I ended the last post with some questions. What if we were to think of Christianity as a kind of blueprint for home building? What if—extending the metaphor—we were to think of our broader cultural shifts in identity and community as changes in the neighbourhood, or the constituency, or the climate for those homes? And if these changes are happening, what kind of Christian blueprint do we envision? Can we imagine something more than “spec” building or familiar “renovation”?
Here’s a first gesture toward answering these questions in a Jesus-shalom way.
Given shifts in what home owners are looking for, or the kind of neigbours they wish to have, or the kinds of shelter they need—given these shifts, one can imagine at least three different ways to reconsider the Christianity “blueprint” for these homes.
To begin, one can keep the basic presumptions of what make for a good home (size and shape, number and type of rooms), but then make changes in appearance and style—changing the exterior surface or the interior features. To follow the metaphor, then, would be to imagine a form of Christianity that retains confessional orthodoxy (creedal doctrine, for example), presumes traditional markers of identity (binary gender, for example), and presupposes familiar elements of community (ideological conformity, for example). But there would be changes in how these are communicated and advocated. The rooms inside the home would remain unchanged, but the furniture would be rearranged, the paint changed, the decorations altered. Let’s call this redecorating.
A second option would be to alter the blueprint a little bit, while retaining the structural assumptions that go into the blueprint. Maybe some rooms are redesigned, some new windows and doors are installed (to allow better light), some transitional spaces for moving from out to in are added. But the rectangular shape, triangular roof, presumed set of rooms, all stay in place. Following the metaphor, this would be a Christianity that explores alternative accounts of settled theological formulas. For example, non-violent accounts of divine agency or atonement are developed within a settled creedal orthodoxy. Or advocacy of social justice activism is added to an evangelical sense of “kingdom” and “good news.” Let’s call this renovating.
A third option, finally, would be to call into question the structural assumptions themselves. Why do we need a rectangular building? Why does it need to have discreet rooms? Why does there have to be a clear inside and outside? Can we imagine a home—and design blueprint drafts for it—that retain some of the general functionality a home requires, but without the assumptions about shape and space in traditional home building? Here the metaphor perhaps points to a kind of “post-orthodoxy,” or “post-church,” or “post-religious” way of thinking about—a re-construction—of Christian faith. Let’s call this reconstruction.
Jesus-shalom is Jesus-centred, with a focus on the Jesus who is given to us in scripture, a scriptural narrative that includes an array of accounts of creation and creaturehood, peoplehood and place—even Jesus himself! But we also have a second focus—our shalom reading of the scriptures. And taken together, these two poles of our being, thinking, and acting leave us “fiercely ambivalent” between options 2 and 3 above. That is to say, we see value on both sides—renovation and reconstruction—and refuse to take a position that resolves the tension between them.
On the one side, we are happy to be in conversation with those Christians who are largely comfortable within the structural patterns of inherited Christianity (doctrinally creedal; communally ecclesial; behaviourally traditional), but wish to expand or deepen these forms of Christian faith in a more world-embracing, shalom-oriented direction. This is a version of renovation.
On the other hand, we also wish to be in conversation with those who wish for a kind of Christianity that is transformed by a shalom orientation, one that moves beyond inherited doctrine, community, and behaviour, toward ways of believing, belonging, and behaving that don’t “fit” within the blueprint of traditional Christian houses. This is a version of reconstruction.
For those that prefer the first option—a kind of “sprucing up” traditional Christian faith—we are more than happy for you to listen in on our explorations, joining in as you feel called. We might even be able to offer a thought or two to enrich your work.
But for those that are drawn to renovation or reconstruction, time to pick up your hammers and join us at the building site.