It occurred to me that there may be something more personal driving some of the points I tried to make in the previous post. I’ve enountered a fair number of people who were raised in very conservative or fundamentalist churches, and who had bad experiences in some cases. For some of these folks, encountering the writings of, say, Marcus Borg can be profoundly liberating simply because they hadn’t realized that there was a different way of looking at Christianity or the life of faith. They exult in a newfound freedom to explore possibilities that would’ve been closed off to them before. And I wouldn’t want to dispargage or downplay how important that can be for some people.
However, this experience of liberation, it seems, can harden into a permanent anti-fundamentalist defensive crouch. This means that any claims–whether on one’s belief or obedience–can appear to be the thin edge of the fundamentalist wedge. The result is that liberal Christians who are so busy being anti-fundamentalist aren’t always particularly clear on what they’re for (apart, that is, form tolerance, inclusiveness, and social justice, defined in somewhat vague and largely secular terms).
The problem for me–someone who didn’t grow up fundamentalist and is not particularly reacting against its strictures–is that I am looking for a positive, substantial vision of Christian faith. I don’t imagine that traditional formulations of that vision can be taken over by contemporary people wholesale, but I do think there is a stream of continuity. We catch glimpses of this in the creeds, the liturgy, the lives of the saints, and the writings of some of the great theologians and mystics, but our churches all too frequently come across as afraid to use these treasures they have inherited. Is this because any affirmation of a robust Christian identity is considered a step down the slippery slope to fundamentalism?