Friday, February 09, 2007

Life in Leper-land Rant

This will be a quick post. You all know how much I have talked and written about how liberals, and my UU tribe I know the best, treat all things evangelicals as if leprosy were afoot, so to speak. We always have that tendency. But I have to say I think we do a better job of it than the other way around, in general, and these days anyway. I sense an eagerness among UUs to learn from evangelicals. We get a lot out of the Purpose-Driven Church book by Rick Warren, for example, and that might be as far as some of us can go, but it's something.

When I correspond with some Christians in the "emergent church" world, or go to meetings (those where we UUs including UU Christians are actually allowed in) I can have a great conversation and sharing about the books we are all reading the same, or about the church plant I am engaged with, but then we will get around to talking about our denominations and difficulties, or our tribes, and there is this stunned, attacked, deer in the headlights look when I say I am UU. Adding my ministry is with the Christian Fellowship doesn't seem to lessen the shock; if anything it might be seen as adding to it. I feel sort of like Jesus might have when he was spinning out that parable of the leaven to those hearing it for the first time.

There is very little follow-up. Maybe at best a "that must be a difficult job" comment. Those who have been standing up there preaching about the old modern church has to embrace the postmodern lepers of society, the non-Christians, the de-churched, the new-Agers, as well as the creative crazies, don't know what to do when faced, within their midst and at their table, with someone approaching that very thing, or at least someone who has regular close encounters with those folks. You'd think they might want to learn something from us, even if it is about all the mistaken paths we might have taken.

I know there are many reasons, and probably justifiable ones for this reaction from their perspective (I doubt there are any from Christ's perspective, but then I labeled this a rant anyway); these folks already get attacked from the right, and to be seen eating at the table with the ultra-liberal theologically doesn't help them with their base, so to speak. We've been down this road in church history before; within our own UU history of course in those days when we were working out covenants with other congregationalists and then later with transcendentalists and their ilk, and on and on; I also think about Luther's decision not to "go there" in revisiting the doctrine of the Trinity as part of Reformation as some close to him urged him to do, in large part because of what it might have implied for too much change and that would have been too threatening to the Princes backing him.

Enough rant. There are real lepers out there, (I think of Jim Mulholland's unpublished book on "living with lepers", i.e. his ministry among child molesters, and how they are so considered lepers that he is having a hard time finding a publisher for the book even though he has co-authored a couple of good selling books on universal salvation.). I can't complain. But I do. Missed opportunities mostly. I will try to do my best to keep pushing the point when it happens again, as it will.

4 comments:

LaReinaCobre said...

Interesting!

Steve said...

You're reminding me of a very recent experience in what is billed as an inter-faith spiritual gathering in Tulsa in which the liberal minister of the liberal host church welcomed the ostensibly liberal crowd with a rant about the fundamentalists of Tulsa and the opportunity to claim Tulsa as a ground where all are welcome....all in a spirit of "us vs them." I don't believe we can reclaim Christianity or humanity by such an approach. Our only hope lies in finding the truth we share.

I would be uncomfortable in the settings you describe, Ron, for the same reasons. The strength I would seek in those situations, i think, might be to bring a mindfulness or presence that sought connection with the others. I'm sure you do that. Perhaps this is part of your witness in the world.

Ron said...

I understand the drive to associate with those who will "be on the same page". It is one of the reasons why I feel more comfortable in those settings than I do in UU settings or with liberal Christians, because so many of the latter don't get pomo, emergent, organic, church planting, and you have to keep going back to square one. It is one of the reasons why ministers in large congregations need to be in relationship with ministers of other large congregations more than they do with ministers of other sizes, or at least with ministers who operate out of the same DNA though they may be doing it at different levels of community.

But what seems to never cross their minds, the conservative evangelicals I mean, is that my committment to Christ and the church could be as deep as theirs, while I am there with them because I believe their discpleship has taught them something I can learn from them.

But having ranted thus, I think things are changing in this regard, and I think a lot of it depends on where in the country you are, whether you are in a more churched area like I am or in a less churched culture. In less churched cultures, it seems Christians know you need to find companions for the journey where you can.

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