“The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead."
A friend emailed me a link to this article on the New York Times website by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, self-proclaimed “Red Letter Evangelicals.” They commented that 2017 “marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, one of the most significant moments in the history of Christianity. The reformers were navigating many of the same currents and contradictions that we face today. Perhaps we need a new reformation — one that invites Christians to return to the teachings of Jesus and offers our neighbors a truer vision of how he lived and moved in the world.”
The fasted growing religious group in America, nearly a quarter of all Americans and 35% of millennials, are identifying as “none.” And the question that still haunts our congregations and leaders, the question that keeps us stuck is "how do we get them inside our walls?"
The problem seems to be that this "truer vision" we all claim to be longing requires, in the words of Paul from Romans 12, that we no longer conformity to the old paradigm, but are rather transformed by the renewal - the re-formation - of our minds. "But we have a capital campaign coming up! We gotta pay the bills." "transformation is a nice idea, but..." "How about, after Advent and Christmas, let's plan a Bible study that..." "First let me go and bury my father..." And so we settle with just another attempt to solve our problems from the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place, to paraphrase Einstein.
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is a new Reformation is already upon us.
The bad news is a new Reformation is already upon us. The hour is late. Most of us will continue to conform to the current paradigm, and will miss a great and costly adventure.
What does it mean to be transformed by the renewal of our minds? What will it cost us as leaders who long to say 'yes' to a new reformation - a new Pentecost? Perhaps it will only cost us at first the risk of going off script? There is risk in reorienting our reaction to the barrage of priorities and assignments from chronos time around an intentional cultivation of Sabbath time. Sabbath time is a letting lie fallow of our scheduled lives to create space for the vast, wildly mysterious terrain of the soul.
Author John Philip Newell says, “The new holiness into which we are being invited is the holiness of wholeness, of coming back into relationship with the earth and what is deepest in the human soul… to have split holiness from wholeness is the neurosis at the heart of much of our religiosity.”
Perhaps it is the condition of modernity that has forced our full humanity, into hiding in shame from our deepest identity, from our original wholeness that was once our birthright. Our shame comes from the fear and pain of being seen as we truly are, naked, wounded, beautiful. Yet, it is not our original wounding, our brokenness and darkness, but rather our fear and shame - all the hiding and the blaming - that is so destructive, that misses the mark.
The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the New Human, the one who returns us to the New and True Self. The greek word “new” does not mean chronologically new, but refers to its ontological priority. The new self is before the old, in other words, the new self is original. It is in this sense that mystics have referred to Christ as the original, or Natural Self. The Original Self does not deny, repress, or destroy the old self, the small, conformist and fragmented personalities that hijack our actions and relationships - what Paul calls “the flesh” - but embraces, heals and returns or restores it to its original image. Becoming fully human is a return to the ground, the hummus of our humanity, to till the soil of soul, from which we might uncover hidden treasure.
Begin this advent by clearing space in your schedule to "let your life speak", in the words of Parker Palmer. Wander for a couple hours from the office into the wooded creeks of your deeper life in conversation with the wild, natural world.
- Matt Syrdal