Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ingredients for a new Christian church

I suppose it’s time to get down to the business of assembling the ingredients of a new Christian religion. We need one. That’s clear. The Protestant varieties, so refreshing several centuries ago are now stale and disappointing. The Roman Catholic Church, a squandered franchise, has knit its own straight jacket.

What to do. It shouldn’t be that difficult to make a recipe that will bring us back into the presence of the fabulous Jesus. He is really quite accessible and friendly if you are not afraid to enter that part of town in which he lives, where he has dinner with “those kind”, where he speaks out loudly without the benefit of costly amplification. On a hillside. In someone’s boat. Before the furious judges. He’s so easy to find.

I don’t know why I bother with this. It’s not like I personally need a religion. I just can’t shake the task. The errand has fallen to me much against my will. I’d really rather be cruising the Ramble, but let’s have at it.

#1) In this new Christian religion, how you share your penis or vagina with consenting adults or with your left hand is your business. If you’re pretty and you want us to watch, fine, but really, I just wish the whole business of sex would become a great big mainstreamed yawn. Friction based on nerve endings, and sometimes (often, if you’re lucky) an expression of love and devotion. Let’s get over our skin. What’s inside it is so much more important.

#2) Let there be freedom to subscribe to the particulars of God as you see them. You know, he’s really been rather invisible for some time now, so your image of him is as valid as mine. Let us seek to hear his voice together. That is what is meant by “revelation” and is really the only reason for religion. Epiphanies are best had in groups,(so we can blog about it!) so we may honor the memories of our conversion as witnessed and supported by our friends and fellow believers.

#3) Let there be abundant forgiveness. Let us never close the door on anyone. Let us be outraged by sin but let us become irresistible to sinners by dint of the joyful quality of our lives. That wins over the enemy. Make him want what you have in your heart. He knows that killing you is the last way for him to get it.

#4) Let us become disciplined and skilled in the pursuit of happiness and peace. Let’s learn how to shed anxiety and cynicism and mean-spirited behavior.

#5) Let’s each have money or no money, but let our church own absolutely nothing. Let it not even be incorporated. Let it not even be a 501c3 or any kind of a not-for-profit or any kind of a legal entity at all. If you are rich, and you want to build a temple, and you want to invite us into it to celebrate, terrific. If you have a living room and you open your doors to other believers to celebrate together in your home, terrific. If you gather at a bar or at the beach or in a park, or at a nail salon, terrific. Keep this new Christian church free from that millstone of money. If you make a pot of spaghetti and share a meal with other believers in the name of Jesus, terrific, just do not ever take up a collection, for that is the road to disaster. Remember the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes? The crowd was so bent on hearing Jesus preach that they would not leave to go and eat. They kept with him, hungry but fascinated. The disciples, ever fixated with issues of crowd management, felt the need to feed them. They did not go out and try to weasle a donation from a fish market owner or a bakery. They simply started handing out all the resources they had. My reading of this? I really don't think it is a miracle in the strict sense of the word. It's just what happens when people share what they have. You get more from less. During my poor years, my penniless room mates and I made some miraculously excellent soups from the meager leftovers in our fridge. The Roman Catholic Church is all about control. Metering its assets, whether it be gold or grace. What a sad waste of time. In a new Christian church, my hands would hold no money. No fiscal responsibilities. They'd be open to embrace you. You think this is naive? Think again, and review the earliest history of Christianity.

#6) Let us not care about whether this church has five members or five million members. Jesus is not Mary Kay.

#7) Regarding leadership, let the leaders of the new Christian church announce themselves. If you are a transexual who can play the accordion with your inner thighs and also feel called to the priesthood, go for it. If no one follows you or listens to you or is inspired by you, take the hint. But, if folks do follow you and you become a conduit of the Holy Spirit, why should we restrict your leadership because of your genitals or your age or your color or sexual preferences or your marital status? It seems so obvious to me that real church leaders are discernable by the flock.

Got more? I’m open to suggestions. This is one soup that cannot be spoiled by too many cooks.

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20 Comments:

Blogger birdoparadise said...

Recognize that God’s love is not a weapon with which we wage war; it is a powerful magnet that draws not only the broken but the strong. And within its grip we are all connected, equal and whole.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous TedBear said...

Every time we are in Europe, we tour churches. I love them.

I'll take your recommendation for an In-N-Out Church Burger Suggestion Number 5 right now. We stopped attending our church because they kept asking for more and more and more and more money at every service. It just didn't stop. We gave a shitload of money, and were happy to do so, but for the Love of God, stop asking! "Join the Founder's Circle." All these envelopes all the time. All these appeals for more money every Sunday just make me crazy. It just never stopped!

A mega church serves what ego?

12:39 AM  
Anonymous robert said...

Just out of curiosity, where does your new church come down on the doctrine of original sin? It seems like an essential part of Christian mythology - if you ain't broke (a sinner), you don't need fixing (redemption) - yet the mainline Protestants and post-Protestants I grew up among scoff at the idea.

