It was never intended to be an elaborate belief system. It was intended to be a disposition of the heart. — On Christianity, paraphrased from Diana Butler Bass.
What helps you to come from your heart? It’s a more risky place to live than the head, because our hearts can get broken. Focusing on rules and laws and who’s in and who’s out of the group can feel safer than being vulnerable. Maybe that helps to explain why Christianity has changed so much in 2,000 years from the disposition of the heart that Jesus intended it to be. For example, it’s become huge, and mainstream. But Christianity started out tiny, a little group that dissented from the legalistic religion of its day. And, it was sharply delineated from the mainstream Roman culture, which was power-hungry, materialistic, brutal (something like The Hunger Games, actually — here is my non-mainstream review of that film).
Jesus was a non-mainstream, from-the-heart fellow. He built community among his followers. He treated low-status people as if they had high status. He swam in an internal sea of love — not a sappy, sentimental love, but a gritty, tough love that was willing to sacrifice. Sacrificial love is in scarce supply these days. But it’s a disposition of the heart. Jesus was about turning the world upside down.
It is so much easier to swim with the mainstream culture than to think critically about it, and live from a different place. In an hour I’ll leave for church, a small,warm, neighborhood church that has lots of happy children running around. My church helps me live from my heart, and remember I’m not part of the mainstream, materialistic culture. Four years ago I posted Confession: I Love Church. I talked about how it’s hard to be a ‘public Christian’ in a liberal environment like Portland. In my town, many people come from the heart — but they distrust Christianity, and don’t associate it with love. Of course, Christians like me would like to change that understanding. I’ve become a somewhat more public Christian since 2008 — but ‘coming out’ still comes hard to me. The associations of Christianity with judgment, and hypocrisy, and who’s in and who’s out, are hard to shake. I don’t want to be pigeonholed or dismissed.
One of the ways I’ve been coming out as a liberal Christian is through my novel that I recently finished, Revelle, Like Gazelle. I’m self-publishing it later this spring; the cover is currently under design. Here is the first chapter. It’s about two roller-coaster years in the life of a young woman who believes in God and lives from the heart.If you resonate to Diamond-Cut Life, you’ll probably resonate to Revelle.
Photo courtesy of Paul Schultz