At a recent diocesan clergy conference, Bishop Mariann talked about our post-Christian culture as one that had a “Christian memory.” Her words echoed a sentence that I had jotted down in my journal taken from The Telegraph (UK), “Gen Y makes do with a very faded, inherited cultural memory of Christianity.” I have been giving this serious thought these past few months while I have been reading (with my older children) several youth and young adult novels: Beautiful Creatures, Fallen, City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1). These books, while fiction, describe a world that many give credence to: a world of good and evil, angels and demons, perhaps even heaven and hell, but also a world in which God is absent, uncaring or incapable of acting.
It seems to me that our so-called “Christian memory” is not so much a memory of the Gospel as it is a memory of vivid images and enduring stereotypes from Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. These pieces are great literary works of art and they touch on many aspects of our Christian story drawn from snippets of our Scripture. Still, they are not our story, not really.
Our story takes place in the here and now, in this dimension. Our story declares evil much more mundane than soul-sucking, multi-headed monsters, yet no less terrifying. Our story proclaims that small acts of kindness and generosity done in this world reveal the presence of the Holy among us. Our story is of a God who loves us fiercely, who refuses to abandon us, and whose great power is revealed in a willingness to die on our behalf, if that’s what it takes. Our story – by which I mean the Gospel stories told by and about Jesus – is a compelling story, yet there is increasing evidence that fewer and fewer people have heard it.
Maybe we’re not telling our story enough. Maybe we’re telling it badly. The late Rev. Dr. James M. Washington told his students that one of the worst crimes the church could commit was to “make the Good News boring.” I suspect that we are guilty of doing so. Our great challenge will be telling our story with all of the drama and passion it deserves.
Granted, some may believe that my mortal eyes have simply been blinded by the “mists” and “glamours” that keep the “real world” (the one with demons, vampires and werewolves roaming) concealed from my sight. But I’m not too worried. My story is the Gospel story and I’m sticking to it.
Kym Lucas is the rector at St. Margaret's in Washington, DC. Share your thoughts and comments on Facebook.