If you were given the assignment of compiling a list of beefs about contemporary Christianity, what would they be?
Would you have 95 of them? Fewer? More?
I thought about this the other day, reading yet another impassioned online argument that Christianity is all about Thinking the Right Things About the Bible. I thought about it again today, watching -- for the umpteenth time -- a political advertisement based on the idea that Christianity is at heart all about Doing the Right Things, by way of imposing Real Christian [tm] values on the wider culture.
The irony of both viewpoints is that they effectively demote Jesus Christ to the role of bit player in the cosmic drama, and in so doing erase the grace of God -- the grace of the Son who sets us free indeed -- in favor of a spiritual meritocracy based on doing or thinking the right things.
And in case you're thinking that this critique is awfully one-sided, consider the folks on the deconstructionist end of biblical criticism, whose own default skepticism is simply a variation on Thinking the Right Things About the Bible, or the "Kumbaya" Christianity that reduces the Christian experience to an exercise in being nice. Again, Jesus is demoted to the role of an engaging, insightful and somewhat progressive rabbi -- someone who might make a good stock rabbi for a religion segment on morning TV.
If the medieval Church obscured Christ by layers of legalisms and mediatory agents, it seems to me that the contemporary Church -- both conservative and liberal wings -- seems bound and determined to simply ignore Christ.
And that's why the Church needs to be always reforming -- always keeping a faithful eye on Christ while also keeping a self-reflective and self-critical eye on itself. The alternative is an oxymoronic, non-Christocentric Christianity.