The late teacher and theologian John Hull used to say our earlier forebears lived through the era of Christendom with its emphasis on Church power and authority. Then, following the Industrial Revolution, came the time of Christianity – the expansion of the faith system across the globe stressing proclamation and praise.
But now, he insisted, we need to build an epoch of ‘Christianness’ – the systematic spreading of kindness, compassion, justice and peace which enlivens human flourishing through caring relationships.
The big question is whether our churches are up to this challenge!
Here are a few suggested steps towards this vision of the Realm of God in our midst…
- Recognise that the Bible is a library not one book, and that its writers wrote metaphorically and symbolically about their human and divine experiences. This experience and understanding are not static but continually developing as life evolves.
- De-couple death, which is a natural part of evolutionary progress, from evil and sin. Sin is that which separates us from ourselves, from others, from the Earth and from the Holy. Death may or may not affect this relationship.
- Evil is the denial of love by forces of fear, hatred, violence and division and can be found in political and cultural policies which encourage such principalities and powers.
- Recognise that if God becomes human, so should we!
- Remember that ‘incarnation’ is not confined to Jesus of Nazareth, but is present anywhere that life is brought about by the Spirit of God. The Earth herself is sacred as the dwelling place of the Spirit.
- Know that God is deeply embedded in the processes which create and sustain life – through physics, biology, chemistry, geology and history – not only religion and philosophy.
- Remind ourselves that we are all created in the divine image and it is right for us to be able to do this. Caring and compassionate relationships shape us in this process and help us to maximise our human potential. Anything which our society does to prevent this is not right and therefore unjust – including promoting poverty, inequality and captivity. This is why we continually challenge injustice.
- Seek to encourage the pervasive love of neighbour and the world around us in spite of apparent circumstances, including the need for social and environmental justice.
- Salvation has to do with our present personal and community well-being as well as anything beyond death. Salvation happens when humans are free to become the kind of people intended by God.
- We do not always need to use religious language to sense the presence of the numinous and indeed this language does not always express the profoundness of the divine. Religious words and rituals point to deeper truths and are not ends in themselves