I feel myself being pulled towards hope.
Like many of us, I spent much of the middle years caught up in cycles of frustration at the religion that had dominated the beginning of my life. I found myself at war with myself, and with the old certainties that felt anything but. Along with my friends, I spent hours and hours deconstructing and questioning, until it seemed like nothing would be left. In fact, sometimes perhaps nothing was- just a series of open questions allied to a residue of mysticism and social justice.
It didn’t help that the religion I knew often felt like a ‘moral trap’- a rigid code of ethics mined from interpretations of the Bible that left little wriggle room for embracing a whole range of major issues developing in the wider world;
Why should we care about climate change when our religion renders nature merely as a pretty backdrop against which the major business of faith (saving souls from Hell) takes place?
We simply could not understand how ‘Loving the sinner and hating the sin’ would always remain an exclusion criteria for LGBTQ people.
Our Jesus remained almost entirely white, male and rich. He lived happily within in a capitalist world, even if he sometimes made charitable trips to drip largesse to the poor, who remained poor regardless.
But there I go again, deconstructing… and I mentioned a pull towards HOPE.
For the first time in my life, I feel that something genuinely new is being born, and I wanted to write about this new thing, to celebrate it and to gather it together in writing, rather than just in conversation with my friends. I think this will be the first of many blog pieces on this subject. I hope also it will be helpful to some of you who have walked a similar journey.
What I will be trying to gather is no small thing- it will be my attempt to write down a new creed of faith. One that is true to the learning and becoming of the last twenty-thirty years. One that is true to our most recent ‘reformation’, sometimes known as ‘the emerging church’.
It is not really MINE, of course- but nevertheless, is one that I have been gathering, sensing and longing for, and read about in other books and talked about with people far more knowledgeable and well-read than I am.
What gives me the right to do this? After all, other creeds emerged from great theological clashes taking place at synods and gatherings of the giants of the Christian world. What right have I to ignore all these searing insights and just make my own religion from the bits that I chose to include- the nice, cuddly bits that ‘feel’ right to my post-modern sensibility?The only way I can answer that is to say that I have no choice, both because I have left behind what was (along with many others) and because I find myself becoming captivated by something new.
I am not a theologian, I am a poet, but I think this gives me an interesting perspective- after all, one third of the Bible is poetry. Also- if not our poets, who will speak?
I also believe that what we build on will always be the wisdom of what has gone before, but build we must.
The first (Protestant) reformation was necessary, in that it (sometimes at great cost) challenged the excesses and destructive unbalanced nature of the organised religion of the Medieval period, using the technology and scientific thinking of the day (The printing press and the Great Enlightenment). We now need to do the same for our time. For exactly the same reasons; the excesses and destructive/unbalanced nature of the remnants of our religious institutions. The power dynamic of these two reformations is different, a fact that I am grateful for as the worst I might expect is a little on- line abuse. I think it unlikely that I will be burned alive, but then again, I am sure I can smell smoke!
Of course, I am not suggesting for a moment that I am writing a creed that will last generations. This is very much a work in progress, and a collaborative one at that. I am happy for people to challenge what I say- but only if you do so thoughtfully and with grace. I have zero interest in hearing the same definitions thundered from concrete pulpits.
So, here we go.
We will begin, unsurprisingly, with Jesus.