Monday, July 16, 2012

Just do it...

Not long ago I read a blog by Rachel Evans - a creative and faithful young blogger who hails from the conservative/evangelical side of the Christian faith who also holds a number of progressive insights about life, faith and politics - that was essentially a lament.  She deepens that lament today in her posting called:  Liberal/Conservative Christianity and the Caught-in-Between. (check it out here @  Like many of us in a previous generation, she, too is worn-out by the culture wars.  She puts it like this:

I feel totally caught in between. For one thing, I don’t "fit" in the conservative evangelical church:
I believe in evolution.
I vote for democrats.
I doubt.
I enjoy interfaith dialog and cooperation.
I like smells, bells, liturgy, and ritual—particularly when it comes to the Eucharist.
I’m passionate about gender equality in marriage and church leadership.
I’m tired of the culture wars.
I want to become a better advocate for social justice.
I want my LGBT friends to feel welcome and accepted in their own churches.
I’m convinced that the Gospel is about more than “getting saved” from hell.

But I don’t "fit" in the progressive, Mainline church either:
I love a good Bible study.
I think doctrine and theology are important enough to teach and debate.
I think it’s vital that we talk about, and address, sin.
I believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
I want to participate in interfaith dialog and cooperation while still maintaining a strong Christian identity.
I want to engage in passionate worship, passionate justice, and passionate biblical study and application, passionate community.
I’m totally down with a bit of spontaneous, group “popcorn” prayer, complete with hand-holding and references to the Holy Spirit “moving in this place.”
I’m convinced that the Gospel is about more than being a good person.

Me, too, Rachel, me too - and for 30 years I've been trying to find a way the neither endorses "taking sides" nor romanticizes "remaining caught in-between." There really is another way and it seems that some young evangelicals are starting to discover it. A huge portion, however, have simply given up on the church and call themselves "spiritual but not religious." That's one way, to be sure, but it seems a little too self-centered for those baptized into the body of Christ. 

In her searching, Ms. Evans is proposing a way of "building bridges" between the liberal and conservative camps.  My prayers go out to her because I have come to think the polarization is too deep to build bridges.

Rather I have come to believe that the real alternative after our lamenting is to just DO it: just live passionately into real discipleship and Bible study as well as radical hospitality and bold acts of compassion and justice in the spirit of Jesus.  The Community of Iona in Scotland puts it well:

The Community’s approach to spirituality does not distinguish between the sacred and the secular. Prayer and politics, work and worship are all of a piece. This holistic spirituality of engagement – rooted in prayer and scripture – stands in contrast to some of the more ethereal, nostalgic and self-indulgent approaches on offer these days.

Just DO it - sure there will be failures - but as I have found in over 30 years of ministry there are also a variety of creative, open, wounded, beautiful and hope-filled people at the fringes of every community who are looking for a place that just DOES the Jesus life. They may not even be able to express it, but they know it when they feel it.  This means a whole lot more orthopraxis than just orthodoxy, yes?  It takes a ton of tenacity and trust as well as a leadership team willing to take risks - and it doesn't always bear fruit.  But with patience and prayer, it can... To paraphrase Mark Twain's quip (when asked, "Do you believe in infant baptism?" he replied:  Believe in it?  Man, I've SEEN it.") BELIEVE in a radical and inclusive life of faith?  Man, I've SEEN it...   

I like the intellectual, moral and evangelical passion Rachel Evans brings to the table - she is an important voice for our time - and I support her quest. I hope some leaders in both camps listen and hear her as a compassionate prophet.  And at the same time I need to say that I have found the way of Iona in Scotland helps me move beyond lament into a spirituality that just DOES it. What do you think?


Black Pete said...

Amen and amen. I'll look her up, for sure!

RJ said...

Man have I been thinking about you of late - some books to discuss - and more. I will send you a detailed email later this week... in the mean time, enjoy Rachel's writitngs.


Black Pete said...

Thanks,James, and we need to talk more about September, right?

RJ said...

I will check in on Thursday, ok my man?

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