Friday, March 06, 2009

Why Christian?

A word, from the context of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, from Ken Sehested, the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship:
"Finally, a belated word of thanks to the CPWI group. I remember overhearing, from a distance, some of the controversy which surrounded the group's forming some years ago — basically, pretty caustic criticism for organizing a 'Christian' group. At the time I meant to write a strong endorsement for this strategy--against the cosmopolitanites and idealists who believe they can hang in mid-air, free of history and angles of vision, finding a location that transcends all social locations. This is the dark side of liberalism: the desire to reduce and distill everything to supposed 'universal' principles. This, too, is part of the domination system which must be resisted. This is not at all to deny the urgent need to do interfaith work, and to become sufficiently 'bilingual' to engage with people of no explicit faith commitment. But we must keep in mind the long history of dominant groups who want to say, 'we're all just alike.'"
I am reminded, when I hear vague references to a higher power, that it does matter greatly just what higher power we are talking about. After all, from where I sit here in Arlington, the Pentagon is a higher power, the White House is a higher power, the Congress is a higher power. Each of those higher powers does have the capacity to reduce us all to the same, to obliterate our histories and make of us creatures in their own particular images.
To follow Jesus is, first and foremost, to resist that power to reduce others to our own image, including the image of followers of Jesus. The cross is most abused when it is captive to the empire and becomes a sign of triumph rather than an invitation to compassion -- to suffering with.
Hm, so I wrote the above this morning. This afternoon I come to the Lenten exercise where today we are asked to read Luke 9:18-27, in which Jesus asks Peter, "who do you say that I am?"
The heading for today's exercise is, "What difference does it make that I'm a Christian?"
Clearly this afternoon is speaking to this morning. It does make a difference what higher power one calls upon, one sits with, one listens for. If God is made known in Jesus then what do we know of God? The passage from Luke is instructive. Just before Jesus asks the great Christological question he feeds 5,000 hungry souls and stomachs. Just after he asks it, he reminds his followers that the nature of discipleship is defined by the cross. Then, he continues his ministry of healing.
God feeds us. God desires our wholeness. God heals.
What difference does it make to put Jesus at the center of my devotion? It points me clearly toward that God. It draws me into relationship with that God.
None of which is an argument for exclusivity, but rather a recognition that I am a finite human being, situated in a particular culture and moment in history. I cannot follow every path, but I can follow the one before me with as much faithfulness as I am willing to risk.
Pictured? Oh, that's a window from my church. I call that one "peace Jesus."

No comments: