If history gave us mulligans, I would infiltrate the crusades and make one “tiny” change. Rather than a calculated crusade of conversion, I would wage a war of wasteful embrace. Marching through history, through Europe, the Mediterranean, and the world, I would give back all that was taken in the name of Christ.
I would do the same today.
My redo mission would be simple: I would take this divine Love and wrap it extravagantly around anyone along the path.
A Wasteful Embrace.
Whereas the first Crusades controlled to convert and converted to control, my Crusade of Embrace would be free from both, because love that was freely received can be freely given.
Along the way, my Crusade of Embrace must be generous and strong. My quiver emptied of arrows and full of balm, this new campaign would require different tools than the first.
Many would need food or justice or warmth or freedom. Others need to be heard, to know that the image of God still glows in them even when they don’t feel like they fit. Instead of creating sound waves I would absorb them, using what Krista Tippett calls “generous listening”, openly and curiously travelling into others’ existence to really see them.¹
I wouldn’t need to be selective with where and who I visited, because all are included. I could sow lavishly, like the farmer throwing seed along the path, into rocky, thorny, and good soil. The story usually thought to be about the soil is really about the sower, wastefully throwing his embrace to all who would receive.
Of course, I’d have to give up hope of them seeing things my way.
I might lose the satisfaction of their nodding ascent to my propositions.
I’d miss a clear sense of membership – who is in and who is out – but surely some would jump on their horses and ride along with me to embrace others.
Repair, not recruit
Donald Miller told² of a reverse confessional booth in his days at Reed College, where strangers would step in and – here’s the twist – hear a church representative confess all the church’s sins, the Crusades among them. Expecting to be beaten down, the listening stranger would instead receive their first ever verbal reparation for the pain caused in the name of religion.
Like Miller, I would speak to repair, not to recruit. For those like me who’ve felt squeamish about so-called evangelism, this is good news on both sides: neither of us have to endure another forced conversation about god – at least not the god you heard about last time.
That god was more like the Roman centurion who conquered to consolidate power;
That god was more like the religious leaders who protected their order from the prophet;
That god was more like the lobbyists who thought passing morality laws would lead to religious revival.
No, there is something much bigger going on here, apparently too big to stay inside the labels I’ve been wearing.
Speaking of clothes, I would probably need a new outfit for this crusade of embrace. That’s because the current brand of American Christianity I’m wearing is not really sized properly for the God it is designed to reflect. It’s as if that Saturday sweatshirt emblazoned with LOVE went through the wash too many times and came out shrunken, its letters of Love crumbling into Morality and Certainty. It’s why many are starting to tear out the labels, disassociating from words like Evangelical in search of a larger, more expansive and inclusive view of God.
The current brand of American Christianity I’m wearing is not really sized properly for the God it is designed to reflect.
Relationship, not real estate
And finally, being on a mission of relationship instead of real estate, I’d have no territory to protect. Instead I would rip my yard signs out of the way so that all could access the God that Richard Beck thoughtfully describes as wastefully giving himself away on the cross. “He already gave his body and blood away, in a most unconditional kind of way, so who am I to stand at the foot of Calvary with a Keep Out sign. He’s already poured it all out!”³
That’s why I’m proposing to myself – if I’ve taken any joy in receiving Christ’s love, any healing from being accepted just as I am, any thankfulness that this world’s creator is good and wants to know me – to go out from here wastefully embracing.
Hear these ancient words, predating the first crusades but prophesying the last: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
¹Tippett, Krista. Becoming Wise: an Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. Penguin Books, 2017.
²Miller, Donald. Blue like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Thomas Nelson, 2012.
³Richard Beck – Why We Don’t Love Like Jesus – Nomad Podcast Episode 133 http://www.nomadpodcast.co.uk/nomad-133-richard-beck-dont-love-like-jesus/
Cover Art: Embrace Scultpure, photo by Eric Kilby
Art Inset: The Siege of Antioch During the First Crusade, ca 1200. Artist unknown. Do you know?
Art Inset: Godfroy de Bouillon, a leader of the first crusade, based on a woodcut by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (Netherlandish, Oostsanen ca. 1470–1533 Amsterdam) source: metmuseum.org