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Martin Luther
Martin Luther

How to start a Luther-worthy reformation

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Martin Luther
Martin Luther

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the Christian church in America. It seems like a good time to do so around Reformation SundayMartin Luther was concerned with the state of Roman Catholic church in his day and worked for reform, and I feel the need to do the same today. But how does this play out in today’s techno-charged, mostly non-churched society? Luther had some advantages: not nearly as many people to reach and virtually 100 percent of the people were interested in what the church had to say! My advantages would be that I have access to technology that can get the word out quickly and also get responses quickly. What will those responses be? Buzz off, preacher! No one is interested anymore! Or maybe the secular humanists will tell me that it’s their time now; people want science and technology more than spirituality. I worship in my own way, out in nature and such, you know: fishing, golfing, shopping, skiing, camping, etc.  So where does that leave me, as a wanna be reformer?

I suppose it leaves me in the same boat as Luther, just 500 years later, but with many of the same issues. For example, even though today, unlike in Luther’s day, the Bible is available in every language, few read it. We know that we can’t “earn” our way into heaven, but many preachers still run their ministry as though a person can. We understand that it’s important for the church to treat all people with equality, but abuse and discrimination remain. We know there is enough of the basics for all the people on earth, but want and starvation go on … and on.

These are but a few of the things that challenge God’s church in 2013, and we could spend years and cost ourselves the remaining assets we have arguing about the details, but I won’t do that. I am done arguing over issues to which the answer has always been to love God and love your neighbor. As Rob Bell says in his book of the same name, “Love Wins“. You can argue all you want about the nuances, but in the end we are to love people. Jesus even gave us examples of how to do it: Did you … Feed me? Clothe me? Visit me? If so, then you loved me as you have been loved.

We here at All Saints, a gathered bunch of forgiven sinners, have been doing our best to love the neighbor that needs our help and trying to enlist the help of neighbors that can help. We need to blow the horn a little, let folks know what we’re doing here and give them the opportunity to join in and continue the reformation of the 21st century.

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3 comments

  1. Keep proclaiming and practicing the gospel Alan, your witness is bigger than your publicity. I’m grateful All Saints is an example of loving the poor in our city. Thanks for your leadership and example.

  2. In a way I sort of sympathize with your problem Alan, the world has grown to “jump the bounds” of any one church ideology as well as any one church institution. But there is a deeper problem at work here (if it is a problem). The world we live in has changed so deeply that the old stories really have stopped providing meaning.

    In the days of the bible, the world was flat and the heavens were a dome overhead. The Devil could take Jesus to the top of the mountain and show him all the kingdoms of the earth, because in those times the world was flat, and you could see the whole world from the top of a mountain.

    Then the world became round, and started to revolve around the sun, losing its place in the center of the universe. Despite political opposition from the church, this truth won out because commerce depended on a worldview that worked for the ships at sea (and for other reasons).

    Then we discovered that the six day story of creation is a myth. We learned that the world was made in 4.5 billion years, not in 6 days. We learned that our species is made of the atoms forged at the hearts of stars and not shaped out of clay. We learned that we are a species of ape that has been naturally selected for consciousness, compassion and morality, as well as for the wickedness in our natures.

    Finally we became deeply interconnected. So deeply that some of the food I ate for breakfast this morning came from the far side of the world. I owe my very existence to the people who grew and packaged and shipped that food without my knowledge. What’s more our world now allows me to eat food picked on the far side of the world for the cost of only about 5 minutes of my labor. The molecules in my body were put there by people all over the world. Literally.

    We are freer and will live longer than any generation before us, and so we no longer depend on the ideology of Christianity to shape our understanding of ourselves, our world or our economic and political order. The assumptions of the Christian worldview are simply out of date. I can see why you want to reform them.

    But here’s the thing: BECAUSE no generation is so interconnected as we have become, the mythologies of our cultures are mixing as well. Human societies are complex adaptive systems, and I trust that the cultural zeitgeist will adapt to accommodate this new flow if information. It’s not that I think that my (atheist, humanist) beliefs will prevail, rather I think that the combined creativity of humanity will produce a worldview that you and I cannot predict in any meaningful way. Probably Christianity will have a strong voice in this process, but it will not control the outcome. No one ideology will.

    What I am building up to here is just this: If I speak my truth with an open heart, let go of the outcome, and trust the process, I will have done my best. The process will go on whatever I do, but at least it will include my voice and my integrity. What else can reasonably hope for?

    • Paul, Thank you for your response. The world is absolutely a complex and exciting place to live! I have never been a biblical literalist, my interpretation of the bible is based on my experience as being part of an unintended audience. I think all persons in this world can have an impact if they choose to participate. Then it becomes a matter of HOW they choose to participate. The problem I see is that a large number of folks simply choose to withdraw from community life, choosing to only participate in a very limited way. I guess the “stick your head in the sand and everything will be okay” method works for some, but not me. One of the biblical truths that I stand by is that we are to take care of and “love” our neighbor. ALL neighbors, for me that includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, and every other person. My thoughts on reforming Christianity will always begin with this “love for neighbor”, especially the marginalized, which I think applies to all other forms of belief as well! Thank you speaking your truth with open heart, I wish more Christians would do the same!

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