Dictionary definitions of “weird” explain it as “very strange” “bizarre” or “peculiar”.
Maybe you disagree, but strangely enough, even in these post-Christendom days, I don’t think too many people in Ireland think of the Christian faith as bizarre, very strange or peculiar.
Let me suggest that it would be a good thing for the health of the church if both Christians and non-believers were able both to understand and experience more of just how weird Christianity really is.
The picture of Canterbury Cathedral captures something of what I’m getting at – the strange ‘Otherness’ of Jesus.
I’m by no means saying I’ve got this all sorted (!), but the longer I am a Christian and the more I have thought about the gospel, about the ultimate story of the Bible, about the life and mission of Jesus, about the atonement, about what it means to follow Jesus, about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and about the nature of Christian hope – the stranger and stranger Christianity becomes.
There is, to put it differently, a deep and profound ‘Otherness’ to the gospel of God.
In Ireland, and many places in the West, Christianity remains deeply embedded in history, culture and popular perception. Church spires puncture the skylines of every town and city. A declining, but significant proportion of the population still attend church for some sort of reason.
I’m speculating here (hey isn’t that what blogs posts are for? Please correct me if I’m off base here) but I suspect that for many people in Ireland, Christianity is seen as a mixture of:
(i) a code of rules for religiously-minded people who like to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to assuage their guilt
(ii) an irrelevant and boring institution
(iii) a malign force of religious conservatism that has no place in a pluralist Ireland.
However you cut it, it isn’t seen as particularly bizarre or radical. It remains, for the time being, socially acceptable and unremarkable. It’s part of the furniture, even if of the dusty antique sort in the ‘good room’ that is used for polite conversation with visitors.
I also wonder how ‘weird’ Christianity is for many professing, committed Christians, many of whom have grown up in church: Sunday mornings, singing hymns, prayer meetings, preaching, Bible studies and such. For such people (and I am one) it is a familiar, predictable and largely unsurprising world (especially if you are an Irish Presbyterian 🙂 ).
If I’m even partly right on this description, why is this the case?
What, for you, is most ‘Other’ or ‘weird’ about Christianity?
And where most has the sheer ‘otherness’ or ‘weirdness’ of Christianity been diluted or domesticated?
Comments welcome – I’ll add some more thoughts in the next post.