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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Echoes of Christendom or a call to a new world?

The impending "Back to Church" Sunday scheduled for this weekend shows how deeply engrained the Christendom mindset is in Christian churches in Australia.

It shows up in a couple of ways.

One is in the assumption that people have strayed from the church when the empirical reality is that for those aged under forty probably a majority have never engaged with the church whether as a community or institution in any significant way. How can they come back if they never have been there in the first place?

The other is the tacit assumption that is a close, not to be questioned link between being Christian and being an Australian and that the church is a central element in maintaining social order.

What are we calling them back to? Notice the work "back" - it carries the undercurrent of reference to returning to a past institution, a retreat from the world, rather than calling them to an adventure, a movement towards a future that is subversive of the world of violence and injustice.

Simon Barrow in his latest column on the Ekklesia website A Different Way of Seeing the World expresses the sense of excitement that Christians should be about when he speaks of a ... vision of shalom presented by Isaiah and by the Psalmist reveals the opposite of what now is, in the form of a promise. A world of oppression, injustice and suffering is neither inevitable nor necessary. To defy the order of death and to envision a realm of peace based on the restoring of right relationships among people, with the natural world and with God is – despite all appearances to the contrary – to go with the final grain of the universe as sheer gift.

If only we could recognise it, say the biblical writers, there is a divine reversal going on. When mercy is shown, when the stranger is welcomed, when right is done, when abusive power is resisted, when the hungry are offered food, the prisoners release and the homeless shelter – in those moments of faithfulness to God’s underlying purposes, despite the suffering and brutality around us, a new world beckons.

This is about a movement not an institution - a movement like Micah Challenge with its Voices for Justice.

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