I don't know why you come to church on a particular Sunday, or why you don't. Sometimes you show up; sometimes you don't. When you don't, maybe it's because you are sick or out of town or your alarm clock didn't go off or you just can't bear to be in a room with those particular people on this particular day. Maybe you are caught between wanting your kids to experience God and a faith community, and the reality of what it's really like to be a part of a faith community.
In the early days of blogging, when it seemed like a mere handful of people were conversing on-line, I encountered Doug Hagler, Aric Clark, and Nick Larson (also known as Two Friars and a Fool). They were students at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and full of fiery passion. I loved reading their writings as they playfully and consistently challenged theology, culture, and the church.
American evangelicals and mainliners often seem worlds apart when it comes to engagement with social issues. Take prisons as a case in point. The rhetoric diverges along the lines that one might expect: mainliners rail against the American mass incarceration system, the new Jim Crow that locks away minorities and the poor and is sustained by in-prison private labor and for-profit facilities. They want to fight this sinful system through activism (protests and petitions), academia (lectures and scholarly books), and artistic endeavors (photo essays and poetry).
I used to roll my eyes at the conference speaker divas who had a whole list of demands, until I needed to develop a few of my own guidelines. I don’t need green M&Ms or a plate of farm-fresh produce, but there are a few things I need. Whether you’re an organizer or a speaker, here’s a bottom-line checklist.
I feel dread when my phone rings these days. This presents a bit of a problem, because I make my living by taking peoples’ calls. The same goes for e-mail. I’ve got more than a week’s worth piling up unanswered.
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a favorite of mine. I love the image of pilgrims traveling together, struggling to understand tragedy and loss. I love that Jesus enters the story as a pushy traveling companion who sidles up beside them and talks their ears off for the rest of the trip.
And I love that it's not Jesus' incisive exegesis of the promises in scripture that open the disciples' eyes to his identity. It is his presence with them at a shared meal
Now and then, someone will ask me “what kind of Christian” I am. I never used to know how to respond.
I would ramble on about how I’m sort of a theological moderate, though it’s not that helpful to think of us Christians as existing on a linear continuum, and I’m less focused than some of the Christians I grew up with on individual salvation, not that I think it doesn’t matter, and I’m wary of efforts to convert people of other faiths, which isn’t to say that I don’t value evangelism or the uniqueness of Christ... By this point the person typically lost interest in my endless run-on sentence of negative definition and preemptive defensiveness. I was left wishing I’d just said, “Lutheran.”
Then came the 2008 election and the Matthew 25 Network.