“I pray that out of God’s glorious riches, She may strengthen you with power through Her Spirit in your inner being…And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all God’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” —Ephesians 3:16-18
A Word of Hope
Sometimes I feel like my own move into progressive Christianity has led me down a more balanced, reasonable, sane path. Many of us don’t roll around on the ground overcome by the Spirit, many of us don’t believe Jesus literally burst forth from the grave, we’re not too sure if we ever think Jesus is really going to come back, and many are rather certain there isn’t going to be some glorious thousand mile-wide city where God’s new house is built and Jesus reigns over the whole earth.
When we read stories in the early Jerusalem church about all the disciples sharing everything in common or about “cities being turned upside down” by the Christians in the Book of Acts, we don’t really associate ourselves with those people.
And maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe these experiences or ideas are too extreme. Too dangerous. Too much. In fact, I’ll go a step further, I’m fairly confident that one of the reasons progressive Christians often abandon the more extreme, absolutistic, intense, magical things is because such ideas do hurt people. They are problematic.
But recently, I’ve realized I miss the extremity, the madness of it all, the wildness, the insanity, the absurd faith. I miss how ridiculously dramatic it all was. Sounds strange, right? Progressive Christianity, with its central focus on evidenced wellbeing and sound ethics, keeps us safe from all of that. Its boundaries, its reasonableness, its sensitivity, its awareness of power and hurts, it keeps us safe. Right? I think it does. But I cannot help but wonder if there might be a way to keep some of those ethics, some of that safety, but add back in some of the wildness, some of the drama, some of the magic.
I wish I had the answer to it. But I read verses like the one above and I see someone who was seeing something unbelievable, something colossal, something not-of-this-world. And I think, where is that? Has my Christianity become entirely humanistic social justice? And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE humanistic social justice! But is there another layer of meaning I’m missing? Is my theism being replaced by my humanism? And right now, I’ve got this one idea to offer: maybe it’s okay to be as dramatic as this writer, to shout things as loudly as they did, to believe something as insanely, as wildly, as disruptively, as they did. Maybe it’s okay to be a dramatic theist.
God, can faith be intense without being too dangerous? Is there a way for theism to be dramatically, vividly real without it hurting people? I yearn for it, Mother God. And I need your help, to be filled with the fullness of You. I need Your power, but I’m scared.
Tyler James, LPC, MA