I trust something is trying to get my attention when it comes around a third time. A girlfriend theology group I’ve been enjoying was suggesting different titles for our next ‘read.’ Brian McLaren has a newish book out—Do I Stay Christian?—that arose as a possibility. I felt aversion, though I have been thankful for his work. Claiming the word ‘Christian’ is not a concern of mine, really. I’ve long relinquished the significance of adjectives.
So I suggested a book I had not read yet but want to: Paul Knitter’s Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian. I have had a depth-encounter with Tibetan Buddhism, as I know Knitter has as well. I got to meet Knitter once, at a weeks’ long Luce Fellowship in NYC, steeping in theologies of religious pluralism disciplinary work with other scholars. He was incredibly helpful in getting me to see my own fears and unseen invitation into nonattachment upon the (external) conclusion of a significant spiritual friendship. I’m curious about his intermingling of extensive Christian formation (he’s Roman Catholic) and deep engagement in a Buddhist practice lineage.
Then a directee brought her grief-filled but lively journey into Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. I felt a ‘third nudge’ sensation in my belly as she did her work, as we listened deeply together for what Spirit was about for her. Driving home, I felt that sinking feeling I’ve come to recognize, trust, and lean into… That’s the third resonant title in two days. Something’s here for you. Begin.
Ugh. Begin what?! (exasperation)
I’m fed up with adjectives to describe identities. Have been for years. When I felt the generative energy of the Risen One in places “he was not supposed to be,” which yet aligned with fruit of Spirit and my own experience of Him known in Scripture, I began to question adjectives’ usefulness. If you sense the Risen One in the generative teaching energy of a Buddhist lama, for instance. Or if you know you’ve felt this abiding Love, Christlike, coming through a Jewish friend… Deciding whether that energy or that Love is Christian and only Christian becomes a fool’s errand. Who wants to waste that much cognitive energy to try to name or corral it? I no longer care whether the word Christian accompanies me any longer. And I certainly don’t attempt judgments of others’ Christianity. I feel Dr. Maya Angelou’s wisdom here, my paraphrase: I marvel at those who proclaim themselves Christian, saying to myself, “Already? How do they know?”
So these books engage a question I don’t really have anymore. Do I stay Christian? Am I still a Christian? Is my Christ the same as everyone else’s, i.e. universal? Don’t care, really.
But I know I’m to read all three of these books. The energy within me cannot put them down.
Ugh. So it begins.