Church, Christianity, religion — it all comes with a lot of baggage. So it’s no surprise that I often find myself explaining why I work for the church and what I think it means to be a Christian. No small task, and I’m no apologist.
There are sooo many kinds of “Christians” out there. There must be as many kinds of Christians as there are species of animals (8.7 million, in fact, according to sciencedaily.com).
I visited the Natural History museum in New York recently and there was a whole exhibit devoted exclusively to mammals that are now extinct. Some resembled similar (but different) mammals that are still around, but many just came to an end… It made me wonder, if (when?) Christianity will become extinct.
Its survival is anything but assured. The more its rituals and teachings become fossilized, the deader it becomes. As the adage goes, adapt or die, and Christianity is very resistant to change!
Even The United Church of Canada — Canada’s homegrown Christian denomination and bastion of progressive Christian mores since 1925 — is at risk of hardening into amber. I personally know many UC leaders who are working to change the culture and excavate their congregations from 1964 — but even the best institutions, and the people in them, are slow to evolve.
Certainly some forms of Christianity will go the way of the Pig-footed bandicoot (declared extinct by the IUCN in the 1950s). Judging by some of the hate-filled “Christian” rhetoric on my social media feed these days, that’s for the best (apologies to the bandicoot). Those that survive will do so because of how they love. And their practices will surely look and feel and sound and BE different than they are today.
Whatever happens, I remain convinced that there are enduring and invaluable truths in the stories, symbols and images of Christianity. But you’ve got to unpack a lot of baggage — and not a little garbage — to find them. And that’s whats it’s going to take. An unearthing of the ancient verities of our faith and the discipline to genuinely live them out in the contradictions and uncertainties of our day-to-day lives.