Progressive Christian Channel
Undomesticated: Wild Thoughts from the Edge of Empire, Part 4
Editor's Note: This is the last in a four-part series on wilderness spirituality called Going Cimarron.
The original Greek word for church—ekklesia—meant "the called out ones." How have you been living called out?
The church: a covenanted band of cimarrons? Could it be that Jesus envisioned a social movement that was not a pillar of dominant society, but rather a drastic alternative to dominant society—a group of transformed people called away from a state culture of financial security, structural inequality, and military might?
Most people who name themselves Christians today believe they've been called out from the world around them. But in what ways? When I was a teenager, our earnest youth pastor once asked our high school group, "If being Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
Back then, as a Southern California teen growing up in Reagan country, my answer came quickly. Enough evidence? Sure. I felt pretty confident in my walk with Jesus. In the culture I was raised in, the evidence of a good Christian was all about personal piety and purity. Wasn't I honest and kind? Didn't I do my best to avoid sexual temptation? Didn't I skip parties where I knew there'd be smoking and drinking? Besides that, I prayed for others every week at youth group, and had my own daily devotional time reading the Bible. I even shared the Gospel with friends at school, encouraging them to ask Jesus into their hearts so he could forgive their sins.
Sin in Greek is a term from archery, meaning "to miss the mark." Back then, I felt I was a good Christian because my goal was to stay pure in a polluted world. Thirty years later, realizing how shackled I am to Empire-based thinking, I struggle all the time to be a follower of the Way. I find myself missing the mark every day. All too often I seek first my personal kingdom, rather than the kingdom of love and justice Jesus envisioned. I say I want to love my enemy, but I go blithely about my daily business as my nation bombs other nations. I yearn to follow what my Rabbi taught in the sermon on the mount, but I still find myself worrying about tomorrow. Tomorrow, and lots of other things: financial security, health care, college for my son, what people think of me.
Yes, I'm a cimarron child of God, tested in wilderness, someone who has been called out and who lives very differently than dominant society. And I'm also an addict to Empire, compulsively drawn to personal greed, ego gratification, and a haunting callousness to the suffering of other people and the planet. Too often I'm pursuing shiny gadgets instead of sharing food.
I need serious help to be the God-filled person I want to be. I can't do it alone. I need to be part of a transformative ekklesia—a body of called-out ones, a covenanted band of cimarrons who support one another to embody a parallel society of the Jesus Way even in the shadow of Empire's might.
I have a feeling that many of us need help, addicted as we are to the comforts and customs of our juggernaut civilization. To that end, I want to highlight three energizing communities in my neck of the woods—New Mexico—that are helping me to defy Empire's pull through creative, abundant living:
Todd Wynward is only a part-time religious zealot. When he is not attempting to re-imagine Christianity, Wynward finds himself re-framing public education and re-envisioning the American way of life, starting with his own. He has been engaged in experiential education and social change movements for twenty years. He is the founder of a wilderness-based public charter school, leads backpacking and river trips for adult seekers, and is an animating force behind TiLT, an emerging intentional co-housing community in Taos, NM. Todd is the author of The Secrets of Leaven, a new novel combining edgy theology and a page-turning mystery.
You may also be interested in these stories:
- Why the Inklings Still Matter in 2015: An Interview with Carol and Philip Zaleski on The Fellowship
- David Hates the Blind and the Lame? Reflections on 2 Samuel 5:1-10
- Stepping Bravely Into the Future: A Conversation with Bishop Andy Doyle on the Episcopal Church, Part Two
- The Spin Is In: Reflections on Clinton, Bush, David, and 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27