Although a recent bumper crop of pundits likes to proclaim that we’d all be better off with no religion, I suspect that the majority of us believe that religion, in spite of its flaws, offers individuals the inspiration to be better people and to create a better nation. Seminary and church leaders, in particular, are highly motivated to staunch the decline. Unfortunately, many of them believe that what’s really needed is a return to the “faith of our fathers,” stricter adherence to creeds and (this is America, after all) better marketing methods.
I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It’s a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion’s dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.
Given that there are already almost 10,000 religions in the world, Jewish author Eric Weiner writes that we need to “invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious.” As the dean of a theology school, I see the Emerging Church attracting an incredible diversity of people into new and experimental kinds of religious community. The lapsed faithful, exhausted refugees from mainline faiths, former evangelicals, frustrated Catholics and seekers with no background at all in organized religion are creating (in Weiner’s beautiful phrase) “a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment.”
The light of truth is simply the only thing that scatters the darkness in ourselves and in the world because God doesn’t deal in deceit and denial and half-truths. Yes, encounters with Truth are hard and require you to step into something that feels like it might just crush you. But the instant is crushes you it also puts you back together into something real. Only the Gospel can do that.
The good news is not that you can possess the truth, but that the truth can possess you, making you real and making you free…. perhaps for the first time. And as frightening as it might feel, as much as it might feel like it’s going to crush you, the light of the truth is something you can live in because the love of God has freed you and indeed every human being from the need to live in any lies. Step into the light. You’ll be fine. You’ll be real. And you’ll be free.
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment