Revisiting the Affirmation

It’s been a year, and a little more.

Do you remember A Christian Affirmation?

Did it rock your world? Did you rush to sign? Did you hold your breath to await the fallout? Did you pray that it would succeed in strengthening and uniting the fellowship of the Churches of Christ? Was it worth the price of a full-page ad in The Christian Chronicle and of a Web site?

It didn’t do much for me. I quietly sent my own response, and the signers of A Christian Affirmation were kind enough to post it on their site:

I would much rather have seen a document proposing the convening or committing of the best minds, hearts, prayers, wealth and other resources among us toward the proposition of inspiring, training and leading members of the body of Christ in telling His story to people who have never heard it nor perceived their own need for the benefits it offers.

That would be a project worthy of the leadership who signed “A Christian Affirmation” and of the approval and affirmation of many, many Christians. I believe it would have greater potential in motivating and uniting than this document’s ability to do so. However, I will borrow the wisdom of Gamaliel regarding the document: if it is of men, it will come to nothing; if it is of God, it would be pointless to oppose it.

Somewhat less gracefully, I posted a response some have felt was a parody of the Affirmation called One Christian’s Affirmation, and I have no quarrel with that word to describe it.

My opinion hasn’t changed, upon rereading the document more than a year later – though I am less proud of what I was feeling when I posted that second response. In fact, the whole idea has become a bit repellent to me: the idea of creating documents of policy and minimal requirement, full of vague wording that everyone can agree upon for the sake of everyone being right together and therefore united.

The whole value of having varied opinions on matters of opinion; of gaining perspective and strength through dialogue; of being blessed and matured by the interchange of ideas … is simply lost in such an approach.

I was curious to see if hundreds had “signed” the document by e-mail since its inception. I counted 53, in addition to the 24 original signatories, some of whom are siblings in Christ whose words and works have blessed me.

(Some, whose signatures there were a surprise to me.)

So maybe I was right about it having little value in forging unity.

Maybe they were right about it having great value.

The Affirmation did provoke us to briefly dialogue about some things … maybe until the reality descended upon us that virtually no one outside of Christ and very few people who have called on His name know or give a flying hoot about our fellowship’s “distinctive” opinions – or our petty squabbles and divisions – except those who cite them as evidence of our inability to love each other, and therefore as evidence that perhaps Jesus wasn’t the Christ, the Son of God, after all.

Maybe the Affirmation proved in an unintended way – a less-than-earth-shaking number of signers, ultimately – that what we share in common belief is so much more important than what we do not share in common opinion.

Postscript: Don’t use the old URL for the Christian Affirmation. It evidently was allowed to expire, or was hacked by German-language porno promoters. Oh, and Howard Norton is signed up twice.

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5 thoughts on “Revisiting the Affirmation

  1. This document is one more thing that makes us look like a country club or a civic organization. Why does living like Jesus need further explanation?

  2. The Christian Affirmation was one of my favorite things to point to when some folks in my current tribe (ICOC) decided to come out with an equally absurd Plan For United Cooperation, to be ratified by congregations desiring unity. While my local branch’s elders decided to silently not ratify, several congregations wrote nice articles graciously explaining their decisions not to ratify.One thing I’m not sure I saw in some of the discussions of the Affirmation was that there is an inherent division (signers vs non-signers, not to mention never-invited-to-signers) in such a document that no number of included caveats to the contrary can erase.

  3. Oh yeah, I remeber that old thing. That was kind of fun. It was an interesting experiment. It proved, I think, more of the power of the internet to dismantle old school methods of ingrouping and outgrouping than any other thing.

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