I have a few times before mentioned my admiration of Robert Jensen's courageous articles and commentaries, which so often go against the "conventional wisdom" of American political culture. But, wow! Jensen has really struck a chord with a recent meditation entitled "Finding my way back to church -- and getting kicked out: The struggle over what it means to be Christian today." I am a Christian myself, so maybe Jensen's words resonate especially with me. But I think even non-believers and adherents of other religious traditions will find some powerful messages in what Jensen says.
Though he is a Presbyterian, Jensen's experience could have been taken place within my own wonderfully progressive local United Methodist Church. (And, moreover, this particular commentary was delivered to the Methodist Federation for Social Action, a wonderful haven for progressive social witnessing in the UMC!) My own faith experience has been somewhat different from Jensen's: I have never really left the Church, and I am perhaps more traditional about divinity issues than him. But his statement of his belief that he issued to the committee deciding on whether to kick him out of the larger Presbyterian Church (not his local church, who support him) is a powerful statement of faith in a modern age, I think:
"On God: I believe God is a name we give to the mystery of the world that is beyond our capacity to understand. I believe that the energy of the universe is ordered by forces I cannot comprehend.
On Jesus: I believe Christ offered a way into that mystery that still has meaning today.
On the Holy Ghost: There are moments in my life when I feel a connection to other people and to Creation that rides a spirit which flows through me yet is beyond me.
I believe that Holy Spirit can only be nurtured in real community, where people make commitments to each other. I have found that community in St. Andrew’s. I have tried to open myself up to our pastor’s teaching, to the members of the congregation, and to the church’s work in the world."
(And some people want to kick this guy out of the Church?)
One more quote to chew on from Jensen's think-piece, on the relevance of the churches of Christianity, which he provocatively calls "the dominant religion of the empire, the contemporary United States":
"I’m also afraid because most of the organic institutions that could help people confront the political, economic, cultural, and ecological crises we face have been destroyed, undermined, or co-opted by a sophisticated system of domination achieved through the unholy alliance of a powerful state and predatory corporate capitalism. The dominant political parties are impediments to progressive change; unions have been gutted and marginalized; and universities serve mostly as comfortable shelters for timid intellectuals working in duck-and-cover mode. The institutions in which people traditionally have come together to learn about the world and organize to change it have mostly checked out -- except for, possibly, the church."
Just go read the whole thing; it is well worth it.
I was going to post something about the upcoming elections, but reading Jensen's statement made me realize that speaking with clarity about current events sometimes requires thinking about the bigger picture.