Cheers to you!
6+ years ago when I moved to Poulsbo, while I was unpacking, I came across the wedding vows my soon to be ex-wife and I had written for each other. I decided to read them, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been more undone and washed out by grief than in that moment. After that, though, I threw them out, which helped me make space for a wife and life-together more blissful than I knew was possible. It seems to me my process of deconstruction and Christianity has been similar, in that I’m more jazzed by Jesus, in awe of the Divine, and in Love with life today than ever before. You know how when you’re super stoked about something you feel like shouting it from the rooftops? This blog is my attempt at that 🙂
Before I dive in, let me just quickly note while these are reflective of my experiences, studies, and thoughts, this isn’t exhaustive, words always fall short when it comes to “God”, and not all Christians would agree with everything I say, and that’s okay! With that said, here’s twelve gifts I believe Christianity gives us:
Gives God a Face: Imagine you were married … to a person you couldn’t see, touch, smell, or hear. It’d be kind of difficult to Love her/him, right? I have a hunch that’s why ancient people started making idols and images of the deities, because it’s much easier to adore, worship, and honor something we can experience with our senses. Along with Judaism and Islam, though, Christianity says humanity is made in the image and likeness of God. The light people shine in the world is a reflection of Divine goodness. When we witness beauty, behold healing, and are moved by celebrations, for instance, we’re tasting Spirit.
You might have noticed, though, people aren’t always as amazing as they could be. We all do mean and hurtful things, which do NOT reflect God. This is part of what makes Jesus such an incredible blessing. He perfectly reflected the character of the Creator, and gives us a path to increasingly both experience and radiate this Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Honors Humanity: I believe everything God makes is intrinsically good. While the Creator names all the other bits of the world “good”, in the creation poem of Genesis 1, humanity is declared “very good”. Do we also have the ability to choose evil or ill? Is there also a force in the world nudging us toward injustice and selfishness? Absolutely! Alongside this reality: The original and unending “word” from God to humanity is blessing, favor, and belovedness. We falter when we forget the Source of all reality is forever on our side, which I think is what we see in the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Christianity so honors humanity that one of its central precepts is God became a human as Jesus. In my mind the birth of the Christ was a heavenly announcement: It is good to be human!
Names Our Junk: Christianity points out not everything is as it should be in the world. There are collective energies, herd instincts, and/or spiritual forces in the world tempting us into small and big wrongs of all sorts; ignoring the needs of the poor, shunning the outsiders, not helping feed and heal the hungry and sick, violence, oppression, abuse, addiction, and more. The most common word for this collective problem is “sin”, or as Francis Spufford put it in modern terms, “the human propensity to &*!% things up”. One of the healthiest and most healing things we can do, in my experience, is to own our junk, and one need look no further than the news and the stories of mass shootings, hunger, water scarcity, political divides, climate crisis, etc. to know we have junk!
Freedom: Freedom from slavery, occupation, or exile is one of the biggest themes in the Bible. While generally the Old Testament speaks of this in a physical sense, the New Testament frames it spiritually. In a very real way, when I believed in original sin, the belief that we’re born bad, nothing helped me escape that destiny. Yet, shifting my perspective to the aforementioned original blessing, while coming to see how, in many ways, humanity is enslaved to evil forces beyond our individual power to escape, has allowed me to realize the saving power of Christ here and now. While the seductive traps of fear, insecurity, greed, division, scarcity, competition, judgmentalism, violence, superiority, and many other collective ways of thinking and being threaten to drag us down, heaven’s Spirit has wings on which we can together rise to places of peace, harmony, and abundance we can scarcely imagine!
Law of Grace: Human economies are driven by earning what we get, karma, and tit-for-tat, and there’s some goodness and truth in these operating systems. The Divine economy, I believe though, is guided by grace, it’s extravagant, gratuitous, and unfair in the most amazing ways. It’s gifts all the way down. Christianity says God interrupts grudges with forgiveness, lack with abundance, fear with Love, abandonment with belonging, judgments with understanding, division with unity, and brokenness with wholeness, and invites us to join the party; not because of anything we’ve done or not done, but because that’s how incredibly good the Spirit is!
