Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Losing my verbless religion...."

From Don Miller, "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality":

In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn't do it, and moreover, that I didn't want to defend the term.

He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told yes. "Then why don't you want to defend Christianity?" he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant.

Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term
Christianity meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won't do it.

Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the term
Christianity and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people?

I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn't like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.


I found Miller's thoughts unsettling, intriguing, satisfying, even a bit frightening. Most of all I found them resonating with my heart.

Christianity as a religion has always been distant to me, something familiar but never anything to which I wanted to give away my heart and soul. It felt alien, clunky, spiritually inbred, dead but was animated by legions of feverish fans who couldn't imagine any other way of the wotld. For a long time I embraced it because I didn't know any other way to approach God, Jesus, the Spirit. Imagine your favorite grandparents who live at the end of a steep, deeply rutted, muddy dirt road. The only other ways to reach them is to walk or ride horseback.

In the past few years I care less and less about it as a religion, a system, a thing.. After reading "The Shack" (which, despite its many faults presents a compelling picture of a deeply personal God.) I want the Jesus from that book, I want Aslan frrom C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, I want Jesus as a person, not a concept or dry historical figure.

Thus, I want His grace as a verb--active, do-ing, be-ing, go-ing. May God grant me, and grant you, the verb of grace today from the hands of the living Christ.


Anonymous said...

I have this trouble with the concept of 'theology'.
Can faith really be expressed at all?

KenWritez said...


Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and imprisoned. Love unconditionally.

Or, do you mean can faith be expressed in text?It can be described, articulated, discussed, explained, but it all depends on what you mean by "expressed."

Anonymous said...

I was using my own interpretation of 'theology' which involves verbal teaching or communication. I agree that action and example are very valid means of spiritual expression.
In text, I believe it can be discussed, but not described, articulated or explained.

Anonymous said...

Did you hear me?
I said I was out of coffee filters!!

KenWritez said...

I heards you the first time. I was practicing Zen detachment from the world and thus not interfering with you discovering your own inner coffee filter.

Just as "You must be the change you wish to see," so, too, "You must be the coffee filter you wish to use."

Embrace your inner coffee filter, Pru!

Be the filter!