One of the social media groups that exist on the internet is called “I am not that kind of Christian.” The identity crisis in Christianity originates in its early shift from counter cultural resistance movement to being a recognized state sanctioned institution. Movements are fluid, evolving in goals and processes. Institutions create rules and aim for stability and order. Movements ebb and flow discernibly; institutions change slowly, and reluctantly.
The contemporary church finds itself caught in conflicting modalities of expectations, practice, and freedom to change. Like all religions, Christianity easily becomes a political tool for many different positions.
True religion is organic and will break through any long term attempts to contain its wildness, its creative chaos. For Christians today, there are new expressions of practice and resistance. While there may be what appears to be dissent between religions, in fact there is a deeper, more intentional conversation developing.
The parish church also finds itself rediscovering that, not only have the rules changed, the nature of membership has also changed. In the beginning, Jewish Christians met and planned and prayed in homes. They planned events to intervene in what they perceived to be a call for healing, for resistance, or for discussion about how to model the actions of Jesus. Some of these groups would become more theological, some more liturgical, and others more counter cultural.
Today, our partners in prayer are not necessarily Christian. The people who support the ecology or the social justice actions, may or may not be Sunday members. The standard for membership is less doctrinal and more practice based. At one time people who attended seasonally or during life events ( birth, death, marriage) were not considered committed adherents. Now, they are significant participants. The bells we still ring at the elevation of the host, originally reminded the working folks in fields or factories, of God’s love for them in the Christ. Today they remind everyone that we remember them and are praying for them
The church needs to relax in the knowledge that the faith is organic, and that means unpredictable, wild, diverse. Instead of worrying about our statistics, we need to trust that sharing the work of our communities, sharing the concerns of our towns and cities and farms, will help us fulfill the mission of Jesus. When people tell me that they don’t believe in God, but they do work for the common good, then I say that we share the same goals. The church’s purpose is transformation of the world, and we are all the workers for that movement.
Some of us take comfort and inspiration from the liturgy, the bible, the music of the church. These are gifts for some, but not for everyone. Some of us will feel more inspired as we prepare food for others, take part in a demonstration, be politically active. We are all part of the body, although how and when we appear may not be easily controlled.
There is no identity crisis for those who share peace, compassion, and well being for all, as their ethic and their goal. There is no identity crisis for those who share a love of the earth and wonder at the cosmos. There is no identity crisis for those who accept that the whole universe is constantly in a state of transformation and our awareness frees us to be knowing participants in that. When we all dream like that, when all work for that, then the time of religion as division will end and the time of singing” will come to us all.