures. Men in flowing gowns amidst the sweltering sub-tropical heat... carrying what at the time seemed to be an impractically ornate stick for removing cobwebs.

Years passed and I found myself in an Anglican church and a Baptist church. I started asking questions. People had different answers. New phrases: congregational polity, priesthood of all believers. Mission trips. Discipling courses. Theological College. Koine Greek. Eschatology. Pneumatology. Christology. Cheap nasty coffee.

Eventually the noise of confusion began to dim, then to ebb, then to assuage and stop altogether. It was replaced by a patience for others who were too seeking to know Christ and to make Him known.

I want for a walk to the shops one day and realised for the first time that being a mongrel Christian was one of the single most wonderful things in the world.

Somehow the process of theological genetic engineering, of cross-pollination, had given me a resilience to the schism virus... not immunity, but resilience. I had become cheap to insure because against my will and logic and reasoning and desire and character - God gave me a snippet of His grace for other human beings.

This is the point.

When I am standing in a church in Africa, listening to the atonal cacophony and smelling mainly diesel fumes... I find out that God speaks African. That does something. When I am standing in an empty Orthodox church and the priest has been singing every word of the mass even though before I walked in there was only Him there... I find out that church is not simply about how many come. When I sit in a Catholic cathedral and am selfishly ranting about the obscenities of wealth - and the Holy Spirit calls my attention to the people around me who are seeking Him as passionately and fervently as I am... My picture of the universal body of Christ changes. God moves walls. Schisms become unnecessary.

I am not a Methodist. But I think I want to be deep down. They started as an Anglican sect, initiated by the return to Anglicanism of the children of dissenters. It began as a meeting of tertiary educated thinkers seeking to spur one another on to holiness. God intervened with a storm and some Moravians which crystallized the necessity for both a life of increasing holiness and that the energy for such a life is found in the richness of true communing with God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit. To seek God and to transform the self. Fluid not static. Messy not sanitized. Organic not sterilized.

Mongrel not pure-bred.

I suppose you could take any dog and call it a pure-bred and seek to only breed successful representations and reproductions of the first example. I'll be rude at this point and suggest that this is what became of Australian Methodism. The church which desires only to appear respectable makes a tame pure-bred of a mongrel, sacrificing genuine contextual resilience and effectiveness for the lethargic and soft-footed pampering of a life useful only for denominational dog shows.

Lord, please make me a mongrel. Let me see Your people as you see them. Help me to be patient with them. Help me to serve them. Help me to wash their feet - to help them arrive at Your solutions to the problems that they face. Let my thinking be rich. Let my praxis be malleable. Help me to be all things to all men so that I might win some.

Lord, you know what I really mean when I say this -

Father, please make me a Methodist.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty hard to be one in the current Oz church structure.

    But a Methodist at heart? You bet - a great way to live