(Compiled and read by Peter Rollins, music by Rothko)
=== Please listen to reflection before reading on ===
Let us make a distinction here between meganarrative and metanarrative. A meganarrative being that term which refers to the story that one lives while a metanarrative referring to the story that intellectually justifies and makes sense of our existence.
For so many, Christianity is thought of as comprising a very particular metanarrative. The result is that Christianity begins to resemble a Gnostic faith insomuch as it affirms a certain way of interpreting the world as a requirement for salvation. What can then happen is that we fall into the trap of theoretical belief and practical unbelief. In other words, we believe intellectually while living as though we didn’t in our grounded day-to-day life.
There are of course many who believe that Christianity offers a way of interpreting the world (that the scriptures give us a particular cosmology and anthropology) while also living their faith in terms of showing love to ones enemies and standing up for the oppressed. Thus affirming Christianity as a metanarrative while also living it as a meganarrative.
The question I wish to ask here however is whether Christianity requires the affirmation of a particular metanarrative. In other words, in the same way that the church once asked whether circumcision was required for salvation today I want to ask whether the metanarrative affirmed by contemporary evangelical churches is necessary for salvation.
The above words from Mother Theresa (harvested from various letters) offer a stark answer to this question. For Mother Theresa, the traditional metanarrative of Christianity was deeply questioned and often found wanting. Yet it did not stop her from living her faith in an uncompromising manner. Indeed it was her doubt at the level of metanarrative that made her faith even more awe-inspiring. For this faith was so much a part of her flesh and blood that her Garden of Gestheme experience did not rock her Christ-like devotion to those around her. It was obvious that she lived this way not because she beleived that she would be rewarded, or because it was what her beliefs demanded, but rather because she loved with a supernatural devotion that asked nothing in return.
She could embrace doubt and unknowing while expressing an unwavering commitment to the life of faith as expressed in caring for the oppressed and unwanted. There where many times when she was a theoretical unbeliever, but through it all she was a practical believer to the very end.
In my next post I will explore why this position may well bring us close to understanding how a healthy and dynamic Christianity will be expressed in the 21st century. In this way I will argue that Mother Theresa may well be on the short list for being the first patron saint of emergence Christianity.