Yesterday, I reflected a bit on what I perceive as a pattern in the church, in both personal and institutional ways, through the old Windows keyboard shortcut CTRL – ALT – DEL. Today, in contemplating what positive alternatives there might be for the contemporary church, I would suggest there are a variety of lessons to be learned from the Apple OS shortcut COMMAND-O(1). In short, CMD-O is the command to open a new document or file, but I would suggest this shortcut shares with us some important insights about a healthy Christian community in our contemporary world…
A Foundational Reflection from the Apple OS
Even before I reflect on the nature of church being “open” (or “opening” the church), I want to begin with what I think is a foundational observation about CMD-O. This particular command only works from within a functional program. That is to say, when I have turned on my word processing program, and I can open documents from it or other word processing programs; as well as, sometimes, other compatible formats.
From this otherwise obvious observation I find two-fold wisdom. First, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we have to be grounded somewhere. Secondly, we have to be aware that we can only open compatible files.
First, those seeking to be “open” in their faith lives still must need be grounded. It is my firm conviction that each of us must approach spirituality from within some “program,” some religion or denomination. (This notion was both better developed and better articulated than I am about to do in a text I read during seminary, Virtual Faith by Tom Beaudoin.)
My primary reason for this belief is my recognition that Christian faith necessarily involves our formation about the example of Christ, which includes (for the majority of us) a degree of challenge. I believe that we are only ever challenged by a faith when we submit to some authority outside of ourself. Otherwise, rather than being formed and transformed through our faith, we tend to form our faith around ourselves (our interpretations, our perceptions, our ideologies, our experience, etc.). This is not to say that we should or must always agree with all perceptions or doctrines of some faith tradition (I do believe in the importance of constant reform from within movements); but we should first take the step of deeply reflecting on those areas of faith that challenge us, to see if it is because they are perhaps in error, or if we are.
Secondly, just as when I try to open an incompatible file from a particular program and end up with distorted or unusable data, so I believe it is impossible from one faith/religion to fully know and integrate aspects of some other faith/religion. I cannot, as one rooted within the Christian tradition, fully or with great integrity interpret Muslim faith to others. I can, however (and with some degree of integrity and accuracy!) be open to/about compatible spiritualities (e.g. I can share about Catholic spirituality, Mennonite spirituality, etc.).
Ultimately, I find that the requirement for being “open” to other faith traditions is the same as being open to other perceptions, theologies, or ideologies: a willingness to welcome, respect, dialogue with, and listen to differing voices, differing experiences, differing viewpoints. I’ll share some more about this tomorrow, when I share some comments about “the open church.”