Many Mansions

by Elias Blum

There were two strands to my spiritual and religious formation: (1) an evangelical charismatic strand, based on an Alpha-course/Christian Union version of Christianity, and (2) a dissenting, non-conformist strand absorbed at my local Unitarian chapel and through my interaction on the fringes of Quaker circles.

These two stands have often existed in a sort of creative but unsettled tension within me, sometimes pulling in different directions, sometimes working powerfully in harmony if not in unison. Later, I married a Catholic and was exposed to a third, in some ways much deeper, strand of Christianity.

I guess what I gradually learned is that there’s more than one authentic manifestation of Christianity. Christianity is itself a ‘broad church’.

To be a Christian you don’t have to be an orthodox 5-point calvinist, or a conservative evangelical, or open evangelical, or post-evangelical, any sort of evangelical at all, or attend an Alpha course, or be baptised into a specific denomination, or get dunked or infused, or be opposed to same-sex marriage, or have a bishop, or not have a bishop, or be a young earth creationist, or hold to any particular confession or statement of belief, or believe in any particular sacramental theology, or be a biblical inerrantist, or adhere to a ‘penal substitutionary’ interpretation of the atonement, or a ‘christus victor’ interpretation for that matter, or use a King James Bible, or use an organ, or electric guitars, or no instruments at all, or have an all-male clergy, or a gender-balanced clergy, or any clergy at all, or wear ties, or wear shorts, or wear robes, or sing in latin, or sing ‘Power in the Blood’, or sing ‘Oceans’, or celebrate holy days, or ignore holy days, or any of that stuff.

That’s not to say all these things are unimportant (I’m pretty adamant about some of my beliefs) but it does mean that these things are secondary: they are points which sincere Christians may honestly differ, and those who disagree on these points shouldn’t be anathematised.

What you can’t do, though, is be a Christian and turn a blind eye to the poor. Sorry, Theresa May.

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