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A New Christianity is Being Born

 
Despite the mournful laments of many that Christianity is a dying faith, that churches are no longer relevant, and that religion is perceived as a destructive rather than redeeming exercise, I register my opposition to these claims. The core stories of Christianity are about birth. The Christmas story, with the babe in the manger, the shepherds and the animals, tells of a humble birth heralded by angels. The Easter story is one of new life born out of death.

I believe that a new Christianity is being born, and that metaphors of pregnancy, labor and childbirth, can help us envision this new birth. Pregnancy, for all the hope and excitement it engenders, has a dark side. Will things work out? Will the mother carry the baby successfully to term? Will the baby be normal? The inner secrets of the womb are dark and invisible. Sonograms give a picture but not the whole one. And labor looms. The hard and torturous process of bringing forth new life, the wracking, painful contractions, the fear if things don’t progress, the worry about delivering a healthy child.

Many years ago, I had a pregnancy that ended after 5 1/2 months. A tiny little blue tinged boy was born and lived for just 20 minutes. What had gestated in my womb just couldn’t make it, and I wondered if I could ever have more children. I wondered if there would be new life, new birth out of the emptiness I felt then. In due course, there was new life – two beautiful sons, now married and fathers themselves, but their arrival was not as I had planned – not according to my schedule.

Thinking of Christianity and the decline of membership and vitality in so many churches, I wonder if we might think of this time as one of pregnancy and liken it to the uncertainty and expectation we have as labor and delivery approaches. The future of so many churches looms dark and uncertain. The work of bringing forth new life seems so hard. The pain, if things miscarry and no new life emerges is devastating. And yet, and yet. The day comes, almost never the appointed due date, when the new child, the new being is born. And that new life is never exactly what we expect, never completely predictable. Each new baby resembles her parents in some ways and yet is always unique, never seen before. And we cradle that baby and hold her to the nourishing breast and hope against hope that she will thrive and live fully.

If indeed a new Christianity is being born, perhaps these metaphors can help us envision what this will be like. Perhaps these metaphors can suggest our part in the birthing as progressive Christians. Can we be the midwives, alleviating fear and pain, standing alongside the laboring, ready to assist, to encourage and to comfort as something new comes into being? This is my hope and my prayer.

Rev. Susan Flanders
Board of Directors
ProgressiveChristiainity.org

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