One of the questions that is filling lots of conversations i’m part of at the moment is whether we should try to talk people back into the church (or change the church to make people want to stay), or whether there’s life beyond the church and christian faith.
i’ve become quite nervous about naming where i ‘sit’ in different theological conversations for a few reasons: because i know i’m in a very different place to most of the people who read this blog; because i’m edging towards the other side of orthodoxy; and because i’m still searching for language that fits what i’m discovering [as a side note, entering into the emerging church conversations a few years ago was one of the most theologically alienating experiences i’ve had – all of the ‘of course’s’ that other people believed were so very different to mine…]. i also worry that theology becomes a convenient diversion from the conversation about alternative worship. But i’m becoming much more concerned now that staying silent on all of this would lead people to assume a theology that i’m not comfortable with, and which i no longer hold. So I, somewhat ambivalently, offer the following not really as a theological conversation, but as a basis for understanding the foundation from which I work.
Much of the conversation about Christianity as the only way to salvation has revolved around the question of life after death – Christianity being the one way for people to receive the promise of eternal life. i need to say, for any of the following to make sense, that i have no understanding of life beyond death. It’s never been part of my faith or world view. so having removed that question (fear?) from the equation, the primary question of faith for me is how do we encounter justice, hope, grace, redemption and love in the world.
The question i keep coming back to, then, is whether it matters that people are leaving the church and Christian faith, if what they are leaving them for is something that offers life (and which in turn transforms them to live in a way that brings life to the world). I don’t think it matters. What it comes down to for me, i guess, is believing that Christianity points towards redemption and transformation, rather than being the only way people can find it. Believing this doesn’t diminish the beauty or truth within Christian faith, or the redemption, grace and transformation found through it, but it also affirms a very strong belief that redemption, grace and transformation doesn’t stop at the ‘end’ of christianity.
Which is why i end up at the next question asking what sacred spaces that bring life to those of us who would not describe ourselves as christian, and how they can be created.
I’ve begun distinguishing between alternative worship and sacred space much more distinctly over the last few months in this kind of way: alternative worship offers radical hospitality to ‘others’ (who, in effect, become the guests at the christian table). Sacred spaces offer places where people – those who are not Christian and those who are – search together for a moment of grace and redemption. We begin with a level playing field, which doesn’t assume that any one story of redemption does it justice. we’re simply united by a desperate need to encounter it.
i’m happy to admit there are gaping holes in all of this. it’s a work in progress. be patient with me…