Anyone who peruses the web or reads the newspaper on a regular basis can’t help but know the many struggles of faith, and lack thereof, in America today.
Many churches are losing attendance, desperately trying to keep their doors open. USA Today recently released a report showing the fastest growing segment of our population are those who have no religious affiliation.
People are confused, capricious and apathetic about their faith. Despite my being a life-long Christian, I was one of them.
Today, however, I am at ease being an “Emergent” Christian. This is a term used by Marcus Borg to emphasize the difference between how Christianity is taught and practiced today with how Christianity existed in its original form.
My first acquaintance with Borg, internationally known Canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Oregon, was made when I read his book, “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.” Borg states that today’s “traditional” teachings of the church are relatively modern interpretations. A modest study of the history of Christianity will reveal this to be true.
Christianity has had many conceptual changes, splits and differences over the past 2,000 years and today’s form bears little resemblance to early Christian practice.
According to Borg, the basics of Emergent Christianity are these: Emergent Christianity is more concerned with this life rather than the next. God’s love and passion for the world was revealed in Jesus and it’s through his actions we’re shown “the way” to live on earth. In fact, Jesus’ first proponents were not called Christians but “followers of The Way.”
Jesus provoked us to consider how the world would be if God was its ruler instead of presidents, kings or politicians. Thus, Emergent Christianity is concerned “with the earthly transformation of ourselves and the world through a deepening relationship with God as known through Jesus.”
We accept the challenge, as Jesus prayed, of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth (as it is in heaven.)
Emergent Christianity is a chosen faith. It is not the Christianity we inherit from our parents. But it is definitely not new; it is Christianity that goes back to its roots.
For all serious religious seekers, however, it involves study, discussion and, most important, acceptance and implementation of Jesus’ “way” into daily life.
For me, this was an exciting pursuit of knowledge unre-stricted by and independent of what I heard in the pew each Sunday. Such study has enabled me to grow far beyond my childhood understanding of Christianity. While it’s been a difficult journey, the rewards for me have been huge. I no longer feel the need to believe church dogma because I now trust Christ. I no longer have to deny science because my faith now accepts it. I no longer just tolerate other religions but instead respect and affirm those who have found their own path to the sacred.
Will Emergent Christianity stem the flow of people leaving the church? I doubt it.
But the church’s current path will not do so either.
That situation is beyond my personal concern.
However, as I continue to “emerge” as a Christian, I have found great comfort in it and I remain a pilgrim who has returned to my faith’s earliest and blessed beginnings.
Tom Bresko, retired from Mill Creek Metro-Parks, is a Christian on a spiritual pilgrimage.