Friday, August 21, 2009

Christians In Exile: Part 2- Ille qui nos omnes servabit

Where is the boundary between Christianity and everything else, and if we step over this boundary are we still considered Christians? Recently Don Rogers over at Reflections posted a Blog series on a new vision of Christianity, Jesus, and the relationship between this new vision and traditional Christianity. This is a very personal topic on religious identity that I continue to struggle with since I am surrounded by those within traditional Christianity that can not accept me as one of their own. I have written a few posts on how I view myself within Christianity which can be found in three parts, here.

[Screenshot from the Season 5 finale of Lost.]

This is a 3 part response to Don's three posts on what it means to be a Christian in Exile, what Jesus means to an Exile, and the never ending journey as a Christian in Exile. Please read these before moving on.

Only within the last few hundred years have we begun to discover alternative interpretations of Jesus' message, life, and teachings which have been overshadowed by the towering statuesque institution of the church. So what will guide this new vision of Christianity? Ille qui nos omnes servabit. The title of this post is Latin for "he who will save (or protect) us all". The phrase is taken from the Season 5 finale of Lost as the response to the one question that has been burning through the minds of fans since the question was first asked: "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" I am a HUGE Lost fan, and if I had more time on my hands I'd probably be a fanatic. So what does this have to do with Christians in Exile? Probably not much, except as an excuse to mention my eternal love for Lost. I'm not going to analyze the show's symbolism or explain what the smoke monster is (although, like most Lost fans, I have my theories) since there are more experienced bloggers on the web that do a much better job than I ever would (click here for a list of my favorite sites). The Season 5 finale was filled with so much religious symbolism that I couldn't help but notice parallels to the topic of exiled Christians: a displaced people (in space but not time), the tension between the forces that displaced them, and He who will save them all.

In Christians in Exile, Don pointed out the dissatisfaction exiled Christians have of the traditional beliefs set and defended by the church. In the second post, As An Exile…What to do with Jesus, Don explains a new interpretation of Jesus for an exiled people, those dissatisfied with traditional Christianity. Jesus Christ is the focal point of every form of Christianity (that I know of) regardless how each sect interprets him and his teachings. But is an interpretation of the life and teachings of Christ outside of the traditional interpretation still seen as Christian? I believe that depends entirely on the communal identity of the religious group. The beliefs of the group are what sets the boundaries of their identity. Yet within Christianity all groups can agree that there is a spirit of Love and Compassion that must be included within each individual group's identity to be accepted as Christian by other denominations. For example, a white supremacist group (or a hate group of some other form) may proclaim that they are Christian yet the spirit of the group is not one of Love and Compassion but of outright hated and bigotry. I believe that a religious group can meet two basic requirements and be labeled Christian: following Christ message and teachings, and internalizing the same spirit of Love and Compassion found within that message.

I believe Jesus to be an imitatio dei - an imitation of God, who is an example of God's central quality, compassion. This vision of Jesus does not have him die for our sins as a perfect sacrifice because this would envision a God of Judgement instead of a God of Compassion, a God that demands sacrifice (human sacrifice!) to atone for the sins and mistakes of a fallible race. I believe Jesus brought salvation to humanity by revealing to us our highest potential of becoming loving, compassionate people. Don summed up the relationship between Jesus, God, and the exiled Christian with the following statement.
Being a follower of Jesus does not require me to make literalized creedal affirmations about him or about the theistic God who supposedly invaded our world and lived among us in the person of Jesus. Neither does being a follower require that I literally believe all things spoken about him in the New Testament. It only requires me to be impowered by him to do as he did, imitating the presence of God in him by: living fully, loving wastefully, and having the courage to be all that God created me to be. It doesn’t mean that I have to turn away from life, to shun life, to make contact with the holy, because the holy is within me. It does mean that my contact with God is shown by the degree to which I can give my life, my love, and my being away to others.
What I seek is to increase that degree in which I can "give my life, my love, and my being away to others." It is this seeking through Jesus that makes me a Christians, but seeking outside of the traditional church that makes me an exile.

These new visions of Christianity and Jesus I believe have enriched my spirituality and have broken the barriers erected during my childhood. These new visions may not work for anyone else but they work for me. I believe it doesn't matter HOW you interpret Jesus as long as it leads you to becoming a better person. Traditional Christianity just doesn't work for ME anymore, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong nor does it mean it is an outdated system which needs to be tossed out. Traditional Christianity brings hope, strength and love to billions of people on the planet, and I hope it sticks around for another 2000 years. Yet I have outgrown this system because my spirituality is not a destination I seek but a never ending journey I travel. As my spirituality grows the borders of my beliefs may change but my foundations of Love and Compassion will always stay the same because we share the same guide, Traditional and Exiled Christians, who will guide us back to God: Ille qui nos omnes servabit.

Christians in Exile Blog Series:
Part 1- New Beginnings
Part 2- Ille qui nos omnes servabit
Part 3 - The Never Ending Journey

Or, you can read all three back-to-back, here.

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