Reading Brian McLaren has really re-ignited my struggle and thinking about “Christianity.” I am usually a bit wary of myself being swayed by one book, or one person’s opinion, but A Generous Orthodoxy covers a whole lot of topics, and almost all of my recent hang-ups with being a Christian. He offers insights on our culture and the way it has impacted what we call Christian faith in a way that resonates in my soul.
Here’s what happened to me. Because I was an evangelical Christian, I got involved with Campus Crusade, a so-called para-church missionary organization. Through that group I went oversees for the first time when I was 19, to China, and discovered, among other things, my love for cultures, exploration, discovery and language. Had I not had that experience, I would probably not have gone to live in China, and would not have gone to India, nor Thailand, nor read many books nor listened to countless radio programs and therefore learned about places all over the world.
But, had I not had these experiences, I would never have struggled with the things I had because of them. I wouldn’t have seen seas of people, all individuals, part of this post-Communist, atheist state that every day strives for capitalism and the American model of consumerism. I wouldn’t have seen poverty in India and realized that there is just no way that a missionary – especially the feeble ones like me and others I know – are going to impact each and every one of them sometime in their lives. Perhaps I am cynical, but for those of you who have been in other parts of the world, you cannot argue with me. I know all the arguments, they will get their chance, or Jesus will speak to them in their heart, but I can’t accept that God created them for destruction. I can’t.
So what to do.
Here’s the thing: my whole personal theology has been based on a Paul-centered, saved or unsaved, sinner or saint, us against them thinking. The thing is, I never realized there were other legitimate ways of interpreting the New Testament than the way our modern church did it. When someone would mention Lutherans or Methodists or Catholics, I would instinctively think “watered-down Gospel message,” because, honestly, that’s the way these radical evangelical groups portray other interpretations.
Now, I am being way too harsh on my roots here, but when I think about my life growing up at an evangelical church and with CC, I realize that Paul’s teachings were really taken more seriously than those of Jesus himself. Jesus as savior, and Paul as master and teacher is how McLaren puts it. And as I am reading, I’m bluntly smacking my forehead, because it’s so obvious what our modern, scientific culture has done to the Gospel: turned it into an equation. And the thing is, I totally bought into it. In fact, I practically went to work for this organization as a career.
I have to say here, I know a lot of amazing people who are involved in Campus Crusade, really amazing people, that I still love to think of, although it’s been some time since I’ve really been in touch with any of them. But the thing is, I don’t believe in God exactly the way we have portrayed him, and I think we were missing some of the point. I don’t know where I am going with all of this, but I am trying to figure it out.