Friday, May 23, 2008

Religionless Christianity

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers:
"The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience-and that means the time of religion in general... Even those who honestly describe themselves as religious do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by religious. How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity-and even this garment has looked very different at different times-then what is a religionless christianity?"

this is what i'm after. like john lennon says in Imagine, "imagine there's no heaven, and no religion too." then we're forced to deal with one another right where we're at. religion is only the framework, not the means. we've confused this.

i'm after a type of christianity that doesn't worry about labels. christians originally never worried about labels.. there was a stigma on the sick in the ancient days, the christians went in and helped. there was a stigma on the poor and homeless and starving, like the gods have cursed them.. the christians fed them and took them in... we must return to this!!! we must be the type of christians that help the jewish, atheist, homosexual, black, homeless, sick, martian, dinosaur neighbors... that is our calling.

there will come a point where "being a christian" drops and one actually becomes one (i know i'm not there yet, but i want to be!). at this point one sees the world as though everyone is a Christian and helps without consideration of how they will benefit from this help, how closer they'll get to heaven because of their action. Grace allows us to act without hesitation.


SocietyVs said...

I tend to agree - the importance of this faith is in how it is lived and not in what is said about it (although the majority of our faith has as its focus - talking points). That's too bad really - the wisdom was meant to be put into use and not only for talking about.

lineardog said...

As you well know, we agree on a "vast" majority of beliefs. However, didn't the Yahweh give the land to a chosen people, didn't Joshua supposedly destroy the caananites, moabites, gebusites, etc, etc..... Wasn't labels quite common even in the NT in which Luke calls them religious authorities "THE Jews" or was that john. Regardless, labels seem to be over 3,000 yrs old. I agree that labels such as the poor, the oppressed and the needy are the ones we need to be more concerned about but I'd argue that there have been labels throughout history especially in the Christian faith. And YES, you are absolutely right that those who call themselves "religious" are the ones who LOVE to use labels like: Those who are NOT saved and those who are NOT born again and those who ARE going to hell for their sins. Talk about a screwy religion. Sometimes I have to wonder what they teach in seminary these days :)

John T. said...

Technically Christians are what people call themselves. Christ did not talk to Christians he talked to people. They only really become so called Christians after he's dead and resurrected. So while he was alive if someone walked up to him and said Im a Christian, Im sure Jesus's response would have been "HUH". I know I have posted this elsewhere but here goes again. I think its said best in Jeremiah 31:33-34 and its counterpart Hebrews 8:10-12, it can't be much clearer than that. Who needs the rulebook when its hardwired into us.

john t. said...

I just read something interesting. The word "Christian" was actually a term of derision. The early followers did not use it for themselves. Now aint that special.

Luke said...

Lineardog... that's a good nickname for ya! labels have been around for some time.. they are genetically hardwired into our brains.. what keeps us safe and what doesn't.. however i believe we've outgrown our biological use for labels. or at least we need to update them.. instead of worrying about what bush has poisonous berries we need to worry about sticking forks into electrical outlets. we need to worry about what views are dangerous, not what skin color.

John T: Excellent scripture use there! i need to do more of that in my post.. i esp. love Jeremiah 31:34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."


SocietyVs said...

"Regardless, labels seem to be over 3,000 yrs old." (Lineardog)

I just read a rabbinical teaching on this and the idea of 'numbering people' (or literally labelling them). It was considered a huge no-no and was taught against.

The passage is about David wanting to a census of the people and God saying 'no' to the idea. The rabbinical community interpreted this as no to the idea of numbering people. So when they need 10 people to pray - they do not count them - they read a scripture with 10 words (which is strange but no one is counted).

Point being, labelling or numbering someone is absurd and can lead to trouble (and usually only does). The Holocaust showed us the ugliest facet of this idea but we also see it in terms in which we set up differences between ourselves and others.

Although we are different - we are all God's creation - and that's the point. Labels have been used in the bible - but the bible itself can be used to counter that idea - ie: no numbering people. It's actually a veyr smart teaching when you think about it - it takes down the walls of 'us' and 'them'.

Sam said...

"I love your Christ, but I don't like Christians" is a (probable mis-)quote of Gandhi.

Bonhoeffer literally lived out his Christian faith under the gun. He was most definitely called into the ministry by God, because there was nothing in his background which would have put the idea into his head by his family, and he did a great deal to advance Protestant orthodoxy. Yet, in the end, he was willing to go out on a limb and call for a "religionless" Christianity.

Was this discovery on his part any less divinely inspired than his call, than his mentoring of young seminarians who dared defy Hitler, than his highly orthodox works?

Those who decry Bonhoeffer's lack of orthodoxy on this point (and there are many on the religious right) would lead us to believe that the Lord he was willing to die for was the One who led him astray in the end.

If this is the case, then so much for the perseverance of the saints.

Luke said...

"Those who decry Bonhoeffer's lack of orthodoxy on this point (and there are many on the religious right)"

really there are people who have a problem with Bonhoeffer?

one critique i heard of him was that he "went to the dark side and tried to kill a person" which is a big no-no for christians, esp. for a mimetic pacifist. but what was he supposed to do?

i'm more interested in the nonorthodoxy works, what would be an example of his orthodoxy works?

Sam said...

Most of what he wrote is very firmly within Protestant orthodoxy, such as Cost of Discipleship, and Ethics. But my two favorites are his little books The Prayer Book of the Bible (on the psalms), and Life Together. This latter is the best example of the work he did with his seminarians in Finkenwalde. And anytime I teach a class on the psalms, I use the former.

And there are plenty within the conservative movement who decry Bonhoeffer because of the "God is dead" movement, which many attribute to him.