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Original Christianity in the Now

Though some may interpret this as an ominous start, I want to begin my


comments not by quoting Scripture, but by quoting three famous Mediterranean
philosophers: Plato said: “To do is to be.” Socrates said: “To be is to do.” And
Frank Sinatra said: “Dobedobedo.” I like these two verbs, “Do” and “Be”, because
they are present tense verbs and, in my heart, capture the essence of original
Christianity both then and now.

In our commitment to original Christianity both then and now, we seek to be


faithful to the life, teachings and spirit of Jesus the Christ. As Christians we
thoroughly study and value the Scriptures and ideas of faith. As Christians we
examine our faith in the light of reason and experience. Original Christianity in
the now is no less Christian simply because of ever narrowing, constricting and
restricting interpretations of the faith. Instead, our faith in Christ and original
Christianity in the now invites us to an ever expanding Christian faith.

Is it not wondrous that original Christianity in the now can and may be
comfortable with ambiguity and diversity?! Does this make us any less Christian?
Absolutely not. Does it make us any more Christian? Absolutely! We, as did
Jesus, realize that life is a complex spiritual journey, and that each person on
that journey experiences unexpected revelations and meaningful truths. Original
Christianity in the now therefore welcomes a variety of experiences of God and
is open to new ways of talking about the Divine. Original Christianity in the
now is cautious about making dogmatic statements or claiming to have a
monopoly on the truth. We see the search for truth as an ongoing and delightful
journey rather than one that has already been completed.

When it comes to the Scriptures, many Christians are often content to answer
religious questions by appealing to the absolute authority of the Bible. The
problem with such an approach is the tendency to shove square pegs through
round holes. The problem with such an approach is the tendency to worship the
Bible instead of the God of the Bible. Just as Jesus was fully human and divine,
original, immediate experiencing Christians in the now recognize that, as
was the person of Jesus, the Bible also bears both human and divine influences.
And it is these very human and divine touches that make the Scriptures all the
more authentic and meaningful.

Original Christians in the now value God’s gift of reason and recognize that it
is good to review traditional assumptions and interpretations. It is a blessing to
look into the origin and composition of the Scriptures and see the wonder therein.
Modern philosophical, historical and scientific theories that are well supported by
evidence actually enhance our understandings of the Scriptures and the absolute
empowering images, stories, poetry, and ideals conveyed within. Instead of
focusing on protecting conventional Christian ideology, original Christianity in
the now welcomes the living Christ to continue the processes of understanding
and revelation into each and every moment AND into each and every person
AND into each and every generation.

Beyond Scripture, original Christianity in the now welcomes intimate,


personal, deep and wide images of God. The understandings of God are many.
The experiences of God are many. Some may mistake this as a belief in
pantheism, a kind of God-in-everything-ism which, when reading the original
creation story, is not all that unreasonable. However, the greater privilege is not
just to see God in everything, but to see everything through God. This is why we
value queries of faith and practice. Unlike set doctrines telling us what to believe
or else(!), queries allow us to explore and experience the living, personal Christ
who is not known only in the past, but equally in the present. Original Christian
faith in the now allows us liberty to see and experience the Spirit moving both in
everyone AND in the everyday stuff of life.

Original Christianity then and original Christianity in the now recognizes social
justice as a central principle of faith. For far too long, Christians have focused
primarily on personal salvation. Beyond the salvation of individuals alone, the
transformation of society is equally and plainly stressed by Jesus. Equality for
racial minorities, women, homosexuals, and the economically disadvantaged are
essential parts of a Christ-centered message. A concern for the environment, for
fairness in legal and financial systems, for the humane treatment of prisoners
and enemies, for compassionate care of the mentally and physically sick, and
numerous other social issues are absolutes addressed in the opening message
of our Lord, the Sermon on the Mount. Original Christianity in the now
recognizes that salvation is more, much more than one’s redemptive relationship
with God. Salvation is a personal relationship with God and a corporate
experience of God with others that embrace whole-heartedly the wider concerns
Jesus taught and exampled.

Original Christianity in the now equally welcomes both seeking and seekers.
Earlier in my faith I had many questions about the theory of evolution, the
authority of the Bible, other religions, etc., but those questions were often met
with criticism questioning my faith or simplistic answers that did not resonate as
truthful. In an open and welcoming understanding of Christ, we no longer need to
feel like we have to be intellectually dishonest in order to have faith. Original
Christianity in the now can engage both our minds and hearts. In other words,
such an open Christianity makes sense! It is ultimately the reason why I am a
follower of Jesus and why I invite you to be one as well. Altar call will follow
immediately! (Just kidding!!!)

Original Christianity in the now focuses first and foremost on the specific
teachings of Jesus the Christ as opposed to theology based primarily upon the
Letters of Paul and Old Testament ideology. In determining what are the ultimate
guiding principles of how one should follow Christ, in terms of doctrine, the
practice of faith and moral questions, the life and teachings of Jesus are
preeminent.

Opposite of a focus on sinfulness, inflexible beliefs, judgment and wrath, original


Christianity in the now practices compassion, mercy, acceptance, love,
gentleness, patience, affirmation, and generosity . . . against such there is no
law. Instead of aligning with ever contracting and constricting interpretations of
faith, original Christianity in the now calls us to do the ever expanding right
things and to be those who reflect the eternal values Jesus embodied.

Original Christianity then. Original Christianity in the now. The Spirit of Christ
is, indeed, in our midst RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW!

Presented at the inaugural gathering of the Festival of Friends

Held at Indianapolis First Friends Meeting on January 16, 2010

Stan Banker, pastor of Indianapolis First Friends Meeting