Here are my first thoughts on the opening chapter by Marcus Borg.
As I reflect I am listening to a recording of “Jesus Loves Me” by Jason and DeMarco. One of the first hymns I can recall learning as a kid, it has taken on new and deeper meaning over the years. Jason and DeMarco are a young, gay male couple whose music ministry reaches out to youth who find themselves in that troubling phase of identifying their sexual orientation.Back to Jason & DeMarco…think two Backstreet Boys, gay and Christian, and you’ve got the picture. (“Jesus Loves Me” is on their mostly reflective, contemplative album entitled “Songs for the Spirit”.)Music, for me, has been a gateway to the sacred for as long as I can remember. Many of my favourite hymns and songs of our faith would, at least in part, be from the “earlier” Christian paradigm inasmuch as they conjure up pictures of a child-parent relationship. I see this as a model to imagine God and me, but only one of many models which have evolved to form such a kaleidoscope of images that I can most simply describe my idea of God as Mystery.As I try to accept that I cannot define that which cannot be defined, this Mystery, it is easier to imagine God in many ways.
Childhood and adolescent memories of church liturgy include reciting The Apostles’ Creed, much of which I would not subscribe to today. Yet the United Church of my childhood, together with my family, brought me up to believe that “Yes, Jesus loves me!” – even me.
As I left home to attend college my solution to the disquiet I felt about being gay led me to a conservative, evangelical church where I soon “accepted Christ as my personal Saviour” and, shortly thereafter, was baptized by immersion. While this caused much concern in my family, more than my “coming out” eventually did, to this day I hold on to some strands of that “earlier” paradigm – particularly when it comes to seeking solace from life’s worries. I recognize that I am imagining God in ways that are inconsistent with some of my beliefs and, yet, as we unpack what this emerging paradigm might mean to us I believe that we can find a Church in the Spirit of Christ whose worship, liturgy and heresy-proof discussion can both nurture our inner selves and excite our steps in witnessing to a troubled world.
When I view the Bible as offering timeless wisdom and read its imagery as metaphor, allegory and universal truths I no longer have to reject it as an unbelievable account of history. It becomes what it is – a book of books, poetry and otherwise. If The Christ is alive in me, and I believe It is, then I can assimilate the “earlier” paradigm of Christianity into what is “emerging” in my innermost self.
I am fortunate to belong to a community of faith, Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, which accompanies me and encourages questioning – of doctrine, of liturgy, of beliefs – along the way. While we have never officially aligned ourselves with such networks as “progressive Christians” I am confident we would fit the model of an “emerging” Christian Church.