1:37 AM  
Blogger Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Robert,
First, as you'd imagine, I don't sit on the gate of the corral and funnel the sheep into one pen marked "saved" or another marked "unsaved". And, I find the concept of the baptism of howling infants ridiculous, unless it is understood as a ritual for the benefit of the parents (and they are the most inconvenienced and annoyed by it). The more Protestant concept of being saved by "accepting" Jesus and "believing on" him is certainly efficient because its unreturnable no matter how much you sin post-immersion. In the Roman Catholic tradition, baptism is indelible, but I can certainly un-save myself by mortal sin (like jumping out of a life boat. Really, who would?) But the root premise, that we are all born into sin, (except for Mary whose stint on the Wheel-of-Fortune of creation won her soooo many prizes, including being assumed BODY and soul into heaven which must have been uncomfortable) that needs inspection. I'm not feeling it.I think we each at some point in our life (sometimes young, sometimes older) wake up to a sense that something is missing within us or around us. That something ain't quite right for reasons that elude us, and in ways that we can't make tidy through our own able interventions. That is the "original sin" moment. That, if you are lucky, leads you to a "baptism" and if you are unfortunate, to despair. BUT, in my new Christian church, that moment would be personal and not granted to you once you memorized a list of truths and swore to uphold and believe them. That's the unhealthy "club" mentality that I think is the big sickness of organized religion.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Beau RN said...

Can we still have Bernini sculptures, though? Guess I'd have to pay for them but that's ok, they'd be worth it.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer Juniper said...

I'm a UU - this sounds a lot like my church.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Bruno said...

And how about,
Thou shall not worry, or be concerned about the religious status of your neighbor, it's none of your damn business.
thou shall live expressing the love care and forgiveness you would want to receive, experience in this life, and if you must in any life that may or may not follow.
thou shall give priority to that which is immediate and near, now. using the wits you were given, not trying to recall some set of arcane rules that may or may not have applied to another situation in an other time.

I like this idea!
Thanks
Bruno

9:10 AM  
Blogger The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I am in agreement with your precepts, but I fail to see how any of them is more consistent with "a new Christian religion" than simply a new religion. My problems with Christianity stem largely from its inability to accept #2 and the resulting insistence on conquest and conversion. But if you're willing to accept God in any format (and I am), then how is the religion Christian? I would be a little bit shocked if you weren't going to study the teachings of other prophets from other traditions as well.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Cooper said...

Let there be no conversion, only convergence, so that all who share this world in sin and sanctity will hear the song of the mystic, the unknown, the beautiful, the sorrowing.

Let us not serve the appetites of bishops and princes, but know what is truly holy.

10:37 AM  
Blogger cb said...

Well, if I were doing it, I'd toss out God and Jesus and Allah and all the others.

As soon as you put a face in there, then people are gonna argue about the color of the face or who's face is the best representation of "God". And down the path we go again.

That's why I prefer a stripped down buddhist philosophy. No idol worship. No gods. Just "good ideas".

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Boomer said...

I dunno...I guess i am just uncomfortable with the concept of sin entering into the picture as it only leads to judgement and exclusion. Don't get me wrong. I know that the concept of sin and right and wrong is what western culture, laws and civilization are based upon. I also know that when the concept of organized religion was developed that one of its great successes was the way is turned a largely uncontrollable rabble into a culture of largely law abiding citizens.

Anyway, I am rambling here but sin is a problem for me. I am much more comfortable with just the treat others as you would like to be treated philosophy.

3:27 PM  
Blogger SubtleKnife said...

Obviously Jennifer Juniper beat me to it, but I'm also a Unitarian Universalist and on my woefully underappreciated other blog (anyone who wants to contribute, please let me know) I just posted:

"I think I would feel right at home there. In many ways it exists already, because this sounds a lot like UU to me, except for it being Christian, of course the UUs the secular humanists, atheists and Earth religions in, and #5, which is beautiful, but slightly impractical."
(source: could do better)

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Tater said...

I'm not sure I personally need a religion either, but it would sure be a change of pace if someone were to found a Christian church that actually embraced and reflected the teachings and characteristics of Christ. I am sure many have started off with the best of intentions, only to lose their way, mired in the small details, the scrounging for money, and the issues of interpretation.

Personally, I would rather celebrate life with a collective of friends who shared a common philosophy, and that were capable of loving others as much or more than self. Forgiveness, empathy, tolerance, generosity... all the stuff that makes us richer in spirit. The Monastic House of Father Tony still figures in my imagination.

11:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

might be perfection.

gracias. merci. grazie.

many thanks, brother.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Rey D said...

Instead of Christian, couldn't we just call it something like "The Common Sense Religion" or something similar? I would find it extremely hard to warm up to a religion that contains the word Christian. These days I don't need a religion; but it would be nice to know there exists one governed by common sense in case I were to loose the courage to live.

Rey D

9:45 AM  
Blogger evilganome said...

Since it's already been said, I won't belabor the UU angle. I would suggest that you include we atheists, though that would defeat the idea of "Christianity". Unless you plan on converting us.

I do think keeping money out of the mix is a great idea. I am currently re-reading "A Distant Mirror" and the greed of the church was what led to the protestant movement.

At any rate, I seem to have taken a vow of poverty so I may already be on the road to holiness unawares.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Ashe said...

I'm sorry, but I take exception right from the beginning. It's not clear to me at all that we need a new religion, Christian or otherwise. That the old ones have served us poorly, with that I do agree.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Ashe,
I've certainly been where you are on that issue. I never would have predicted I'd be where I now am. I can't explain it, justify it or try to sell it to you. Different places. One no better than the other. Maybe someday you'll feel differently. maybe you won't. It doesn't mean that much.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

How about we call it "The Way"? That has a nice ring... ;-)

I think it would be quite something to know you in private life. Wish I closer.

5:32 PM  
Blogger SteveSchalchlin said...

I have formed what I call the Steveshack Doctrine, named after myself. It's how to tell whether a group or community or church or religion or congregation has tapped into capital-t Truth.

Two rules.

1. What does it do to its followers?

2. What does it cause its followers to do to everyone else?

11:26 PM  

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