Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Forgotten Metaphor

I'll never forget the earnest zeal of the pastor, with a handshake-turned-to-death-grip hold on me at the back of the sanctuary. I had hoped to slip out quietly after the fearsome hell-fire-and-damnation sermon he'd just preached.

"Brother, are you saved?", he asked with penetrating gaze, augmenting his iron grip on my hand with the furrowed brow of concern and a commanding tone of voice.

I had been hitch-hiking to (a different) church that evening, but the pouring rain and lack of rides made the little church I was walking past look like a viable alternative. There was no way of knowing that I was about to have a completely cross-cultural experience, right there in my town of birth.

I was able to escape after a short (mostly one-sided) debate -- it didn't seem to matter how many times I assured him that I was a Christian, he wasn't convinced.

There are probably a lot of words in common usage among Christians that are misunderstood, caricatured, and mocked. "Saved" would definitely be one of those, even among self-identified Christians. Experiences such as the one I just mentioned, have resulted in my tendency to avoid using the word, as well. And I suspect I'm not alone. The mental picture of loud, obnoxious lamprey-zealots crazed with wild-eyed fervor... well, you know. (shudder)

But at the same time, the word 'save' (saves, saved, salvation) appears literally hundreds of times through the Bible. It is the most common word referring to our faith in what Jesus Christ did for us. Why should the lunatic fringe be allowed to deprive us of a word so rich in meaning?

Perhaps the time of finding 'alternative metaphors' is past. Maybe, instead, we should invest our time and energy in exploring the richness of the original term, and allow a positive connotation to emerge in place of the caricature.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Renaissance

[ren-uh-sahns]; noun.,
a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival


The word "renaissance" comes from the Italian language, and simply means "re-born". The historical period known as the Renaissance was a time when much of the Classical Greek era's art, science, and literature (pre-Medieval) were re-discovered, re-born, revived. To be a "renaissance man" was to be adept in various disciplines: arts, science, philosophy, etc.

Fast forward to the early 21st century: In Christian circles, particularly in North America and Western Europe, there has been a lot of conversations, ink spilt, and pixels published surrounding the future of the church, and even of Christianity itself. In some instances, some have gone so far as to reject and/or re-write a large chunk of the beliefs of Christianity. Many caricatures of what Christians believe have been circulated, usually with just enough truth mixed in to sound reasonable.

I'd like to suggest that we need a renaissance -- a re-discovery, a renewal, a re-birth -- of classic Christian doctrines. Not to entrench, nor to develop a reactionary, paranoid "circle the wagons" kind of fortress mentality. That leads nowhere.

As the saying goes, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness". The rebuttal to the caricatures and distortions of what Christians believe is not to 'curse the darkness'; the best response is to positively 'light a candle' by saying what we actually believe, and why.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15)
We need a renaissance of discipleship. We need a renaissance of passing on core truths about our faith to the next generation(s). We need to proactively, without apology but tempered with humility, speak of what we have become convinced to be true.
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act."
-George Orwell-