In the last several posts, I have addressed early stories in the Bible which are shared, or were shared, with others around the world, unconnected with the writing of the Bible. My intention is to show that the basic biblical stories are not exclusive to the Bible, but are broadly shared. Ultimately, I hope to show that inclusive Christianity is not only possible, but that it is also inescapable in the larger “picture.”
It is difficult to know the source of many of our deeply held convictions. Likewise, my conviction of “inclusive Christianity.” I can see the roots of my convictions both in the Christian fundamentalist background of the churches of my youth and my learning in college, both college classes and independent reading. A number of years ago I was given a book by our associate pastor: Open Christianity: Home by Another Road, by Jim Burklo. At my first reading, it rang true with my experience, giving words to it. As I reviewed it recently, it very much is reflective of my own Christian convictions, so I will share those.
Burklo, a college chaplain, writes,
Christianity is defined by a road that is hard for everyone who walks it. It is defined by the struggle of Jesus and his followers to love against all odds. A Christian is a person who fails in divine love, fails to love 1000 times, and each time is resurrected by divine grace to love once again.
He sees Christian dogma as a roadblock for many thoughtful people. He writes,
Does God really expect us to believe things that require the suspension of our God – given good sense…?
People succeed in believing the unbelievable much more often than they succeed in loving the unlovable.
I was especially disturbed by the claim that Christianity is the one and only true religion.
This book is a meeting place between Christians who are leaving strict orthodoxy behind, and non—Christians who hope to discover Christianity’s rare treasures and enlightening practices.
For Burklo, there are two essentials of Christianity: love God and your neighbor as yourself. I know this is shared by many other religious teachings.
One of the challenges of Christianity in these days is to sort out what are essentially theological stumbling blocks that may have had a purpose in their day, but are no longer useful to Christian practice. Too often, theological niceties have defined a religious following and are maintained merely to continue that identification.
Burklo writes of “the everyday discipline of knowing God.” I had never thought of it as a discipline, but I am convinced of its truth.
He speaks of visiting Russia when it was under Communists rule. He found that he and the obligatory communist guide had more in common spiritually than he would have expected:
We walked together, a committed Christian and a committed atheist, sharing a common experience but using different language to express it.…the reality that I called God and that he called wonder.
Just because the gospel is at the heart of Christianity, it does not mean it belongs only to Christianity.