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Updating the Faith?

Sunday afternoon, with the morning's worship service fresh in my mind, I read Alan Padgett's review of three books concerned with the essence of Christianity ["Updating the Faith?", July/August]. I go to the church where I grew up. Then again, I don't. The Bible is still authoritative there, though only a few from the old guard pack one; the creedal doctrines are the litmus test, but pop psychology has neutralized the pH of the sermons; mission is integral, but gone are the week-long conventions welcoming home, like heroes on furlough, a parade of colorful, culturally cross-dressed missionaries with their fascinating stories and curios; we still have a choir (no, not with robes), but they mostly open for the rock band that lately has added searchlights and fog to give worship that eerie feeling it's been missing (don't get me started on the cotton candy choruses vs. the meaty classics—suffice it to say they cater to the sweet tooth).

You've guessed all this is not my cup of tea (did I mention the lattés in the service?). What's more, the sea change in my experience of church has been embraced by my pastors, studiously attired in faded jeans and untucked, rumpled shirts. But they're symbolically attired too I think, as if to suggest the core of the gospel—what remains when our precious practices and points of view (no irony intended) are stripped off like clothes.

Hung naked himself on a cross in broad daylight (while his executioners gambled for his garment as if to suggest "the essence of heresy" as a kind of pornography of the spirit that exploits its nakedness), the resurrected Christ reminds his would-be followers: "you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked … buy from me … white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness"—no minced words, no frills, pretty close to the essence.

Bruce Jespersen
6 Mckenzie Lake Green S.E.
Calgary, Alberta

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