Rev. Heath is absolutely right in her recent article in Christian Century entitled “On Throwing the Baby Jesus Out with the Bath Water”: we need to keep the “Christ” in our Christianity.
In my view, the tradition that has been passed down to us, combined with the teachings and example of Christ and others as found in the New Testament and elsewhere, forms a foundation or framework for our faith: denying, minimizing, or casting aside that framework really would leave our faith “rootless” as many Evangelicals often (erroneously) label we who are Progressive Christians.
Christianity is not about supplying all the answers or enforcing a rigid set of doctrines and laws to live by. Jesus preached against exactly that sort of thinking and practice in the First Century, and it doesn’t work any better now than it did then. (And, frankly, doing so has never worked well.)
On the other hand, our faith isn’t just about making us feel good about who and where we are at the moment, either: Yes, we are to love and accept ourselves and each other as we are right now, but we are called to continually seek to do better, not simply accept what is.
Keeping Christ in our faith is challenging, and should always be so: if our faith is not challenged, if it is not continually being refined in the tension of this place we exist that lies between what was and what is to come, then our faith would be fruitless and meaningless. It would simply be a rationale for accepting things as they are, rather than challenging us to become better: to become more just, more thoughtful, and more compassionate.
If a church exists merely because it always has, then it has no purpose other than to continue its existence, which often means not offending, not challenging itself or its members, and not taking risks. Such a church is no longer a Church of the Gospel, of the Good News, but is merely a social club (albeit one that extols the value of morality and community).
That is not what I see Jesus commanding us to do in the scriptures. Keeping Christ in the Church means we are being challenged to love God and our neighbor without conditions, without judgment and without exception. It is a process, an ongoing task, not a static state of being.
Those who seek to minimize the Christ in their Christianity do so out of a conviction that we must not offend, and must not intimidate (through “churchy” language and ritual) those who are looking for a touch of the divine in their lives. This is a worthy impulse, but we must be careful to not allow such thinking to seduce us into creating a faith for ourselves that is inoperative and unchallenging. We won’t be moved by such a faith, and neither will those who come to us looking to escape the dreariness and hopelessness of existence.
Copyright (c) 2016, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)