What you see behind the church is what I like to call “the best view in the galaxy”. You’re looking out across the galactic core of the milky way. This is our neighborhood. It is the slightly larger speck of dust within which the speck of dust that the speck of dust that we specks of dust inhabit revolves around rests.
I’ll leave you to unpack that sentence at your leisure.
I also really like the church in the foreground. Something about it resonates with where I am in relation to my own spirituality right now. About a year ago, I made a conscious decision to start verbalizing a shift that had been slowly happening for almost a decade. The traditional metaphysics of orthodox evangelicalism have ceased functioning as part of my internal theological process.
These days, I consider myself a “recovering evangelical”. Not because all evangelicalism is evil, but because I can’t handle it responsibly. I know of many evangelicals who manage to live intelligent, compassionate, and healthy lives within that tradition. For whatever reason, I could not.
In it’s place, I’ve adopted the label “liberal Christian”. Some might also justifiably call me a “progressive Christian”, but I prefer the “liberal”. I’ve written about that choice of words elsewhere on this blog. I love my church, as well as the Bible, and the symbols & rituals of Christianity. Jesus continues to be a ubiquitous and central presence in my life, although I’m still figuring out how to articulate exactly what that means to me.
What I like about the above picture is its composition. The church sits in the foreground but off to the side. The big picture is the galaxy itself, of which the church is a part. In the same way, the Christian tradition continues to be a part of my big picture. It’s a big part, a dominant part, and the part in which I live, but it’s still just a part.
I’ve recently come to accept a series of possibilities that would have scared the hell out of me only a few years ago: There may come a day when Christianity ceases to be a living religion on this planet, a day when the human species goes extinct, a day when this planet is no longer capable of supporting organic life, and yet another day when the sun itself goes dark.
Jesus once told his disciples, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” He was speaking of the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem. His disciples thought that the temple and the nation of Israel were eternal institutions that would outlive history itself. God would never allow these things to be destroyed. Alas, the disciples were wrong. I can hear Jesus uttering these same words in relation to my congregation, my denomination, my country, my religion, my planet, my solar system, and my galaxy, ad infinitum.
“You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Some parts last longer than others, but everything is is only a part of everything, and it’s all mortal. This wisdom of Jesus empowered his followers with the faith they needed to survive the razing of their ancestral home. They were ready for the Diaspora because they believed that, come what may, God would never be thrown down.
These days, I’m settling into a deeper trust that, even though my best ideas about God (including the word itself) will one day pass out of existence, the reality to which that word refers never will.