The Salvation Myth

I am a Christian.

I follow Jesus Christ.

I believe God literally came to earth in the form of this 1st century Jewish man, was crucified, and was brought back to life 3 days later.

It’s a crazy thing to believe – absolutely abhorrent to our rational, post-modern and 21st century Western minds.

I’m making a distinctive truth claim about a moment in time 2,000 years ago, in another part of the world, of which we only possess a few written accounts.

It’s a ludicrous claim to make in our liberalized, secularized and pluralistic society.

And yet here I am.

—–

My Christian faith focuses on the kenosis of God (the self-emptying or limitation of God becoming human), which implies that God rejects the use of power and privilege to bring healing and reconciliation to the world.

God tries a different method.

God shows that true strength is found in so-called weakness.

Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection, has already died for and saved all of humanity and all of Creation.

Every human being is already saved through Jesus – it’s each individual’s choice what they do with their freedom; to continue the healing of the world or to facilitate it’s destruction.

Most of us fall into both categories – but some get closer to the mark over the course of their lives in choosing to heal instead of destroy.

A Christian believes and hopes in new life for all creation.

No more greenhouse gases, nuclear bombs, guns, drones, skyscrapers, greed, oppression, extermination.

This is salvation – creation is saved from humanity.

Humanity is saved from itself.

A Christian thus works in the present towards this future of salvation.

This is no escapism, no-trashing-the-world-now-and-go-to-heaven-later mythology.

This is a living and breathing faith and practice that reveals the hoped-for world-to-come.

Life conquers over death.

The oppressed conquer their oppressors.

The poor conquer the rich.

God’s presence conquers over absence.

God became human so that humans can become more like God – a definition of salvation more prominent in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

—–

However, Western European Christianity (often referred to as Christendom – a combination of Christian and Kingdom) has found “salvation” in other places.

It has used power, manipulation, oppression, and domination to achieve its salvation.

It has become corrupted by a lust for control.

The main method of this is through the-carrot-or-the-stick approach to salvation.

Convert to Christianity – or die!

Convert to Christianity – or go to hell!

Convert to Christianity – and be saved!

Some good news, eh?

—–

It is this myth of salvation,

that in order to avoid the fires of hell,

that in order to avoid eternal damnation,

that in order to be happy on this earth,

you have to be a Christian.

You have to check off that box on the census.

I believe, on strong biblical and theological authority, that this thinking is actually profoundly unChristian.

—–

Far too many Christians believe that Christianity is supposed to be a universal religion across all cultures, lands and times.

They confuse the universal implications of the good news of Jesus, with a universal urgency to make every human being believe in these implications before it’s too late.

But Jesus didn’t call every person he encountered to follow him.

He only called a few.

Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, seems to be more of a calling for a minority.

It’s not a faith where you check-in with your parole officers every Sunday morning to make sure you’re behaving.

It’s a 24/7 calling.

It’s a calling to daily choose the difficult journey of radical servanthood, suffering, and obedience to the Spirit of God.

To die to self every single day.

To be joyful, pray ceaselessly, and give thanks in all circumstances.

The Christian road is a hard one, a continual uphill push, an almost futile climb hoping to one day arrive at a mountaintop that never seems to arrive.

It’s incredibly demanding – but one where God gives equally incredible grace.

—–

Two-thirds of Canada still identifies as Christian.

Something isn’t right.

Because as soon as Christianity has controlling influence on governments and militaries and bureaucracies, it stops being Christian.

As soon as Christianity sells itself to the lures of wealth, power, and privilege, it stops being Christian.

As soon as Christianity explicitly oppresses any group of people, it stops being Christian.

As soon as Christianity embraces luxury and convenience over holiness and selflessness, it stops being Christian.

History is an indictment against Christians losing their Christianity in the pursuit of converting the whole world.

In the process it has become committed and become complicit with so much of the evil that we have in our world today.

The world has been converted – and now we see that the emperor has no clothes.

Most of what passes for Christianity in Canada is a horrible imitation of the original.

—–

This is why, in my work at PiE, I support many young people’s decision to leave the Church.

So much of what is called Christianity has nothing to do with the Jesus Christ I believe in.

So many people just need to run for their lives.

The Church for so many is not healing, restoration, or salvation.

It’s pain, shame, darkness, oppression, and evil.

As Jesus said of some of the religious authorities in his day, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4)

The Church that promotes evil needs to die.

I see evil systemically interwoven systemically into the very institutions of Christianity.

It is the result of generations and generations of unrepentant evil behaviour by individuals in positions of power in these institutions. It’s fused with the culture.

I have no worry for the “eternal souls” of these people leaving the church – I’m more worried about what would happen to their souls if they stayed in it!

—–

I still believe deeply in Christ’s church. I just have really high standards for it.

Because when it fails to meet those standards, people get crushed underneath its eternal weight.

I still see many churches that do their best to live out authentic Christian community.

And I respect that the church will never be perfect.

We truly do need God’s grace to perservere.

But I do think God is tearing down most of the institutional church in Canada to create a new church in it’s place.

Not a church of empire, but a community of unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That’s the church I’m working to support.

Christianity needs to gracefully take a back-seat in Canadian society.

And trust once again in God’s saving goodness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

 

3 responses to “The Salvation Myth

  1. Thank you. I was at your session at Assembly. Well done there too. I have a maybe strange, maybe wrong-headed observation: you’re strangely orthodox 🙂 and yet not terribly different in ecclesiology from conservative folks who are leaving the Menno church. “They” leave over different triggers, but the idea that we can follow Jesus without the church (which I hear in my capacity as pastor) or that the church that isn’t pure and spotless isn’t the church (which I hear more implied in conversation) is a very similar line of reasoning as yours isn’t it? You’re protecting different interests and different parties, vulnerable ones. Maybe that makes all the difference. Maybe. Increased humility as people and as a people would go a long ways. That said, your critique is very well put and challenging. Peace be with you.

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    • Thank you, Wes, for your comments and affirmation.

      It’s interesting because I have very strong traditionalist tendencies, except my tradition is Christianity as a 2,000 year global tradition with my own particular Mennonite/Anabaptist expression. As I’m getting older I’m learning to understand and embrace this. I take strangely orthodox as a compliment – because I think a lot that has been accepted in North American Christianity in the past few hundred years that has been considered orthodox is not actually orthodox at all.

      I think everyone has very high standards for the church. I believe the church needs to embrace these high standards, and continually acknowledge how they are falling short of them. It’s hard on the church’s ego, but I do think it sets a marvellous example for individual church people to embrace the abundance of the good news, while giving themselves grace for continually falling short. Just a few thoughts.

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