I once wanted to become a preacher.
I believed so fervently in the Bible that the thought couldn’t escape me that the more I learned about it, the more I should share what I learn with others. It felt only natural. (Or supernatural, as it were.)
My church gave me a few opportunities to preach, and I cannot lie, it was fun. I knew what to say to get shouts of “amen!” and “preach!” from the pews, and when up there, my usual fear of public speaking seemed to fade completely.
Those opportunities came when I was a fairly cookie-cutter Baptist fundamentalist. I stuck to the doctrine and expressions and talking points that were oh so very familiar to the listeners.
I preached, but I didn’t challenge.
I didn’t challenge because I wasn’t challenged.
Baptist fundamentalists, not unlike so very many other sects of Christianity, have a groove into which most of their adherents can fit into without causing much friction.
Far too closely to the end of my life as a Christian, though, I learned that Christianity cannot exist in a frictionless environment, that Christianity must shatter the grooves so many people fit snugly into, upending not just worldviews but whole lives, redefining the fates of its adherents in such a way that, frankly, I had never seen before.
I never had the opportunity to preach this radical new (ancient) form of Christianity. My faith was swallowed up by knowledge, and so I cast off the vestiges of Christianity.
Part of me regrets that decision.
I sit on the outside now, with no church to call my own, but the knowledge I gained from the latter days of my faith occupies so very much of my mind. Though my, if I can call it this, “spiritual” focus now rests upon advocating for secularity, I find it frustrating to watch as professed Christians make a profane show of their religion.
Like a bull in a china shop who has no idea where he is or what to do now that he’s there, the Christian is in the world but has no clue how they should be behaving. Like the bull, when they do act, it is so often destructively, yet their myopic understanding of their own religion prevents them from properly seeing the results of their action.
I speak up, perhaps maybe too often than I should, on the closest thing I have to a pulpit, my Facebook account. I inject my understanding of core Christian praxis into posts when I can, though by now I’m fairly certain that for most of my text posts, the only folks reading along are those who are like-minded with me on at least a couple major issues.
Christianity, at best, is lost, with hundreds of millions of adherents at any given time going about their day, unaware of the damage their version of Christianity causes.
Consider briefly the life of a Christian in the Bible. Such a person is called to pick up their cross, indicating that their life will be spent in suffering, and to die to themselves, indicating that their own ego is secondary to not only God but also to every other person whom they meet.
Personal possessions are freely sold so that others are not left to go hungry or homeless or thirsty or whatever else.
Traits such as meekness, humility, modesty, charity, and forgiveness should overflow from such a person’s life, no matter the cost to themselves. Their life is a living sacrifice, done in the name of God but for the benefit of everyone around them.
They go out of their way, they go the extra mile, they live for others.
The entirety of the religion is radical, and really, is that any surprise? The religion has its origins in ancients who had no problem slicing off the foreskins of their enemies in order to prove a point! With time, though, the practices required of believers became compassion, sacrifice, and an upending of the societal norms which we take for granted.
It’s a message which needs preached.
If Christians take their own religion seriously and if they wish for those on the outside to take them more seriously, then they must abandon the nonsense religion practiced by Christendom at large.
A Christianity practiced biblically would potentially cause far less harm than the bastardization to which most adhere.
Imagine no homophobia, no land and resources spent on church buildings, no disruptive involvement in government… Imagine a huge swath of society whose lives are committed to reducing suffering, not just as an occasional activity but as a raison d’être.
Christianity has a huge amount of untapped potential for actual, demonstrable good in this world, yet the system is weighted down under the burden of so much garbage. Rather than subverting the world’s systems to exemplify a better path, Christianity today offers the same as what we already have, just packaged with a cross (see the Christian music industry for a notable example of this). Rather than challenging adherents to die to themselves, preachers use clever alliteration to tickle ears or reinforce the same powerless orthodoxies.
As it is written in the Epistle of James, faith without works is dead.
I know so many people who claim to believe, but for the most part, I don’t believe that any of them do because, well, their lives aren’t so dissimilar from mine, an avowed atheist and opposer of religious dogma. Rather than feed the hungry, they ensure that not only do they have enough to eat but that it’s not genetically modified or carb-free or whatever else. Rather than clothe the naked, they wear designer labels. They remodel their own homes while so many go homeless. There is no power, no passion in the faith which they claim to profess.
They need a preacher, or perhaps more specifically, they need an apostle-like figure to reign in many churches’ worth of believers at once, calling them authoritatively back to a Christianity which at least minutely resembles the biblical examples.
Is such a radical movement even possible any more in our world of seemingly increasingly polarized opinions? What would it take to ignite that spark?