Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Exclusion and Embrace

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf wrote an imortant book several years ago entitled, "Exclusion and Embrace." The material there is more important now than when he wrote it, because globalism has had the untidy effect of spawning fundamentalists of every stripe. And no matter the stripe, each fundamentalist has the same goal of preserving their distinct way of looking at the world. And for each one, preservation is paramount because these world views that are being protected are at the bedrock of each group's identity. When Volf wrote the book, it was eastern Europe that was the hottest spot. Since then, fundamentalist tensions have grown up all around us. Paris is burning. Darfur genocide continues. Terrorist threats continue. Christians of the deepest fundamentalist stripe are living with fear and anger towards modernity, post-modernity, Islam, Socialism and more. They probably have the longest list of fears.

Volf addresses this by casting the vision found in Romans 15:7. And then, right at the beginning of the book, he reveals the crux: there is far too much dishonesty in the single-minded search for truth, and too much injustice in the uncompromising struggle for justice. In other words, in our zeal to protect truth, we often dehumanize the other - which contradicts the most fundamental truth of the gospel.

So the challenge is to root my identity, not in American culture, or modernity, or post-modernity, or Socialism, or Capitalism, or any other 'ism' or 'ity', because once I do I become the protector of something transient, something destined, someday, to evaporate anyway. I can and should care about my 'isms' and 'ity's', and give voice to the dangers that come from passively allowing human rights to be stolen by totalitarianism in any form. But when the day is done, I must also open myself up to people vastly different than me, realizing that my ultimate calling is to bear witness to the marvelous reality that division and enmity were destroyed on the cross. When I do this, I will be changed. I will be challenged. I will suffer loss. But I will gain far more. I think that's part of what Jesus was talking about when He said, "he who loses his life for my sake will find it."

I know that in my own story, allowing myself to be shaped by Christians from around the world, whose own cultures and stories have made them very different than me, has been one of the greatest joys in my life. But it doesn't stop there. I've had great conversations with Muslims in Germany, Hindus in India, and atheists in Colorado. Each one brings perspective, critique, culture, story to the table. I'm not threatened by that. Instead, I find that if I'm willing to listen and learn, if I'm willing to embrace (as Volf says), I become more like Christ, not less.


At 31/3/06 10:30, Blogger Amy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 31/3/06 10:34, Blogger Amy said...

Hi Richard (I had to erase my last post because I made a spelling mistake :) Met you @ CHBC 1994-1996, stayed @ your place in rural WA. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, esp. on Exclusion & Embrace. My sister just recommended it to me (haven't read it yet.) I'll be reading more... blessings from Regina SK Canada from Amy.

At 17/4/06 09:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Richard
I'm a pastor in Wenatchee. A woman who grew up with us has attended your church lately. This is the second time I've read your blog. I liked Wolf's book, too, though it's been a couple of years since I read it. They almost hired him at Regent in Vancouver, but he ended up elsewhere. Are you into Eugene Peterson's recent series of books, beginning with Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places? These are fairly fabulous. In his seventies now, he's letting us have the culminating essence.
M. Crowe


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