In simple terms, a growing number of our contemporaries want to be religious, believing, and even Christian, but without the contaminations they feel have been added to these words. They aspire to rediscover their roots in order to grow in a soil that has not been spoiled by either the fertilizer of ancient times, the shrubs of the middle ages, modern pesticides, or the radiations of postmodernity. Such a struggle for renewal is inate in the human person; it has always been so, but in our time it is acquiring historic, even cosmic proportions.
Christianness…means, first, liberation from a fixed and determined political order, which until recently was regarded as indispensible for the practice of “Christian values” (Christendom). It is also a liberation from identifying being Christian with the acceptance of a determined series of Christian doctrines (Christianity).
…Christianness is neither a new political form nor a new intellectual creed; it is a commitment which, although it needs specific expressions and a concrete political order to manifest itself, does not identify itself with any of these things.
Raimon Panikkar. CrossCurrents, Spring-Summer 2000
I was once really taken aback when a “Christian leader” looked me in the eye and said: “Geoff, you’re not a Christian!”
When he could see I had recovered my composure he said: “What matters is not whether you are a Christian or not, but that you are Christlike.”
I have found that distinction quite liberating.
So I find Panikkar’s idea of the dawning of “Christianness”, rising from spent paradigms of Christendom and Christianity, quite compelling.
In simple terms, “Christianness” for me refers to a focus on the qualities of the Jesus of the Gospels and a hanging loose to man-made(sic) formulations (Panikkar’s “Christianity”), and political structuring (“Christendom”). It is, if you like, a shift in consciousness from religion to spirituality.
It may be signified by a move from the “Ten Commandments” to “The Beatitudes” as a central ethic.
At the same time, it is always wonderful to see these qualities demonstrated in others, whatever the source of their inspiration, theistic or not. Such a congruence is no threat to my “Christianness”; and I hope my “Christianness” is no threat to others.