The book club at my church just reviewed the book "Evolving in Monkey Town" by Rachel Held Evans. Several of you have read and recommended the book and I see why. It was a nice change of pace from the more technical reading I've been doing. Evans is a gifted story teller who brings honesty, levity and poignancy to the discussion of doubting one's faith. If I had the nerve to be more open about my doubts with my family, I think I'd start by recommending this book to them. It mirrors both my very conservative background as well as my unraveling belief system. She manages to maintain her Christianity, but holds her beliefs with greater tentativeness. She has attempted to let go of "false fundamentals" and maintains that Christianity basically boils down to love.
I have to say, I can accept "Love others" as the primary principle to live by. I think that's a principle one can live by without ever hearing the name of Jesus. In fact, strictly adhering to the doctrines of a Christian denomination sometimes leads one to behave in very unloving ways. It doesn't have to be that way, of course. I am blessed to know many loving Christian folks whose religious beliefs lead them to treat others with a great deal of care. However, this all leads me to ask a couple of questions:
1. If we say that it's really all about love, then can't we dispense with Christianity, maybe like Unitarian Universalists, who elevate love as their primary value without connecting it to Christianity?
2. Is it fair to accept Jesus' teaching on loving others while dispensing with much of his Sermon on the Mount? I ask, because many people do. If you read it, you will find many references to hell, destruction, and judgement (Matt 5:22, 5:30, 7:13, 7:23). In fact, we are told that only a few find the road that leads to life. Jesus preaches love, but he also preaches judgement and condemnation. He also preaches against divorce, which many who approve of his teaching on love may reject. He also made it clear in Matt 5:17 that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. In fact, He says they won't disappear until heaven and earth disappear. Those who practice the commandments of the Law will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was an observant Jew who taught that others following Jewish Law would be in the kingdom of heaven. This is certainly not how I was taught to interpret Matt 5, but it doesn't appear that Jesus meant for his followers to stop following Jewish Law.