Monday, March 15, 2010

Diversity versus Common Ground

Diversity. We are all different, something to be celebrated indeed. However, I doubt that I could use the word “we” in the previous sentence without having something in common with my fellow human beings. Christian diversity. One source of it is in the New Testament itself. Another source is in the very different, specific situations that all persons and communities find themselves and the choices they make. However, we have indeed reached a sad place when any Christian can say that “we do not believe in the same Jesus”. It is because of this sadness that I am interested in what Christians share in common. Not for the purpose of preserving any particular old orthodoxy or for convincing anyone of a new orthodoxy, but for the sake of love and community.

While I do not think that a fundamentalist perspective lacks the ability to communicate the gospel to some people, I find that its lack of openness to the world and its resistance to new understandings causes this perspective to fail many people, including myself. I find myself willing to explore any possibility. I think that puts me firmly on the progressive side. However, I do not view myself as a progressive Christian. I view myself as a Christian. But, my openness causes some to put me on the “outside” of the faith. That is sad. This sadness motivates me to search for some common ground. While I do not come from a Catholic tradition, I think the Hans Kung has some interesting things to say about our common Christian faith. Because of his influence, when I use an adjective to modify my Christianity, I use “ecumenical”.

1 Thessalonians is probably the first surviving text of the Christian faith. Paul starts his letter by describing the church of the Thessalonians as “in God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. I must admit that I have not made much progress, that is satisfying, toward a common ground. However, for me, the very fact of the New Testament writings themselves is one common ground on which we can stand. No matter how much more a Christian may want to say about the New Testament, I would hope that we could all agree that it is the permanent starting point for our common identity. Dare I say more?

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