Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called ‘flow’. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. Flow is more than happiness, it is a deep connectivity, a oneness – dare I say a ‘communion’. People may experience flow through work or religion, but they may also seek it through the creative arts, sport – or more destructively through alcohol, drugs, or the darker side of the internet.
Flow cannot govern our institutions, including the institutions of the Christian Church founded since the age of the Roman Emperor Constantine, but without the element of flow what are we left with? And is that one of the reasons that people in this country continue to leave the traditional, institutional Christian churches in their droves? Traditional Christianity is failing to ‘go with the flow’ perhaps?
All our traditional Christian denominations were born of the age of Constantine and the Roman Empire, and the institutions which shaped that empire have shaped our collective consciousness which we can call in short, ‘Christendom’. This is a worldview that places every individual and system of governance within a Christian framework. But Christendom is no more. I believe a key challenge for Christian churches in this country is to define what they are in a post-Christendom age. Can we turn back the clock and bring back the unity of Christendom, if indeed it ever was united, or should we be seeking something else?
Thankfully we do have a vision of the Christian Church that existed before the age of Christendom, it’s in the Bible and charts the life of the Early Church centuries before Christendom began. We also have a way of life that was first given to us by Jesus himself, not Christendom but the Kingdom of God. The Christianity I would like to see in the 21st century is one that seeks to live the Kingdom of God inclusive of a generation that yearns to go with the flow.
Where does that leave our institutional practices in all our Christian churches born of Christendom? I do not know but I am willing to find out from the itinerant preacher from Nazareth who still says, “Follow me.” Maybe that is how I choose to go with the flow.
How about you?