Editor’s Note: You can read part one of this series here.
I am a Christian mutt. I was brought up in the United Methodist Church and learned much about Christian love and community there. My grandmother was Primitive Baptist, so stories about protracted meetings, foot washings and beautiful a capella music were part of my development. My sister’s family established a charismatic church, and there I experienced a church with drums, electric guitars and someone doing a dance that I would later learn was called the “Holy Ghost Helicopter.” I discovered that you could be excited about the Holy Spirit from them.
My sister-in-law and niece are devout Catholics, and in college I attended mass occasionally. I have a deep appreciation for the sacraments and for the mysteries of our faith because of my Catholic experience, however limited.
I began to truly follow Christ in a Baptist church. I learned all kinds of Jesus-related stuff there. They gave me the courage to pursue God’s calling with great passion.
I often find myself surrounded by “emerging” church folk, who speak often of the “good old days” of early Christianity, when community was real, and apparently no one ever bickered over anything. This movement encourages me to have conversations about Christianity, instead of just hammering out sermons.
I have the potential to be a theological mess. The canvas of my Christianity looks very little like a Rembrandt and much like Jackson Pollack turned loose in a finger paint factory as a 5-year old—loads of potential, but not much direction and discernment. My theology looks like the Wesley’s, Luther, Mother Theresa and Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) all played together to make a sloppy mud pie, with Derek Webb, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash providing the background music. Somewhere in the midst of it all, Erwin McManus poured gasoline into the mix, Bonhoeffer pulled out some matches, and Martin Luther King, Jr. lit the mess up!
There’s the perfect explanation of my theological background:
The flaming mud pie.
Here’s an even better one:
A murder of crows.
Denominations are good in some regards. Different sources on the Internet say that there are between 9000 and 33,830 of them, so they must be good, right? When you’re signing the membership roll, it’s wise to know whether they believe in immersion, tongue-speaking, foot-washing, predestination or apostolic succession. On a more personal level, though, the religiosity, name-calling and persistent divisiveness pains my heart. There are an awful lot of people who say they’re the same thing—Christian—who can’t agree on what they really stand for.
All these visions that are denominationalism and theology collide and war inside of me to become the Christian mutt, the flaming mud-pie, the murder of crows.
If you’ve never seen a murder of crows, they all follow the same direction of flight, land in the same trees and make a most inordinate amount of noise. You can hire animal control experts to remove the din, but the only sure way to rid oneself of a murder of crows is to make such a racket that it drowns out their noise and frightens them away. My illustrious grandfather would do this by firing a shotgun repeatedly until all the chaos and confusion of the murder took flight and disappeared.
My finger is on the trigger.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth …
The noise lessens momentarily.
… and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
The caws almost disappear.
Who was Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
The noise builds now to a nervous crescendo.
He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.
The crows fly in circles of mass confusion.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
Total panic as the crows flee.
The final shot:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
The crows are gone.
In the present time, many people argue over “non-essentials” and create great division among the Body. The great thing about the early Church is that in the midst of some of the same arguments, they had the foresight and wisdom to establish the “essential”:
I believe in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord …
The crows caw violently in the ears of Christendom and have pecked at the very flesh of the Body of Christ for thousands of years. Somewhere along the way, though, history taught us the best way to dispose of the murder is to speak this essential and simple truth—I believe … in Jesus Christ—into the body of believers, the greater culture and our own hearts with a grave tone, a steadfast consistency, a pure joy and much volume, until we can hear the crows no more. It must be spoken until all doubt and confusion and clamor is gone.
When I consider this old and simple statement as the only truth that really matters, my heart no longer feels like a harem of bickering harlots, battling for the attention of the Holy Bridegroom. When my heart has focus, it is a part of the unified, beautiful Bride of Christ. When Jesus is the true center of what I believe, and nothing else matters, then my heart becomes as alluring to Him as He is captivating to me.
Reformation begins in my heart, in what I believe. When I focus on what’s really important, my heart can be whole, with Christ at its core. My prayer for a new reformation is this:
Jesus, be the center of what I believe.