One of the hardest things about serving a multi-denominational protestant church in a city like Moscow is the fact that I am a theological oddball. I work and serve in a community made up of Methodists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Reformed Christians (along with a smattering of lapsed Catholics, Russian Orthodox, and Non-denominational Evangelicals on the side), and yet most of them are united in their belief that my theological framework is a little wonky.
A lot of this comes from the fact that I tend to lean in the direction of Process Theology. (As an aside, if you don’t know what that means click here for a basic overview). When I talk about my favorite theologians, they are usually one’s that haven’t been widely read by most church folks. If I refer to God, it doesn’t always resemble the bearded man in the sky calling all of the shots that some people really find comfort in.
It seems to me that in an overwhelming number of faith communities, the church has been turned into a place where you go to be told that everything is going to be all right. We are told that we shouldn’t worry too much because something better is coming.
But what about the people whose lives aren’t necessarily getting better? As land continues to be illegally confiscated in the West Bank, armies clash on the eastern Ukrainian border, thousands die of Ebola in West Africa, and civilians are brutally murdered at the hands of militant extremists, what does the church have to say? If all that the church has to say about these horrific acts is that “they are in a better place now” or “it’s all part of the plan”, that doesn’t sound like Good News to me.
The reason why I bring that up today is simple…the world is a crazy place that seems to be getting crazier every day, and I think that Process Theology adds something to the conversation that our churches are typically lacking. Process paints a picture of a God who perfectly embodies relationship, but in doing so completely rejects any kind of coercion or domination.
It is a worldview in which God might not necessarily jump in and save the day, but is one in which we as people of faith have the ability to actively make a difference. Our actions matter, and reconciliation is impossible if we don’t step up to the plate.
Theologian and philosopher Peter Rollins writes, “Truly embracing the fragility and tension of life…brings with it the possibility of true joy.” When we as a church jump into the fray by pursuing justice and speaking truth to power, things will get messy and tense. Emotions will fly and some things might get knocked around along the way, but the outcome is something wonderful.
Peace, Joy, and Reconciliation.