Thursday, January 22, 2009

Common Worship vs. Common Belief

Forgive me for a little self reflection here, but I am feeling a bit introverted today. As people may have gathered from my previous post back in December, I am experiencing an emotional disconnect from my family. It really troubles me, because we are such a close knit bunch most of the time. Where their views are decidedly more conservative and Republican, my own views have progressively moved into a more liberal direction, especially over the past two years. Even our views on Christianity are now vastly different. I think I know the reason why, and it is the same disconnect that the Anglican Communion is having in its own ranks. The problem is the idea of "Common Worship vs. Common Belief".

The school of Common Belief is where most fundamentalist evangelicals (or fundangelicals) fall into. This school of thought believes that in order to be a Christian you have to believe certain things. The idea stems from the first eucamenical councils; when Constantine and Co. were trying to hammer out exactly what it meant to be a Christian. The problem is, no one stopped adding to it over the centuries. I have had people tell me that it is impossible to be a Christian and believe in the possibility of evolution, for example. The list has grown and grown until Christians now have a reputation of being sad or angry people who have a long list of "Thou Shalt's" and "Thou Shalt Not's". The idea projected is "unless you believe exactly how we believe, you can't be Christian." For this school of thought it is belief that is important.

The other school of thought, which I prescribe to, is that of Common Worship. It has been the hallmark of the Anglican Communion since it's inception. The way we see Christianity, or at least how I do, is that you believe in Christ as Lord, but where you go from there, and how you believe is between you and God. Our focus is on coming together as a community of believers, sharing in a common worship that has been passed down to us through the years. If you want to follow a strict regiment in your daily life, that is fine, but not necessary for salvation.

To my mind, this follows the ideals found in the scriptures much closer than any fundangelical view. When Jesus spoke of following him, he said, "Come to me all you are weary and heavy laiden and I will give you rest... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Even in the Old Testament, God is constantly telling his people, "I don't want your offerings or your burnt sacrifices, I want YOU!" Christianity is about more than sin and redemption, it's about community and worship as well. How you or I believe in God is not what counts, but that we believe, and that we come together as a people.

One argument against the Common Worship view is that without these rules, people can fall into sin and, to use the fundangelical term, backslide into wickedness. In my mind, this is rediculous. To follow Christ, you have to be willing to do what he askes of us, which was simply put in the two greatest commands. Sure, we all stumble, but what is important is that we stand back up. Paul says in one of his letters that, "...there is no one who is righteous, no not one..." Though we are sinners, we are forgiven. Being forgiven does not make us perfect, or better than others. We will still have our moments of "weakness". What matters is that we do our best to keep moving on, to "...fight the good fight... run the good race..."

Common Worship allows for us to disagree with one another. We don't have to agree to come to the table together to share communion. You don't have to be Episcopalian, or Baptist, or Methodist, or Catholic, or Orthodox to sit in the pew next to me. What matters is that we are together worshiping God. Jesus tells us that, "...when two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst." Isn't that a beautiful thing to hear? Not, "Where two or three are gathered believing that homosexuality is a sin, evolution is a lie...", but simply being together in His name! What an amazing thing that is! Right now as you read this blog, whether you agree or not, He is here with us!

The Common Worship idea is one that I find the most fulfilling. It acknowledges that we all see God differently, read the scriptures differently, and serve Him differently. Common Worship allows for the transformative love of Christ to work within us; and through us into the lives of others as we come together as a people. It creates a relationship with our community and with the Living God that is based on love, and our desire to serve flows from that love. We follow Christ, not for mansions in Heaven, or treasures in the life to come, but because it is our heart's desire. It extends beyond seeing Christ in Heaven and seeing Christ in others. "...For such as you have done for the least of these, you have done for me." We are Christians, not because of a threat of Hellfire and Damnation, but because we want to help bring the Kingdom of God into our world.

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