Friday, March 13, 2009

Saving...Please Don't Turn Off X

This little aphorism buzzed in my ear today: "Salvation is not an act of the will, but its transformation."

In understanding Christ, and what he means for us, I think 'tis important for our theology of salvation to be rooted in what is real. When we Christians direct ourselves too intensely to a future heaven, or shout admonitions about coming hellfire to every passing member of the Democratic National Committee, I think we're missing the point.

It isn't that the things of our eternity don't matter. It's just that they're rooted in what we're doing right now. Salvation--and getting saved--shouldn't be conceptualized in terms of what sort of square footage your mansion in heaven will have, and whether the angels will be responsible for pool maintenance, or if the association fees will cover it. Getting saved is about changing how we live and act in this messed up, confusing, and difficult world.

It also has little to do with how deeply we ourselves believe we are saved, and more to do with how deeply we actually live into our salvation. The man who reads his Bible every night, does everything his preacher tells him, but won't speak to his gay son --is he living into his salvation? The pillar of the church who tells her spiritually struggling daughter that she needs to stop doubting and just believe in Jesus or go to hell--is she living into her salvation? They miss the point, as, I think, do so many preachers who seem only able to talk about salvation in terms of eternal damnation or salvation.

God's eternity is so great that our languages and minds can't even begin to express it, any more than a bonobo monkey can articulate it's position on stem cell research. Not that that stops Sean Hannity from trying.


Where was I? Oh yes--our theology of salvation. Theology, as St. Anselm described it, is "faith seeking understanding." As we find ways to express our faith, and to articulate it to a world that really does need to hear Good News, it makes much more sense to emphasize the power of God's presence to change our lives now.

It is our lives as Christians, here and now, that we need to come to understand. When we open ourselves to that Spirit moving in us, our view of the world changes. Our relationships change. Our approach to work and creation changes. We enter in to that lifelong process of "being saved," and that is a very real thing indeed.