I read what I found to be a disturbing article in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine this week. Normally, the Harper’s Index is the first thing I turn to when my new magazine arrives in the mailbox. However, an article written by Rachel Aviv entitled Like I Was Jesus: How to bring a nine-year-old to Christ jumped off the front cover. The title used terms very familiar to anyone who has been brought up in a religion that stresses personal salvation and evangelism. It was a little disconcerting to see them in the context of a cover article in Harper’s.
Though I never resorted to use of an EvangeCube, I recognized some of the techniques being described from my college summer missions assignments. I was always somewhat uncomfortable in those types of “ministry” situations. Several questions usually arose: Where are the parents of these kids? What would they say about this? What will be the long-term result of these “conversions”? What does that type of conversion mean when made outside the context of a nurturing community of Jesus followers? Activities the religious/evangelical/revivalist culture of our churches considers almost normal practice look manipulative and predatory to those outside that culture.
Maybe more damning is this observation of the writer:
The missionaries attempted to present the Bible as clearly and simply as possible, but it was the rigidity of their lessons that ultimately disoriented the children I spoke to. As they discovered that, in fact, the Lord had not swooped down to heal their wounds and scrapes and disappointments, the new beliefs they had adopted seemed destined to break down, along with whatever was driving them to have faith in the first place.
What effect does this have on the long-term possibility of mature faith?
My last post was a “flash” post on my first day of the assembly. I was quite honestly not very excited to be there. It came across as sort of pitiful upon hearing some of the comments people said to me subsequently. It wasn’t intended as a pity party…I had a great time, hung out with some very cool people, was re-energized by some of those people, and was able to spend some good times in Houston…so don’t feel sorry for me…
However, I truly wasn’t very excited going into the Assembly. We find ourselves still in a (seemingly) never ending time of transition here in Tennessee, there seemed to be a resignation surrounding the meeting that the numbers of regestered participants would be way down (they were) and that we were all sort of in limbo…I sort of played into that feeling of dread in several conversations I had this past week.
However, I got up this morning and began to reflect on the week and the conversations I was fortunate enough to engage and I’ve changed my mind. Some of the positives:
- I met/talked with/hung out with several very cool, very gifted young women that I would love to be my pastor someday (hopefully soon). I am very encouraged! (check out this sermon from one of them…Ann Pitman-A Tale Of Two Daughters.
- I saw a much younger crowd than I have seen in years past
- I hung out most of the time with a group of college students there participating in the Houston Sessions…I miss that very much…this was very energizing…THANKS all of you!
- I was encouraged by those who attended the workshops I participated in…great questions…great potential…
- I was thankful to be a part of a large gathering of Baptists where nothing was discussed that I was embarrassed to read in the papers the next day
- my CBF google feed produced the following blog post this morning…it made me smile…it made me happy to be a part of CBF: Meant to Love
There are a lot more things I could say. For all of the above, I could find several corresponding things to bitch about…why aren’t we hiring women pastors, we were younger because we were close to Baylor and Truett, we could do better by college students, yada, yada, yada…. That makes me weary…I’m rather tired of that…even though I’ve contributed to that type of bitching in the past.
It felt good to be a Baptist this week. I’m optimistic about the future, if not about denominational systems, very much so about the church and the kingdom of God and our upcoming leaders. I hope to be a part of that movement…or at least witness it. Enough…lots of work to do today. Peace!
Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it.
I’ve been reading a lot about community development lately, specifically interested in how congregations might discover new ways to get outside our worship boxes and be more missional. My initiation into this topic was through my participation on the Together For Hope leadership team. This has let me to several books (specifically Practicing Community Development by Donald and Dorris Littrell; The Power of Asset Mapping by Luther Snow; Memories, Hopes and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change by Mark Lau Branson). I also was privileged to attend the University of Missouri Community Development Academy a couple of weeks ago.
In the course of my research and reading, two very practical questions arose (specifically from reading through Mike Green’s material):
1. What are the gifts of “hands, heads, and heart” in [your congregation]?
2. What are you willing to get off the couch and do?
Great questions for all of us as individuals and for our organizations, churches, and businesses.
Palin/Giuliani et. al. provided a fantastic illustration of how out of touch the Republican Party is with the poor and marginalized in our country. To mock the work of community organizing was was almost funny if it wasn’t so sad. You see the job of a community organizer is to bridge the gap between people who have no voice or power within the political landscape in which they find themselves. Obama’s work on the southside of Chicago was to unify the voices of those out of work and devoid of influence or representation in the halls of the political machine. What Palin and Giuliani smugly mocked and what a room full of middle to upper middle class white people laughed at last night were the efforts of a well-educated upper middle-class leader (Obama) to bring these “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (see poem below) into the process of our great country. That is nothing to be mocked. That is what brave men and women have fought and died for through out the history of our great country. The American idea is not about how we can live secure on our little “island” detached from all the worries of the world. The American idea is to be a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. At least that’s what I thought it was supposed to be. Remember the poem on the statue of liberty?
“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”