An Ancient Radical

The bones drying on the shelves … not so different from the valley of dry bones, the lifeless remnants of community. Can these bones live? The old prophet was wise enough not to posture, not to philosophize, not to speculate, not to issue any power statements. O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.

All around us are the dry bones of God’s people. Catholics devastated by their clergy’s abuses of power. Anglicans staggering through disunity and mistrust. Evangelicals tossed to and fro by the currents of politics. Non-denominational churches grounding the community on personalities and entertainment. All of us wracked by new definitions of worship, discipleship, marriage, sexuality, parenting, authority; all of us immobilized by increasing exposure to the vast measures of poverty and hunger and human trafficking and suffering at every point of the globe.

In his blogpost today at “Philosophical Fragments,” my colleague Tim Dalrymple writes:

In an environment of brazen materialism and conspicuous consumption, the life of the disciple of Christ should stand out as radically counter-cultural. Yet the temptations of the flesh are strong. Too often Christians have been accommodationists, negotiating the differences between God and the world: in exchange for Sundays (if we’re not too tired) and Wednesday-night Bible studies (if we’re not too busy) and the occasional effort to witness to a friend (if we’re comfortable with it), for ten percent of our income (if we have a comfortable amount put away) and the avoidance of the whopper sins like murder and theft and adultery, we tell ourselves that we can enjoy all of the rest the world has to offer and also enjoy the expectation of eternal reward.  In exchange for ten percent, we can use the rest however we please.  Meanwhile, 1.5 million children in the United States are homeless, the sex-slavery business is booming around the world, and hundreds of millions of people have never heard the good news of God’s gracious self-giving in Christ.

It is well worth remembering that to be truly radical is to return to our roots, the ancient Tradition of the Church that so stunningly overtook the world in the first century. That Tradition involved the daily, incremental, unheroic actions of each individual who went by the name of Christ.

We do not need to do new things heroically, but to do very old things faithfully. Charity, kindness, honesty, faithfulness, chastity, gentleness — these are the characteristics of those who changed the world, and they can do it again insofar as they seep moment-by-moment into the ordinary lives of disciples all over the world.

Be completely kind and patient, bearing with one another in love. Put to death whatever in you is part of your earthly nature. Make every effort to add to your faith goodness. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father over all. Above all, clothe yourselves in love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Can these bones live? You alone know, O Lord.

About K. Mulhern

Kathleen Mulhern teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Denver Seminary, Colorado School of Mines, and Regis University. She particularly focuses on the historical roots of the political, economic, religious, and cultural systems that have contributed to contemporary society.


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