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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's a Mystery to Me

30 years ago a college classmate was writing his senior thesis on the topic of Televangelism preachers, the Moral Majority, and the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. He asked me, as one of his classmates, if I would proofread his essay. I did...but I told him he'd owe me a beer when it was over. Being a tee-totaler, he gave me a six-pack of Diet Coke. He died recently, but I still think about his essay when I read just about anything about Christianity on the internet. Simply put: I JUST DON'T GET IT.

It is a complete mystery to me why people write, say, and think about the things they do in relation to the Christian faith. I have had almost none of the experiences that seem seminal to all of the bloggers, writers, editors, speakers, and publishers of what passes for Christian religion on the internet. (Now, I realize there is almost everything on the internet, but I am taklking about popular stuff like the Huffington Post, Patheos, Fox News, NBC News, Salon, and even Religious News Service.) For me, 99% of the time they might as well be writing about another religion, because what they all seemed to have experienced as Christianity-- I just missed out on, I guess.

Which brings me back to that thesis. Although I owned a TV, had voted in the election, and even heard of the Moral Majority (I actually met Jerry Falwell in 1981), I didn't experience Christianity that way, and never thought of that stuff as much more than a fad. I still don't. I am still firmly convinced--and convinced even moreso every time I hear or read from Frank Schaeffer--that the Evengelical, literalist, fudementalist Christianity developed in this country about 120 years ago will be little more than a footnote to the entire history of Christianity. I mean, I read a lot of blogs, a lot of books, and talk to a lot of people these days about Christianity...but I don't believe that type of Christianity will last. God will last. The people of God will last. Maybe a few things will last...but probably not as much more than historical curiosities.

If you ask my I think this popular type of Christianity won't be around it's because it doesn't seem to be about what the God who made heaven and earth, the God who loved enough to raise Jesus from the dead, the God who cares enough to send an Advocate. The Triune God I confess just seems so far removed from what I hear, read, and see these days. (If they even care to consider God at all. Progressives are the worst at this. They can write lines and lines of text without considering what God might or might not wish. Drives me nuts, because I know many of them, and they are good people. But as good as they are as motivators, community-builders, and people who make this world a better place, they are not good theologians. Of course, they are too busy making a real difference in the world to worry about it. That's why they have me. I do the worrying.)

I wasn't raised in evangelical, fundemental Christianity. I was raised in the "classic Christian" tradition (I heard Joseph Sittler use that phrase in an interview, and it makes much more sense than "mainstream," especially for those of us who were politically and socially liberal, and theologically trained to the point of nausea. You don't have to be liberal to be a classic Christian, but you do have to be theologically trained.) So, people who come from different places of Christianity talk about their experiences in worship as youth, as young adults in congregations, and now as writers in blogs, and I have no idea what they are talking about. It simply was not anything I experienced.

You see, what I remember from worship is power of a God who seems to be about loving us in spite of our best intentions to not make that possible. (I am fully aware that I might have missed what others heard as condemnation. Or, as one of my friends told me the day we were confirmed--"Scott, you see things the rest of don't. Maybe we shouldn't sleep through church.") I am not saying my experience was definitive, nor necessarily unique (my wife, for example, seems to have had my kind of experiences, and she was raised 1400 miles from me.) I am saying, however, that I do not understand so much of what I read about Christianity these days. There is another way to be Christian than what I see and hear these days...and much of what I read and hear these days about Christianity is a flat-out mystery to me.

But maybe that's the point...maybe when Paul says we are "stewards of God's mysteries" what he's talking about is not some "things" we don't understand, but rather, that we are taking care of (stewarding) the people who God has made. The people who are--in the end--mysteries of God.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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