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What if Christianity was dangerous?

What if being a Christian really cost something? What would the First World church look like if living our faith meant losing friends, family, property, livelihood, reputation? How many of us would sign up for that kind of journey? What if being a Christian was dangerous?

It would be nothing like what we see in most churches today. Christianity has long been the conformist, respectable religion of Western society. It was the safe choice. The get-ahead choice. The don’t-get-burned-at-the-stake choice. Far more dangerous to question the official religion than to play along.

The toxic combination of religious symbols and state power has fundamentally warped the witness of the Christian faith. It’s fair to wonder whether the radical, joyful roots of the faith could ever be recovered. Yet, throughout history, we witness movements that rise up and profoundly challenge the false gods of Empire. Like weeds pushing their way through the cracks in the concrete, the seeds of the Kingdom rise up even in the midst of overwhelming falsehood and violence.

Breaking concrete takes a lot of effort. It’s easy to mouth pretty words about glory and a far-off heaven. It’s a lot harder to live a life transformed by the power of God. It’s no big deal to participate in religious rituals – whether sermons and lectures, communions and baptisms, or presidential inaugurations and Veteran’s Day celebrations. Being a person of faith doesn’t have to cost anything. Bending a knee to the official ideology always pays tidy dividends.

Such public religiosity has little to do with the living way of Jesus. Despite all we’ve heard about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the life of discipleship will not be limited to personal piety. For those of us who have been called to follow Jesus, we discover a profoundly risky path. Friends of Jesus can no longer go along with the status quo. Despite the trembling terror of it, we have been called to speak truth to power. To reveal the strength of God in our weakness. If necessary, to have our own bodies thrown upon the gears of oppression.

This is the heart of the gospel. For us who have experienced the radical presence of Jesus Christ, we can no longer be conformed to the assumptions of the culture around us. Even if that culture claims to be Christian.

It’s no accident the early followers of Jesus were called blasphemers by Jewish traditionalists, and atheists by the Roman Empire. Authentic Christianity challenges the civil religion of the ruling authorities. It reveals the moral emptiness of the false piety of empty rituals and go-along-to-get-along religion. The way of Jesus is profoundly prophetic – so much so, that we may be mistaken for heretics and insurrectionists. This is par for the course.

But what do you say? Are you ready for a faith that has nothing to do with providing easy answers? Are you ready for a Jesus who, rather than propping up the assumptions and authorities of our culture, is here to knock the mighty off their thrones, to lift up the weak and poor?

Do you have the courage to embrace this dangerous Christianity, to walk in the prophetic way of Jesus? What are you prepared to lose?

Related Posts:

Why Conflict Is Good for Us

Radical Christian Community in the New Rome

  • BicycleThief II

    Let’s do it! Gulp!

    • That’s the spirit! Have any idea how we start? 😀

      • BicycleThief II

        In the UK … ? Occupy the Angican Churches … especially St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey … open up the doors to everybody 24/7 and take it from there? It’s a different situation here and our State religion is not much different to the one that existed in the 17th century from which the Society of Friends emerged … I see the C of E as the soft underbelly of the UK establishment it is run by the elite generally speaking … it trades on the markets, it owns a lot of land and most of the mineral rights to land it doesn’t own … It can be subverted by its own professed message. Should I go on?

        There is still an Anglican church in every significant city, town and village whilst face to face social interaction is in dire need of revival … to be fair they do cater to this but they do not live by the rule of unconditional love.

        • That’s interesting, Duncan. We’ve never had a state church here in the States, so it’s a little different. But we’ve definitely got many pockets of spiritual deadness, along with some churches who have really sold themselves out to the powers of this world. I continue to wonder what it would be like to engage in a prophetic movement that actively spoke in “religious” terms while making it clear how this is highly relevant to the “secular” challenges we face.

          No better place to try this out than in a secularized church, which still theoretically retains the creeds, traditions, and scriptures of Christianity, but has largely discarded the spiritual underpinnings!

          • BicycleThief II

            The established Church as it exists today is a product of the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. In my view the American Constiution is a preferable one to that of the UK. Strangely enough though a politician’s religious beliefs are of little concern to the UK electorate.

            The historical and the Christian narratives simply do not register with the majority of people today … activists often despise religion per se. The thing is there are many who know the basic simple message of Jesus and see it being grossly perverted … so make that the issue … challenge the self-authorised earthly representatives of God according to their own narrative, the law of unconditional love … but this, to paraphrase Hegel, cannot be proved but finds its truth only in its exposition/

            What worries me is that the most popular churches in the UK are often the most non-Jesus like types.

          • I think this makes a lot of sense. The question I’ve had for some time, even here in the US where institutional Christianity is a greater political and cultural force, is: To what extent is religious belief even relevant to the great struggles of our day, and how should those of us who *do* have faith relate to ostensibly non-religious movements for justice?

          • BicycleThief II

            It’s a tough one … let me quote Bonhoeffer writing in his cell … Christianity was certainly dangerous for him … he returned to Germany to take on the Nazis when he could have remained in the US … executed weeks before the war ended:

            “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others ……. It must not underestimate the importance of human example (which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teaching); It is not abstract argument, but example that gives its word emphasis and power.”

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, Eng. trans., SCM Press, London, 1963.