Ortho what?

While checking through my google reader I spotted a question that has stayed with me. Has the church in Australia (in particular that part of the body that would identify itself with the ’emerging church’ ) strayed too far from orthodoxy in favour of orthopraxis? I think how we answer this question is significant. My first thought is to query whether or not we need to have one or the other – are they mutually exclusive? Can we think wrongly but act rightly? Can we think rightly but act wrongly? I wonder if it is a false dichotomy. Jesus both challenged and supported the orthodoxy of his time, in both how he taught and what he did. He taught as much by what he did as by what he said. In some ways, I think his actions spoke more plainly than his words. Do ours?

Historically much energy has gone into defending doctrine. As Christians we can find ourselves busy with words defining the particulars of our faith. I think we need to continue to delve into what we believe and why, wrestle with the greys and be honest enough to admit our struggles philosophically and theologically. I also find this process rather fun. But orthodoxy is often a source of division – the foundation for attacking each other, marginalising those who think differently within and without the church. Christianity that never moves from that head space does not transform or bring life. I think our culture has had enough of that presentation of “Christianity”. If as followers of Jesus we put at least as much emphasis on what we do and how we are as we do on what we think and believe, I believe that our “Christ-ianity” will be far more alive for us and for those with whom we relate. There are fewer shades of grey when we care for the poor, when we love our neighbours, when we eat and drink together, when we stand up for those who are defenseless.

The challenge for the Australian church is not how to stand on the gay issue, it is not whether or not to play Hillsong or stand in arty candle lit huddles. Moving to a cafe, adopting seeker sensitive services or becoming technological Sunday wonders is not going to cut it either. It comes down to honestly grappling with what it means to follow Jesus. Sure, that has something to do with what we think and believe, but a whole lot more to do what flows out of us in our everyday living, our work and play, caring, loving. That is our gift of worship. That is our participation in the coming of the Kingdom.

This post is part of the synchroblog which a number of Australian Christians are participating in to celebrate Australia Day. For more on Christianity In Australia, see:

  • Matt Stone at Journeys In Between Christianity In Australia
  • Andrew Hamilton at Backyard Missionary
  • Ben Thurley at Ben’sBlog
  • Rodney Olsen at rodneyolsen.net
  • Geoff Pengilly at TheHealing Project
  • Andy Porteous at NotYet Finished
  • Paul Robotham at A Christian’s Blog
  • Chris Summerfield at A Churchless Faith
  • Heather at A Deconstructed Christian
  • Geoff Matheson at Amateur Theology
  • Deborah Taggart at The Bright Side
  • Rob Hanks at Pump House
  • Grendel at Sermons from an Atheist
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    The Abbey

    Tonight I finished viewing the last installment of a series that recently aired on the ABC – “The Abbey“.  For those who missed it, it is a kind of reality tv show set in a Benedictine monastery.  It documents the personal and communal journeys of five women with diverse backgrounds, ages and personal stories as they undertake 33 days of life as Benedictine nuns.  I found it quite profound.  Most notably, the way in which each of the women encountered God through their experience.  They found the vigils hard and inflexible, constant, tiring.  But each experienced breakthroughs in their lives, release from past hurts, and greater attunement with the physical and spiritual.   As someone who wrestles with institutionalized imaginations (do those two words go together?!) of church and faith, the impact of the experience was surprising.   The nuns were not “seeker sensitive”.  They were not “cool”.  They did not use the latest technology to create amazing experiences of worship.  There was no Hillsong, Vineyard, or anything likely to have been written in the last century or so.  They did not take the women to the pub to “hang out” and discuss spirituality.  Instead they met for prayer seven times a day commencing at 4.30am, worked in the garden, earned their keep, practiced silence (even when eating).  For the nuns, the most important thing they could do was pray for the world.  To be honest, it did not look very appealing to me – at least not as a lifestyle option.  Yet these women found God.  And not shallowly.  Deep spiritual and emotional work and healing took place.   God is to be found deeply in all places.  Rituals are not dead if God is honoured through and by their practice.  And God can reveal himself profoundly in a way that brings life through what seems to be void of life and freedom.  After watching the women’s stories unfold, it seems that one of the greatest robbers of vital spirituality is clutter in our lives.  Gadgets, internet (eek on both accounts 🙂 ), addiction to the instant and immediate,  crowded lives filled with stuff, events, talking, escapism, searching for meaning by filling every last moment.   We do not take time often enough to listen, to be silent, to feel the cool soil in our fingers, to watch and wait for things to grow.  Rather challenging.   

    More than just a scribble

    It is late and I should be in bed, but I have just found the most amazingly simple drawing program called ‘Scribbles’ with great possibilities – check out this image below for example:

    pntm4764f4d83dd92404604927.jpg

    I am not sure if it is ok to post the image – I couldn’t find any info on the gallery page. Full credos to the artist “Nico”. I am looking forward to playing with Scribbles. Only for macs I think.

    Dogma

    Here’s a find for the first day of the new year – thanks to the very soon to be married for the heads up. I like cartoons, and the more insightful (with the odd bit of cynicism) the better. The cartoon below is from “The Ongoing Adventure of ASBO Jesus”.

    dogma.jpg

    I like it. A lot. My thoughts are less about the merit (or not) of the views captured by the statements, but rather what they typify. Christianity in our postmodern world is often viewed as a package of strong views such as these, and precious little else. If only dogma was quite as cute as the little dog here. No, Christianity is less known for its acceptance, grace, mercy and justice than for dogmas that often propagate attitudes that are the antithesis of these things. I don’t propose a wishy-washy theology that wavers like a cultural chameleon. I am just not sure that these views are as central to the heart of Jesus, the reason we call the bible “good news” as they are sometimes made to be. Maybe our dogma needs to be exercised off leash. Thanks for the cartoons Jon.