Embracing the wilderness

I'm not sure this is what Jesus had in mind when he started this whole "church" thing...

It’s called Evangelism…right? Yeah… I don’t think so either…

I am going to dance for joy when everyone stops panicking and mourning over the death of Christendom. Not because I think Christendom was some great evil that needed to be killed as fast as possible (actually, I think there were many good things about Christendom). Not because I am one of those people who think Christendom is going to make a comeback (I have quite a bit in writing about the terminal decline of Christendom). Instead, I will dance for joy because that will mean an end to all the bad theology that comes from that mourning and panic.

QUICK INTERRUPTION: For those who don’t know, Christendom is not synonymous with “Christianity” or “the Church.” I define Christendom as “culturally enforced Christianity.” What does that mean? Remember when you couldn’t buy anything on Sundays because it was both illegal to have a store open and because no self-respecting business man would be caught in his store instead of in Church? that is Christendom. The culture and the law enforced so-called “christian values.”

What brings this up is that I have been reading a lot of articles about the “exile” of American Christianity. Carl Trueman wrote an article where he writes this:

Christianity is moving to the margins of American life, and Christians are heading into cultural exile. The question is: How will we survive?

That brought me to Rod Dreher’s article where he writes this question:

What I would like for us to focus on is the central question of Trueman’s essay:Which form of contemporary Christianity is best suited to living out the time of exile that is fast approaching American Christians?

And like Samuel L Jackson’s character in Do the Right Thing, I just want to scream…




Trueman says in his article that we need to be centered on the Word. I agree, but if we look at what scripture actually says we find that exile and wilderness are the places where the people of God are consistently found and where the people consistently find their God. Trueman and Dreher seem to think that the loss of cultural power and influence is something tragic, temporary, and that the Church needs to work its hardest to regain that influence. They are concerned with surviving that time of exile.

I want us to embrace exile. I want us to be excited for the wilderness. I want us to remember that it is out of the wilderness that a voice calls “prepare the way of the Lord.” I want us to be excited because we worship the God who promises that favor will be had in the wilderness (Jeremiah 31:2). I want us to be excited because we worship the God who was purposefully driven into the wilderness by the Spirit (Matthew 4:1).

The question is not “how will we survive?” The people of God have always survived the wilderness and exile. We will not only survive, but truly be alive in exile because we worship the God who is consistently found in exile and the wilderness. Saying anything else betrays a remarkable lack of faith. The question “which form of Christianity is best suited to live out exile?” is equally silly because the answer is none. None of our denominations are really prepared to be exile because we are all so used to the domination of Christendom. The answer is none because nowhere does God promise that our individual denominations will survive.  The answer is none because wilderness and exile always change the people of God in incredible ways. C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Great Divorce that for anything to be truly resurrected it has to truly die first. The answer is none because all our denominations will truly die.

But I have faith that in exile we will find a living God. I have faith that in exile we will be truly resurrected.

About dkamphuis

I'm an ELCA pastor preaching, teaching, thinking, and writting about what it means to be the church today.
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