I was just wasting time on Facebook and saw the headline that LifeWay (a Christian bookstore has decided to not carry Amy Grant’s new Christmas album deeming it “not Christian enough”. Amy Grant, the multi-Grammy winner and Christian music icon- her new album isn’t “Christian enough”.Hey, it’s their choice, but it highlights one of my problems with Christianity. The “narrow path” view.
Yesterday I was walking with my buddy and we were chatting about life and stuff. I’ve decided to not try to push Swedenborg on him, even though Swedenborg is what is really resonating with me right now. I sent him a link to one of Swedenborg’s videos about the metaphysical/metaphorical meaning of one of the Bible stories.The video is “What the 7 Days of Creation Mean”. Swedenborg says the world wasn’t created in a literal seven day time period. This is not news to most of us, which causes many of us to throw the story out all together as the ancient musings of pre-scientific people who were backward enough to believe that man was literally a mud doll until God blew wind into his nasal passages. People who take a metaphorical view of the story though, seeing it as a myth that describes not only the arc of mankind, but the arc of each of us as we come into our own autonomy and eventually get onto a spiritual path back to our Creator, can appreciate the story as much or more than those who take it literally. I couldn’t help bringing up Swedenborg when he asked me what has been helping me lately because I’ve been studying this higher view of the Old Testament stories quite a bit. I didn’t push it. I just mentioned it. But, there it was. Swedenborg was on the table again.
Then, my buddy told me that he decided years ago that he had found the source(s) of objective truth and basically wasn’t interested in finding any more. To take the Bible stories as metaphorical is a kind of slippery slope. The further you get away from the “objective” (I think he used this word to mean literal) understanding, the more prone to error you are. I countered with my view which is that even if you take the stories literally, there must be a higher reason why they were included in the text. I mean who really cares about Noah and his sons or about Abraham and Isaac or about any of the stories if there isn’t a deeper, universal meaning. And if there is and I can get that meaning without getting down in the weeds and saying “Wait a minute. You mean a donkey talked? God killed every woman, man, child and animal on the planet because he was pissed at them?”, isn’t that a good thing? If we can agree on the higher meaning, we can both get value from the story whether we take it literally or figuratively. Let’s set the literal aside and discuss the deeper meaning. That’s the way I look at it.
The one thing we did agree on is there is objective truth and if something is true, other things must be false. No harm. No foul. We can still be friends. I’ll just keep my Swedenborg to myself.
But, then there’s this. Just as we finished up the walk, he asked me to come over to his truck. He had some reading material for me. Now, I’ve told him many times my reading queue is really full. I’ve already read PhilipYancey and C.S. Lewis and several of the “Christian” books he’s recommended to me. I read Dr. Timothy Johnson’s book that he lent to me. We’ve discussed Charles Colson and I’ve told him I have no interest in reading Colson. So, when he reaches into his truck, what does he pull out? Charles Colson and a book about religion and politics. It was all I could do to keep a straight face. Charles Colson?
I think my buddy thinks I’ve lost my way. I’m no longer Christian enough. I read the Bible, but I don’t take it literally. I believe in Jesus, but I don’t think He is the “only way” at least not in the traditional, literal Christian sense. I meditate. I study Buddhism. And, I study Swedenborg. Now, what he probably doesn’t know is Swedenborg has a very, very high view of Jesus or “the Lord” as Swedenborg refers to him. Swedenborg has an extremely high view of scripture, calling the Bible “the word” and taking all of it very, very seriously as being divinely inspired. But, because Swedenborg doesn’t line up with what some have deemed as Christian enough (by modern Christian standards), Swedenborg is rejected out of hand. His claims to have visited the spiritual realms and having spoken with angels are dismissed as wild fantasies by people who believe Paul met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Peter saw a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven and Paul visited the “third heaven” without even batting an eye. Why are these things true? They’re true because they’re in the Bible.
Being Christian enough stopped being a concern to me a very long time ago. All I care about are “Is it true? and “Does it advance my spiritual journey?” I might have to check out that Amy Grant album.