If I were to write a book titled Why I’m Still a Christian, it would have a number of chapters, but the biggest might be titled “Original Blessing” the title to Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox’s book, originally published in in 1983. It opened a way of understanding faith for me where there seemed to be no way.
It was my senior year at Albion College. As a Religious Studies major, I was interested in my academic area, but wavering in my evangelically-inspired faith so enthusiastically adopted at age 13 at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Niles, Michigan. I had grown intellectually, but my faith had not.
And then a gift, an opening.
Rev. Bob Roth, College Chaplain, turned me on to Fox and the one simple theological shift that changes everything: original blessing. That is to say, if Christian theology starts with the Genesis One story of blessing as the deepest, most fundamental and profound truth (“And God said it was very good.”), then our interpretation and imagination of the Divine, of everything, changes. All of the shadowy, negative tendencies of the church to denigrate the body, the earth, women, indigenous people and others? Gone. Instead, there is room for paradox, mystery, diversity, and compassion. Faith is not an assent to dogma, but trusting and celebrating the wondrous gift of life, being willing to grieve injuries to the web of life, birthing new forms of beauty, and taking on a vocation of transforming all that is not in harmony with Life.
I still breathe in with a smile and out with a smile when I think of that story image of the Holy Mystery birthing the cosmos, the many forms, and us humans, and saying, “It is very good.”