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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. 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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Adding More Voices to the Conversation

Twitter turned 10 the other day. Image result for twitter logo Happy Birthday!

One thing has changed for sure in the advent of social media, of which Twitter is just one of many. The conversations of the world have been reduced to 140 characters. What we've discovered over the past 10-15 years is that most of the issues of the world cannot be resolved in 140 character comments or less. You cannot have justice of any kind in such a world of truncated conversations.

We tried to have those conversations on social media. Cannot be done. One Facebook group I belong to regularly limits who can respond in any given week. That is one way to hold the conversation so that many voices don't get drowned out by a few. Of course, in order for that kind of shared system to work, many must just "listen" (or more accurately, peruse.) That's not a strong suit for some people, usually the ones who dominate conversations.

What I've noticed is that who is asked to "listen" is often those whose predecessors didn't have to listen to anybody. So, your lot in the "ovarian lottery," a phrase financier Warren Buffet uses to describe where and whose your mothers' ovaries are is pretty important to how you experience life, might allow you to be a speaker, or a listener. Probably not both.

So how do you get more voices into the conversation these days? For one, people who have had their predecessors do all the talking have to not talk. (This is is difficult, because in essence it silences a voice. Just because Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Donald Trump are white males does not mean they speak for me as a white male. But if we're ever going to get anywhere I must be silent and smile wryly if people assume because I share some genetic equivalencies with them that I must think and believe like them. Such is my lot in the ovarian lottery.) But it also means that people whose historical voices have been muted and enslaved, must find the courage to speak. And that can't be easy either.

And we have to do this all in 140 characters or less.

My proposal is to make the table around which we speak large enough to include everyone. In my mind there is only one table that has that kind of capacity, the table of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, whose death and resurrection empowers, frees us, to have the courage to listen or to speak. (And at 140 characters it is an "either/or", there is no Kierkegaardian "both/and" available at 140 characters or less.) The table shows no partiality, which is tough for people who have historically experienced the table as showing ONLY partiality, especially to those baptized, but also including any particular ethnic, cultural, or social more that happened to be around at the time. But that doesn't seem to be the intent of the table...even if that is how it has been primarily interpreted for the past 2000 years. Those people were wrong about that.

God seems to want more than just one religion, and we've done a very poor job as Christians trying to understand that reality. God seems to want all voices at the table, and we've done a very poor job of that too. What hasn't been done poorly is imagining who this God is who desires all these voices, all these religions. Christianity has always had a strong minority voice that argues for a God capable of such diverse relationships; and ironically, in some cases, it comes from people in the most privileged, cloistered of our tradition. (I'm thinking here of someone like Karl Rahner.) The Triune God whom Christianity worships is God of multiple relationships. not only in how God experiences the world, but also as God's own life and being. Why a God of such plurality would desire unity of any kind at any level has never been adequately answered by ANY Christian theologian who advocates such a thing. EVER.

Maybe it can't be answered. (It's a mystery.) But saying that then means that those who advocate a God of plurality would NOT seek unity of any kind at any level are well within the Christian tradition to argue for a diverse and plural world. (It's a mystery.) And perhaps one way to get at exploring that diversity is to have historically muted voices be invited to start speaking. And those historically dominant voices to listen, even if we're not PRESENTLY dominant.

I assume there will come a time when someone "discovers" St. Augustine. and doesn't care that he was a male, or an African, or even a Christian, but does care that he wrote such a wonderful understanding of humanity that "our hearts are restless Lord until they rest in Thee." (They may not even care if he's translated into 16th Century English.) Because it is quite possible that Augustine discovered the one thing that does unite all of humanity, and indeed creation itself--a restlessness that is only satisfied in death. No matter who is talking. No matter who is listening.

May your tables be full, and your conversation be true.

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