This life in Christ. I’ve been at it hard for most of my life. I and a cadre of Christian friends experienced theologically a sort of Vactican II, Age of Aquarius meets Alexander Campbell, with a nod to Pat Boone’s A New Song, upbringing. I am a boomer with a veneer of postmodern bred of an Eastside of Detroit public education sent South to a Christian college.
Growing in a veritable Church of Christ ghetto in suburban Detroit, my childhood was blessed by parents in love with each other, kinfolk who cared deeply for us, and kindly neighbors. Good memories abound.
Yet, in my young world, the Catholic kids I went to school with were all taught that I was going to hell for not being a Catholic. The Church of Christ I attended taught that the Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, were sadly, all lost. I learned that we Church of Christ kids, we were Neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jew. I read it on a little tract on a rack in my church foyer.
I credit the genesis of my ecumenical spirit to a moment at Michigan Christian Youth Camp when a college aged Bible teacher read aloud from a little volume called Voices of Concern, a collection of letters from earnest Church of Christ folks who just couldn’t take the sectarianism, called “Church of Christism,” anymore, and went denominational. I was in the eighth grade. Reading The Chosen, by Chaim Potok further influenced on my approach to orthodoxy. I was just over forty. I won't say how old I am now, but I was born the same year Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England--the current Elizabeth.
My mom posted a sticker with a verse from the King James Version of the New Testament, Philippians 4:11b, on my bedroom door when I was child. It read, “I have learned therefore, in whatsoever state I am in, therein to be content.” It made an impression on me because post high school, I found a way to be content living in Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee.
I have embraced and have been embraced by, loving congregations in all of these places. No two people have been treated more kindly than my husband, Ken Dowdy, and I, through our 35 years in these communities. We are deeply grateful for the grace, mercy, and love we have experienced.
Most of these churches only faintly echoed the harshest teachings of my youth. In with all the sweetness, I often chafe at the latent judgment, sectarianism, and sexism in the culture of this movement. These elements seem to be derived in part from theology, and partly from regional and socio-economic factors.
Of late, the church experience notwithstanding, it has been my own personal failings and the vicissitudes of life that most challenge my walk of faith. Sometimes I fear I may have become “as one of the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word and it yields nothing.”
In addition, several young people with whom I am acquainted, and whom I love well, have left the faith of Christ. This grieves me so deeply that sometimes I fade into thinking that if I just didn’t believe so intensely, their leaving the faith would not cause such a wound to my heart.
I need a personal revival to finish the course, to keep the faith. I need to renew relationships to help me finish the course, to keep the faith.
In my childhood, I was taught “five steps of salvation.” The first step was that one must HEAR—“for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Reflecting on this "step" and inspired by Julie of Julie & Julia, I thought of a plan to revive my faith by reading the Bible through this year and blogging my experience. I intend to read through the One Year Bible, The New International Version arranged in 365 Daily Readings. I confess to a complete lack of diligence in my reading over the past few years.
I will read daily and post weekly. I thought that a few of my friends might join me and share questions and revelations. Read just Old Testament; read just the New Testament; read just the Psalms; or read just the Proverbs. Just read and share. I am already playing catch up because this all just came to me on January 4.