Feeling Some Angst to Get Busy Jesus Promotin'

A transcript of an address by the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne found its way under my nose this week. He addressed a crowd of religious educators from church schools around Victoria. His intent in delivering the speech seemed to be to encourage those schools to be 1) clear about their solid grounding in Christian faith and 2) given that clarity, more proprietarily certain about their Christian orientation. There were many ways in which these two key points were espoused. Two that stuck in my mind were:

1) the need for schools to be grounded in and encourage Christian faith and not just Christian ethos or values and

2) the need for schools to use their various promotional capacities to make that faith grounding crystal clear.

There’s no point in me criticising the Archbishop for this viewpoint. These perspectives are understandable. He is a middle-aged, Euro-Australian man formed in the patterns and understandings of post-enlightenment institutional Christianity. This type of formation will tend to drive (but not always drive) a person to understand that to “form one’s life in the way of Jesus” means to subscribe to some kind of “determined entity,” to fully take on the habits and behaviours of that entity and to heartily encourage others to subscribe to that entity. Under this orientation a person (or indeed a school) that searches for an understanding of Jesus, authentic to their experience, may come up with a deeply holistic value set, yet still not be seen as “within the faith.” They are still in need of some form of subscription.

Yet while I am non-critical, I certainly cannot subscribe to this orientation. My growing understanding of Jesus’ way leads me AWAY from “clear boundaries” around the word faith. It also leads me AWAY from the possibility that definitive, proprietorial “faith marketing” (that is, “come into our system, you need it”) helps people to discover the abundant life that is meant specifically for them! I don't think it does.

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