Faith is a living thing, and its whole purpose is producing fruit.
This covenant is not sacred writ; you are not bound to the thoughts expressed. This covenant is a characterization, an orientation on how we should live. More to the point, it’s how we will live together as a tribe or nation. This is the soil in which your faith grows and produces fruit. The soil and growing conditions have a lot to do with what God can harvest, along with all the other growing things nearby as an ecosystem.
We believe God finds the American ecosystem unsuitable. The fruit of faith grown here is poor and tasteless, alien to what God intended. If you embrace the image of moving your faith to the ground on which Jesus walked, then it means rejecting one thing in favor of another — a whole lot of things. It remains your personal faith — conviction and commitment — but it’s cultivated in an entirely different way and place.
This covenant should help you understand what to expect from being a part of our household of faith. You aren’t investing yourself in a set of ideas, but a frame of reference that shapes how we act and what we take for granted. We believe this is as close as we can get to planting ourselves in the Garden of Eden. This is a map for leaving behind the American factory farms of cultural Christianity, and traveling the distance to God’s back yard where things are more natural, a vastly different ecosystem. It’s obvious we are now focused on altogether different outcomes.
This is not a question of being or doing, but of staying connected to our Creator. He is a Person, not an abstract set of ideas. He has bluntly said that our thoughts are nothing like His, yet He also said He can change is mind about things because of the give and take of family relations. Like a Hebrew shepherd He tolerates a certain measure of noise and complaint, and doesn’t react all-or-nothing to our tantrums. Further, He treats no two of us exactly alike because He made us all unique individuals. The relationship is dynamic and vivid, full of surprises.
That business of “God never changes” was stated in the context of a totally different culture. It meant that He was the very essence of reliability, the pinnacle of trustworthiness. His divine moral character is consistent. However, His requirements and expectations for us grow. They are alive; everything about this whole picture is alive. There is no such thing as inert matter in God’s Creation.
As noted in the words of our covenant, we take seriously the idea that God speaks to His Creation as a living being. Reality itself is a person who interacts with us in that same character of God; it is part of His family of Creation and bears His DNA. Reality acts consistently with God’s character. If you obey Biblical Law as the character of God, your behavior will seem to reality friendly and helpful. Reality will reciprocate, treating you as a loved one. It is, like all of us, a separate person from God. We aren’t pantheists, but we believe Creation is alive with the divine moral character of God.
So long as we remain in our fleshly forms as fallen creatures, some part of us will always rebel at this different approach to faith. Our fleshly nature is in no hurry to face the Flaming Sword of revelation, but seeks all kinds of shortcuts back into Eden. This is why we declare with Paul that we need to be crucified with Christ and keep that an active measure, constantly re-nailing ourselves to the Cross — “I am crucified with Christ.” This is our reality right now.
Do you see how desperately we struggle against the underlying false concept of static truth? The divine ideal is a moving target; it’s alive and we can’t come back to this moment again. God’s demands will shift with time and anything we think we understand will be in some way obsolete the next time. As written, this covenant will someday no longer express properly the path out of American bad religion, because the peculiar displacement — direction and distance — of American religion will have shifted in relation to Eden. However, we believe this covenant does help to characterize it so that some future generation can use it to draw their own map.
Future generations can forget our names and our words, but if the long journey we make today leaves them closer to God’s ideal, we have accomplished the mission and can die in peace.