A few days ago, an old friend asked why I posted Bible quotes on Facebook. Mainly because I receive a quote via e mail every day, & if it's not one that makes me think, I go to a random Bible quote website & keep clicking until one stops me. I love the Bible. Many poets & writers do. Emily Dickinson & Walt Whitman stood on it, although neither could be called a "Christian." I also love Jesus. Not in the way Jesus & Paul demand, which requires not only a surrender very difficult for a person of my temperament, but also a community. Christianity is for me a radical faith. It is, as I often say of Catholicism, which I obviously admire, "a practice not a denomination." I believe it is profoundly a faith of peace, with pacificism at its core. The pacifism was an identifying characteristic of Jesus communities for the first three-hundred years, & wasn't reasoned aside until after Constantine claimed its spiritual power was the deciding factor in his military defeat of Maxentius. That's also when institutional Christianity eagerly took on the trappings of Roman culture & government.
I absolutely detest the mixing of American Christianity & militant nationalism, wrapping the cross in the flag. I'm aware that American Methodism is, well, an American invention, it's an American denomination, organized differently from the British version. I'm comfortable with that. But I also appreciate Catholicism's catholicity, its global view.
The Methodism I encountered as a child was undogmatic, impatient with theology, loose with doctrine, & in love with singing. It disliked conflict & encouraged friendship. It expected you to grow in faith, but understood you might also grow away from it. But if you grew away, it hoped you would take with you at least a sense of moderation in one's habits & routines, empathy for suffering, & good manners. All those qualities could be - & are - perceived as weaknesses by right wing religionists.
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson