By Chaplain Mike
In the tradition of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in Revelation, a group called Epiphaneia Network has challenged writers to present a “letter” or communication of some sort to the North American Church, expressing God’s desires and concerns. They call this the “Eighth Letter” project. On Oct. 1-2 in Toronto, submissions that have been selected will be read, along with letters from folks like Shane Claiborne, Andy Crouch, Len Sweet, Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, Ron Sider, Wendy Gritter, Tim Challies, Sarah Lance, Makoto Fujimura, Jason Hildebrand.
The opportunity came at a timely moment for me, because what I’m writing is a summary of what I think Jesus would say to his people here at the end of our three week series on three streams in the post-evangelical wilderness.
So, here is my “Eighth” letter…
To the North American Church,
Do you realize how much I love you? How much I have blessed you? Of all people in all ages of history, I have given you more wealth, technology, and energetic, positive character than anyone could imagine. You have been pioneers, conquerors of open spaces, dreamers, and guardians of freedom and self-determination. Your ambition alone has reached the moon. For this I praise you.
You, my children in Americaâ€™s churches, have brought this can-do, never-say-die spirit to the practice of your faith. As you crossed the prairie, you left countless baptized believers and steepled congregations in your wake. Spiritual awakenings engulfed whole regions. Circuit riders tirelessly reached the most distant villages with my good news. Great Christian universities and institutions were founded to carry on my traditions to succeeding generations. For this I praise you.
Like all of my people in every place, you have sinned and fallen short of my vision for you. You treated the natives of this land with unconscionable cruelty, and the few that remain suffer to this day. The stink of chattel slavery has long been with you, and in many ways you have yet to face up to its full implications. You have too quickly taken up arms as a solution to perceived threats. Industrialized capitalism has all too often chewed up and spit out the weaker members of your communities. And you have ignored them. Even you, my churches, have participated in these sins, and for this I cannot praise you.
I am building a new mansion for my people in America. I will construct it in the heart of the city, in a location that is not prominent or attractive. Among the poor. Where few will know your name or care about your credentials. I am inviting you, my North American Church, to come and live with me there.
My mansion will have a great foyer, a hall in which I will hold gatherings for everyone who lives there. The hall will be a place for conversation, for developing friendships, for respectful, spirited discussion and debate about the differences you have with each other. There we shall raise our glasses together, enjoy feasts together, and learn to talk with those who have different ways of thinking and acting. We will learn not to fear one another. I will not tolerate you missing these gatherings.
Following these social occasions, you shall all return to your separate rooms. In those smaller apartments, people in my family who share similar thoughts and perspectives will live together. Each day you will practice and develop your own traditions. You will learn to love one another, nourish one another, and care for those who suffer among you. Your rooms should not be used as places where you merely sit around, denouncing and dismissing those who have chosen to live in other rooms. This, I will not tolerate.
There is one more requirement for living in my mansion. Every day, people from all the different rooms will go to work for me in the community that surrounds my house. Sometimes, individuals will work alone with me. At times, people in one apartment will work together as a group to do something meaningful. On other occasions, I want people from the entire householdâ€”from every single room!â€”to join forces and achieve results that no one smaller group can fulfill. Together, in various ways, as individuals, small groups, and one big family, living in my mansion will involve bringing good news and practical love to the poor among whom you live.
To this life I invite you. Today.