[Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, By Gustave Doré, 1855]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.
In Don's first two posts, Are You in Exile? and As an Exile...What to do with Jesus?, Don brought up the identity of exiled Christians and a new vision of Christ. In his third post, I am a Believer in Exile, Don introduces the issues and challenges of living as an exile. Two very important issues he touches on in his series are self-identity and group identity as exiles. All Christians that are dissatisfied with Traditional Christianity may be labeled as an exile, but as each individual has their unique spiritual paths how then do we avoid the pitfalls of establishing rigid borders of faith as a community of believers?
I have found a few movements (as well as broad terminology) that offer alternative perspectives and communities to that of Traditional Christianity which may help those in exile:Emerging Church, Liberal Christianity, Post-Modern Christianity, Christian pantheism (and panentheism), and not to forget Unitarian Universalism just to name a few. Although terms like Liberal and Post-Modern Christianity may be interchangeable each have their own theological views and issues. But the one theme I have found running through all of these is the focus on spiritual growth and a questioning of the boundaries set in stone by Traditional Christianity.
I am not trying to demonize Christianity nor am I attempting to reform it (I'm no Luther), I am just trying to make sense of my own religious identity. If there were to be any reform within Christianity it will be done slowly and painfully if ever. (I have yet to finish reading the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Reformation.) Yet I believe the only way forward for those exiled would be to form new communities (i.e. denominations) because mankind is a tribal creature and we naturally yearn to be in groups especially when it comes to matters of the Spirit. I find it distressing at times that I have no community I can call my own, but I also find it extremely liberating that I am not bound by the boundaries set forth by a community. It is like standing in an Oklahoman field, a Christian standing on Christianity's frontier, where my spirituality can grow without borders. Some would say this is dangerous and will lead me down the wrong path, but how can I fail with Christ as my compass, my guide?
As I stated in the previous post my spirituality is a never ending journey toward the heart of the Spirit. My beliefs, theology, and thoughts on the divine might be completely different a year or even six months from now. I believe as long as I am moving towards being an imitation of love and compassion I am headed in the right direction. My beliefs and theology won't matter anymore once I reach that point BECAUSE all of my searching, questing, and learning is meant to lead me to a summit of love. Once I'm there, I can look back upon the trail I took and see exactly where I fell and how I could have avoided it, but it won't matter anymore because I would already be There. Now it sounds like I've already contradicted myself. How can I be There while also traveling on a never ending journey? Being There is a state of being, but reaching this state of being is not a state of human perfection. No, I will then struggle to maintain it BECAUSE of my humanity. The struggle itself is the journey, like Jacob, we must struggle with both God and Man. The struggle with God (or the Spirit) is not a fight against God but a struggle to understand our own spirituality, the divine within ourselves. The struggle with Man is not a fight against mankind but a struggle with our own ego, the demons of our humanity. Somewhere between both struggles we may find our true identity and become what we are meant to become.
Christians in Exile Blog Series:
Part 1- New Beginings
Part 2- Ille qui nos omnes servabit
Part 3 - The Never Ending Journey
You can also read all three back to back, here.