Thursday, October 06, 2005


Following on from the last post, what kind of perspective might inform a consciously post-Christendom restatement (‘re-emergence’) of Christian commitment in a plural, sceptical, indifferent and consumer-oriented culture? The seven ‘core convictions’ developed by the Anabaptist Network in the UK seem to me a really good starting point for that conversation. (Via Prodigal Kiwi, I have just noticed that they have been re-rendered in handy *.PDF form by the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand).

There is a danger, of course, that such a stance – which I believe needs also to be nurtured subversively within my own Anglican tradition, through radical Catholicism, and in Reformed perspective – might degenerate into sentimental Jesuolatry, devoid of a broader theological perspective. Incipient WWJD-ism skates too readily over the interpretative distance facing contemporary Christian engagement in its foundational texts and traditions. Seeking the company of the Jesus of the Gospels also involves tension, disruption, interrogation and pain.

But these challenges make ‘followership’ more, not less, worthwhile and necessary, as I tried to suggest not so long ago in my article Does Christianity kill or cure?

“The Christian conviction is that the Word of life has become flesh. This means that the ‘answers’ we seek are not to be found in infallible texts or unassailable propositions, but in and through the vulnerable humanity to which God is committed.

“So the only response that is adequate both to the scale of our human dilemma and to the nature of what is unveiled in the Gospel is (quite against our instincts for tidiness and convenience) the difficult truth of a person.

"In the counter-story and lived reality of Jesus of Nazareth – a narrative about being truly human, but also about a living God who is quite unlike our ideas of 'godness' – we see ‘in the flesh’ the surprising, redemptive potential of diversity in the face of division.

"Put simply, Christ's is the less-travelled Way marked by open tables, acceptance of 'outsiders', refusal of violence, challenge to the rich, forgiveness and repentance, resistance to the powers-that-be, conflict through the cross, the foretaste of risen life, and the shock of the Spirit – the one who surprises us with liberated meaning.

"What we long for in Jesus’ company, therefore, is not mere ‘tolerance’ or illusory power for ourselves. It is the impossible possibility of God’s domination-free kingdom (or ‘kin-dom’, as a South African theologian once beautifully put it).

"The Gospel is about precisely this unimaginable love. It is a love that subjugates power so as to absorb rather than inflict violence, to embrace rather than deny suffering, and to endure in (rather than escape from) death."

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