Can I stop being a Christian now, please?

18 07 2009

It was Constantine what messed it up. I’ve heard it said. I’ve said it myself. Perhaps, if he hadn’t Christianity wouldn’t be a world faith. But I think there is something in the idea that the way he brought the church and the state together kind of changed Christianity and made it something different to what Jesus had been about. And so maybe the world faith that Christianity became wasn’t proper no more.

I think the problem might go back a lot, lot further though. I think things might have gone askew in Antioch. Because it was in Antioch that ‘the disciples were first called Christians’. Before that, as I’ve said on this blog before they were called ‘followers of the way’.

The problem I see with the switch is that it changes from something dynamic to something static. It goes from a description of your direction of travel to a statement of your arrival.

And it opens up that whole notion of conversion. One minute you are not. The next minute you are. You’ve reached the end point.

‘Metanioa’ — repentance — on the other hand is the word used for bringing a boat about. It’s about a change in direction. It’s about the way you travel being different than it was before but it leaves open the possibility that you may come about again. Maybe travelling on the way is, as Richard Passmore says, about tacking — moving in a direction but tangentally, repeatedly coming about to bring you back on course.

Christian means little Christ. That’s not something you can be. It can only ever be something you’re becoming.

If we’re followers on the way, fellow travellers, it’s much harder to determine who’s in and who’s out. Because none of us has arrived. Even baptism becomes a waymarker on the journey. So maybe that encourages us to be more humble.

The other question though is whether there is only the way. But that’s a whole other can of worms!

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14 responses

21 07 2009
Jan

Perhaps there are many ways and we’re all travelling them the best we can, after all, children are all travelling but their way may not be yours.

21 07 2009
pompeypioneer

I guess the question that intrigues me is whether it is necessarily disparaging of someone else’s way to say ‘this is the way I walk and so far I have found it to be good.’ Why would anyone be interested? Only if that walk makes me interesting! Actually I wouldn’t necessarily say good if that left open the idea that it’s an easy or comfortable way. It isn’t. Maybe it would be better to say ‘this is the way I walk and I have found it, so far, to be worthwhile’. It isn’t all good. Sometimes it’s really tough, but I think there’s a lot of light shining on the path.

There’s the other question of whether there are ‘ways’ that are not worthwhile; where there is more darkness than light. I’m talking now about each individual’s way in life rather than particular faith traditions…

It’s a bit early for all this! I need a coffee…

21 07 2009
Adam

………… ‘this is the way I walk and I have found it, so far, to be worthwhile’
– worthwhile to whom, Mark ? you ? God ? others ?

21 07 2009
pompeypioneer

In this imagined conversation I mainly mean worthwhile to me. Because I am imagining a conversation with those who aren’t on the same path as me. ‘God’ is the way I’m walking. And saying it’s worthwhile to God means nothing to people who don’t share the premise of ‘God’. If they do it kind of renders this particular conversation redundant! Worthwhile to others? Well maybe but I can only speak with depth or integrity about my own experience.

22 07 2009
stushie

They were called Followers of The Way…not a way, another way, or one of many ways. The Way. 🙂

22 07 2009
pompeypioneer

But is that way only walked by those with explicit Christian faith? Or is it a way of being in the world? Christ is ‘the Way’ for Christians because he supremely models what being surrendered to love looks like. But didn’t Ghandi walk that way too without exclusively accepting the label Christian? Actually he did call himself a Christian and a Hindu and a Muslim and a Seikh etc.

5 09 2009
Robin

Interesting, like it, got me thinking.

On Constantine, it seems like over time there have been incomplete expressions of faith that have served a purpose in some way, God has used them, but that have also been damaging. Like the many and various church streams, maybe puritanism etc were contextually valuable in their nicheness. Maybe the church-state marriage was a step along a journey in that sense that’s not evolved naturally.

In any case there’s a very different context now isn’t there. State is waking up to the need to look beyond rationalism, starting to see decisions in the context of journey/story and vision (ref the conflab about Britishness and responsibility).

On Antioch and related to Constantine, identity is a biggy isn’t it. There’s always a temptation to define identity, and as soon as you do you claim a cultural position, a relational stance. That’s what the Sanhedrin did and had. When they asked Jesus who he was they were teasing evidence out of him, ironic when the identity of Jesus could have been their healing. Jesus’ identity was assured, but questioned, the Sanhedrin’s identity wasn’t questioned but was dependent, on relation, culture, agreement from the people. And Jesus interestingly refused to answer their questions directly, because to do so would inevitably have been to restrict the reality, the unseen reality.

So by having a cultural reference point that is ‘Christianity’, we inevitably communicate meaning, and meaning depends on the hearer, it’s a cultural thing. Jesus was very careful in the subject of identity.. Jesus’ ideas around identity always revolved round where he had come from or was going (from memory), he painted pictures of his meaning like that. Also John the baptist, when asked who he was framed the answer in terms of what his role was, to welcome in the one who ‘is’. then when Jesus was asked who JTB was he said straight out, the greatest prophet, bam. Which gets me thinking on the subject of honouring others, honouring their God given identity is a kingdom principle I think.

I feel like there is a huge hunger in people for identity especially now so us followers need to take note and speak into that rather than joining in.

Thanks for the post, R

5 09 2009
Robin

By the way I’d really value your thoughts Mark..

17 09 2009
Mark

Just catching up on Blogs post-summer… share some of your questions here mark… good ones to reflect on!

29 10 2009
Winsome

Instead of arguing amongst ourselves, why don’t we find out what the Bible tells us on this subject? “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything and we exist for Him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and though whom we have been given life.” 1 Corinthians 8: 6

29 10 2009
pompeypioneer

Well thanks for sorting that out.

19 11 2009
Pub, faith, spirituality, conversation, ritual, symbolic, act, not religious, SBNR, SABRINA, spiritual, « the Pompey Pioneer

[…] is numerically dominated, by people who would call themselves ‘christian’. (As I’ve said before, that’s a descriptor that is not always helpful.) I say numerically, because I don’t think that […]

23 03 2010
Stop me, being a christian. « the Pompey Pioneer

[…] searched in Google or elsewhere for how to stop being a christian. I think it’s because of a post where I wrote about how I prefer the pre-Antioch language of ‘followers of the way’ to the […]

2 01 2011
2010 in review « the Pompey Pioneer

[…] Can I stop being a Christian now, please? July 200913
comments 4 […]

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