Intangible Christianity

Intangible Christianity August 4, 2012

I was raised to believe that salvation was a shadow of things to come. An image of an otherworldly kingdom that could never be realized (even in part) on earth. Jesus’ death on the cross was an ethereal magic trick…

It’s an illusion, Michael…

…that somehow, in some way washed away our sins.

But our sins were still here.  We still sinned. That didn’t matter. They were washed away in the realm of the almighty. Covered somehow by a metaphorical river of blood.

This was always explained as a “great mystery.” Something we could never fully understand. But “God’s ways are higher than man’s ways,” they told me. And I was forced to be satisfied with the shadows of things to come, and to trust that these shadows weren’t simply smoke and mirrors.

The same reasoning was given for how Christians should live in day-to-day life. Because salvation was an intangible concept, the worst of Christian “sins” also dealt with intangible concepts.

Like sex. Sure, folks would give lists of the tangible consequences of premarital sex, but if you questioned, if you pushed, if you broke down the tangible consequences the driving force behind them were the ideas of purity and virginity.

And what is purity? Who is pure? What makes someone a virgin…or not a virgin?

You could have sex and then become a born-again virgin. TaDa! No physical transformation required. You just pray a prayer and trust that somewhere in the world of the heavens, that magical blood is somehow covering your sins.

And what about helping the needy? Well, we feed them with God’s word. Nourish them with the scripture. We save their souls but their bodies don’t matter. No one’s do. Bodies are too real. Too solid and physical. They need to be hidden and shamed while the soul is exalted.

More shadows, being cast by a world to come, but nothing to cling to.

And when you start asking questions, they give you Faith to cling to. I never really knew what that Faith was faith of. Faith that something magical happened on the cross that we don’t understand, I guess.

But really, it’s the Faith we’re worshipping and serving. We wait. We watch. We keep ourselves pure.

But do we fight injustice? No, because we’re afraid the oppressed will take over us, the oppressors, if we give them too much freedom.

Do we feed the poor? No, Jesus said the poor will always be with us.

Do we change our world? No, because there is another world waiting for us.

Our salvation is from the horrors of spiritual death, not the pains of physical life.

When I asked, “what’s the point?” they called me unfaithful. They asked me if I was really saved, because if I was really saved I’d be satisfied with the shadows. I wouldn’t be searching for anything physical and real. I wouldn’t be craving a salvation that I could touch and see.

But didn’t Jesus pray “thy will be done on earth?” Didn’t Jesus promise us “daily bread?” Can we really keep pretending, even as we read about him filling the empty, physical bellies of thousands, that the bread he spoke of was just a Bible passage and an accompanying devotional?

If our salvation has nothing to do with this world and with these bodies, than why did God come to this world? Why did God become a body? Why did God feed bodies and heal bodies and rescue bodies from drowning in the ocean?

I think of salvation differently now. Yes, there are shadows that give me hope for a world to come. But these shadows are cast by things that are happening now. When the mighty are brought down and the weak are exalted. When the hungry are fed and the poor find justice. When the oppressed find freedom and the marginalized find love.

If the shadows that you’re grasping at aren’t being cast by something that exists here and now, how do you know you’re not being fooled? How do you know your faith is something more than just smoke, slipping through your fingers?

I want a solid salvation. One that is here. One that I become a part of, continuing Christ’s work on earth. I don’t want to wait passively and blindly for it to come to me when I die.

Today is the day of salvation.

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  • Jim Fisher

    My Bible teacher likes to point out that forms of Gnosticism (body bad spirit good) have been the dandelions in the lawn of Christianity since the first century. I am glad you have found the grass … and the earth beneath it … and the Water of Life than nourishes it.

    Lord? I am here. I am listening. Put me to work.

  • Tricks are what prostitutes do for money!

    • Fortuna Veritas

      They’re also part of the showmanship of BMX bicycle, skateboarding, and snowboarding performances as well as a term in games that make use of playing cards, usually for a set of cards that is set aside and credited to one player for the purpose of gaining points and winning the card game.

      What’s your point?

      • It’s a quote from Arrested Development. He was just finishing the quote I mentioned in my post.

      • They’re also an essential part of a well-balanced, delicious breakfast.

  • Dangit! I’ve been having the same thoughts recently and trying to book-ify them. Sin and grace and being a Christian are all these intangible, un-earthly concepts to much of Christianity and specifically to fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity.

    Sin is like magnets, yo!

  • Amazing post, Sarah. What is faith if it has no works? Dead, according to James. And what are works but the physical result of a tangible, living faith? I’m often frustrated by the clouds of mystery you mention here, and I hope that in the near future, we as a Church can stop clouding people’s views and instead show them the real, physical light of Jesus and the good news of Kingdom redemption he has promised and that we will deliver.

    • Also, the Arrested Development picture deserves at least 5 thumbs up. And that’s no trick. =)

  • I am so sorry that is the view of Christianity you were fed. That kind of thinking is not only wrong, it is dangerous. Read NT Wright. He will help you understand the kingdom that is not only tangible but imminent. I suggest “Surprised by Hope.” Changed the whole way I think about the temporal and the eternal.

  • This is so true- I guess I used to think that “being right” and being able to explain/defend my beliefs and have information about God were the most important things. Yes, we’re supposed to like, love others, and stuff, but that was kind of secondary. Because we’re saved by faith, not works- in other words, you have to believe the “right answers”, and if you’re nice to other people, well, good for you, but it’s not really important.

    But now my ideas on this are completely different. I think the message of Christianity is GOD’S RIDICULOUS LOVE, and I want that to somehow overflow in the life of me and every other Christian, so people can see that and be “convinced” by the reality of God’s unreasonable love, rather than convinced because I am good at arguing. Arguing doesn’t change people’s lives. But I just hope that somehow, I can show people the same love and acceptance that God has shown me, and they’ll want it too. And even if they don’t, even if they’re not “convinced”, if I’ve at least brought them some happiness, that matters too. That’s a good thing.

  • Amazing post. Adrian left the link to your blog on my site today. Glad she did!

  • I found your blog through a search for other like-minded Christians who were struggling through some of these issues.

    Thank you so much for your honesty in your posting here. I have often asked so many of these same questions. I recently read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and I absolutely feel in love with the ideas about heaven on earth. I am not sure that I would agree with him 100% about what happens after we die… but I like what he said (it was either in the book or in an interview about the book) that any teaching on what comes after this world is simply conjecture because we have no way of concretely knowing. It’s about now just as much as it is about later.

    Thanks again 🙂