Redeems Suffering: While when we’re given lemons, we do our best to make lemonade, our Source crafts the most incredible beverage we’ve ever tasted! Life is sometimes hard and not at all fair, but God’s job description is turning the worst into the best. While we certainly have to cooperate and do the work, the results are fabulous. For instance, on the “other side” of two divorces, almost dying after slipping and falling off a cliff, and losing my career as a result, the Christ has used those intensely heartbreaking and painful events to make me more whole, compassionate, peaceful, kind, grateful, in awe of the Divine, in Love with life, blissful, and Loving toward others, creation, and God than I knew was possible.
Emphasis on Marginalized Peoples: “History is written by the winners.” While this saying is nearly always true, and applies to many other areas in life, that’s NOT the case in the Bible. Its Sacred Story’s tales about history, accounts of laws, ways of being wise, means for making sense of the world, parables, and more, were written down by people threatened by conquest, exiled to a foreign land, newly freed but uncertain of their future, and/or in a “homeland” occupied by a foreign superpower. What’s more, the most repeated law in the Bible, the most frequent word from heaven is 3,000+ appeals to care for the poor, orphans, immigrants, and widows.
A Message of Hope: “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41.10, NIV) God is on our side. The universe is rigged in our favor. The arc of the universe is long and bends toward collective thriving and flourishing for all peoples as we dance with and celebrate the Maker. Christianity, in my mind, is nothing if not hopeful. It rocks us to sleep at night with a lullaby promise of a future without tears, a world minus violence, unending harmony, celebration, and face-to-face intimacy with the Divine.
Celebrates Creation: Nature is infused with the glory of God. Every glorious sunset is a peak at the Divine, the ocean waves are the Spirit’s whispers, snowcapped mountains hint at the Maker’s majesty, and lush jungles display heavenly extravagance.
We Matter, Have Say-So, and Make a Difference: We live in a participatory universe, meaning we get to participate in the unfolding of our collective futures. We are co-creators of our lives, communities, and realities with God. Something I see the Divine consistently insistents on honoring is free will. We get to choose heaven or hell on a daily basis. And, while that’s True, God believes in us SO much that Jesus said, we will do greater things than him!
Both Pluralistic and Universal: Christianity has thousands of denominations with various beliefs and doctrines. For instance, you are literally orthodox (i.e. believing correctly) if you think there’s a hell where people are tortured forever, or a hell that destroys unbelievers, or there is no hell, or hell is a place of refining so that all might be saved, or that all will be saved via Christ. There are God-loving Christians who don’t believe Jesus literally rose again after his death. Christianity holds space for people of many different types, thoughts, and ways of being. And in the midst of that diversity, you would not believe how many times the Sacred Story in the Bible talks about ALL people, or the ENTIRE world, in positive, eternal, and “in” ways. I wrote a blog about it a couple years ago, and near as I can recall I barely tried and easily found 70+!!!
Primacy of Love: My experience of Christianity in its most life-giving and beautiful form centers on Christ and moves with Love. After experiencing God via Jesus, one of the Bible’s authors describes our Creator in a manner unlike anywhere else in scripture by saying, “God is Love.” Scholars say this means: The very essence and nature of the Divine is Love. Hand-in-hand with this, when Jesus sums up the point of life in this “simple” statement: Love God and Love others, as you Love yourself. Love is the flow of the reality Christ created, meaning the greater our failure to Love the Maker, others, and ourselves, the greater our suffering. Whereas the more we relate to the Spirit, others, and ourselves with lovingkindness, the more we flourish.
These are some of the life-changing gifts of Christianity I find particularly poignant. What stood out to you? What would you add? Soaking in the unconditional adoration of God for me, savoring the Divine beauty revealed in nature, celebrating the lovingkindness I witness in others, and letting loose the Love and bliss the Spirit pours through me continues to make EVERYTHING worship of the Divine and life magical in the most incredible ways, may this offering help bring forth the same for you!
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