I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but recently have grown tired of the many chasms that exist between doctrines and reality. We who follow Christ speak of love, but have a long history of hate and injustice bubbling up through our institutions. We speak of hope and peace, but are often governed by fear and anxiety. We speak of generosity and community, but are far too often living inside the high walls of our own self-referential communities, including our churches and neighborhoods. We speak of loving our enemies but there’s enough hate and vitriol, lots of it politically motivated, pouring out of pulpits, podcasts, and colleges. I’m tired of a politicized gospel. I’m tired of gospel that feeds the very phobias, prejudices, isolation, and anxieties that Jesus came to deliver us from.
I’m tired, on the one hand, of a passivity that declares that since Christ is in me, I’m already complete, and so am finished growing. I’ll carry my dysfunctions and misrepresentations of Christ with me to the grave if I carry such a view. The Jesus of this Christianity baptizes (often) the American dream of upward mobility and, while strict regarding certain sexual sins, turns a blind eye to the gods of materialism, individualism, and nationalism – three idols that seem to be hollowing out the core of western civilization in the moment. Many stuck in this paradigm are outwardly successful and religious, but also can’t help but secretly wonder if Christianity is effective at all, or even true.
On the other hand, I’m tired of an overly active gospel divorced of intimacy with Jesus. It’s present on both the left and the right, and takes the form of anger and an inflamed assessment of whatever happens to be the issue of the day. The inflamed assessment leads to an inflamed response, with the result that dialogue and charity are displaced by protests and hate, leading only to isolation and further vilification of the other side, rather than any real change.
And finally, on the third hand, I’m saddened by the cynicism over all this that’s lead to withdrawal from faith communities. It’s happening, big time, among millenials and gen-Z, but I’m seeing it among my own peers too. While understandable in the current climate, withdrawal only serves to further the isolation and echo chamber tribalism that’s foundational to our culture problems.
Thanks be to God, I believe there’s a way forward. I first discovered “rule of life” material a long time ago, when my quest for a greater sense of reality and sound creation theology introduced me to the teaching of Celtic Christianity. This in turn, led to my discovery of “The Aidan Way” If you click on this link, you’ll discover a “rule of life” template for this community. When I discovered this about 15 years ago, it was like discovering an oasis after wandering in the desert of an overly legalistic and intellectualized evangelicalism for decades. I joined the community, found a soul friend, and began a rule of life practice. This led, eventually, to the writing of my first book: “O2: Breathing New Life into Faith” which is now available in a 2nd edition as “Breathing New Life into Faith”.
Through developing a rule of life practice, I discovered three benefits . (I’ll be writing about each of these in upcoming subsequent posts, along with other matters related to building a rule of life, and the spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits of having one – so please subscribe if you want to catch the whole series):
- The Rule of Life unmoored me from the politics of evangelicalism
- The Rule of Life solved the dilemma of divine action/human responsibility
- The Rule of Life has become a context of freedom and transformation, rather than legalism and stagnation.
We need a revival, many of us in our individual walks with Christ, and certainly all of us collectively, as Christ-followers. But the way forward surely cannot be built on foundations leading to fear, tribalism, individualism, and nationalism. The good seed of Christ has been planted in the world, watered through the blood of Jesus and bearing the fruit of transformative resurrection. We, though, are the farmers of the soil of our human hearts and the soil of our faith communities. It’s past time that we abandoned the industrial agricultural model of modern evangelicalism, and returned to our calling, embracing the slow, beautiful, organic work of soul care that God created. I hope you’ll join me in return to both the soil and roots of the Christ life we’re created to enjoy.