Feb 232012

It seems pretty clear to me now that there are (at least) two different kinds of Christianity that are evident in the protestant world (I can’t speak to Catholic or Eastern Orthodox). The problem I’ve had is trying to find a language that describes them without being too pejorative. For example, a frequent pair of descriptors is “conservative” Christianity and “progressive” Christianity. Progressive as a word feels judgmental to me. And then any word you pick like “incarnational” or “transformational” could arguably be claimed by either camp. The language is a problem because it feels like the divide or chasm between these two main competing visions and understandings of the Christian faith is growing, and it’s awkward to not have a good way to refer to it.

Marcus Borg uses the language of “heaven and hell” or “literal-factual” Christianity as opposed to “historical-metaphorical” Christianity. It’s a helpful, albeit somewhat scholarly, way to avoid saying conservative and progressive. I like what he says about these two camps, but I am left cold by the titles given. So I’m proposing a new set of words. I like the words Destination Christianity and Journey Christianity.

What is your theology primarily concerned with? What’s the most important thing at stake for you?

If you answer anything around your eternal address or being saved from damnation then you’re a Destination Christian.

If you answer anything around your personal spirituality and ethics then you’re a Journey Christian.

Destination Christians are primarily concerned with Heaven, and how to live today in order to avoid being sent to Hell on judgment day (when they die).

Journey Christians are primarily concerned with the here and now, and they figure eternity or heaven (being enfolded in the love of God) starts now, not when you die.

(In case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m a Journey Christian)

They’re not perfect words, but they’re working for me lately. I don’t know, maybe they’re still pejorative. Maybe my quick characterizations are one-dimensional and unfair. Neither side is completely wrong or completely right. Destination Christians are obviously also plugged into their journey, and Journey Christians are obviously on a journey in a certain direction. It’s a matter of emphasis. And more than that, it becomes the lens through which you read and interpret scripture and the spiritual life.

One difference this language makes is providing an opportunity to disagree about the other’s emphasis without  having to say that the other is out and out wrong.

Or maybe the chasm is beyond bridging and we really are talking about two different religions based on the same set of writings and initial history…

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>