(Picture by Ryan Kelly, printed in the City Pages.)
Boy, people who think God matters and are willing to cast aside the mindsets that are so deeply set, like the twin ruts a tractor leaves on a muddy road, sure have a big job ahead of them. But before I get into that I say welcome back to any readers… it has been a LONG time since I’ve posted here… My only excuse, and my least favorite, is being too busy. Everyday brings great stuff to me that I want to blog on… and the month passes by.
Back to the tire ruts.
The Twin Cities free distribution newspaper City Pages has a cover story in their most recent issue (March 5, 2008) called “Jesus Weekend: When teens encounter Christ, all hell breaks loose,” by Matt Snyders. It is no surprise that an edgy, urban newspaper geared towards the young professionals would be willing to be looking for a potshot or two about religion. What this article represents is the antagonism towards organized religion that most of the younger generations (can I say most people under 60?!?) That is the one tire rut.
The other is what they are reacting to. The conservative, save your soul attitude that is so prevalent in Christian circles. The article is about a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) weekend retreat.
As a new church that is trying to re-invent church to be authentic to what Jesus said and did, and to who people truly are today, I don’t want to fall into either of these well worn ruts. In fact I would hope to help people out of each. Can we represent a reason for people to climb out of their cynicism of what it means to be a community that seeks to follow Jesus? Can we help people escape easy answers, formulaic ways of being recognizably ‘Christian’ or ‘saved’ in order to live the messy and lifelong pursuit of knowing and reflecting God? I think so. But the ruts are so deep, that it is hard to let people know we aren’t in one or the other, or to keep people from insisting that if we aren’t in their rut, then we are automatically in the other one.
I don’t want to just be in between the ruts, I want to leave them behind. UnLearn them. Rise beyond them.
Let me give credit to those I’m reacting to… Matt Snyder did a good job in his article. He was willing to experience it all and didn’t take sniper shots from the safety of his office. He also was willing to acknowledge the good that came from the weekend. His last paragraph, if nothing else, concedes this. And his skepticism is well-founded.
TEC is also the means of good people intending to do good things. They are taking time, energy and money to deal with a generation of young people who, in so many ways, have lost their rudders. They do some good work and are not the only ones who aren’t perfect. Until we have replaced their efforts it is hardly fair for us to say they shouldn’t be doing what they feel is right. No one is forced to go (except perhaps someone sent by a consenting parent.)
That said, let us find ways to live out this calling where God matters with relevance and honesty.
Remember Greg – “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Good to hear from you again. Take care.
Greg, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but somehow I found this post. I read your about page, too, and had some thoughts/feelings I thought I would share. I grew up in an ELCA church, made my TEC, worked a few TECs (HIHTEC, to be specific – in NC). I knew I was queer at that point, too, and was having problems with the church, but it was TEC that kept me going. I keep thinking about your mission to keep the relevant parts of the church alive, and that can be hard, I think, when sticking to ELCA liturgy, but it can be done. Once I started college, I worked another TEC, and then never went back to my home church (except for family funerals) because I had found a community that truly welcomed me in my new town, and never again felt quite comfortable in my home church (which had also changed pastors during that time). Now, my partner and I attend Jubilee! community in Asheville, NC, and we both feel welcomed, safe, and loved there. I think that’s the relevant part of the church – that people feel welcomed, safe, and loved in their spiritual communities. I think it’s how Jesus would have wanted it – for all of us to feel protected in his arms… and Jubilee! started in the basement of a Methodist church with a Methodist minister, and has an ELCA pastor as associate pastor… (thinking here about the idea of “building”).
Anyway, enough of my rambling, I just stumbled here and am now glad I did.
Good luck with your endeavor.
Thanks, TPQ. I gotta check out your site. (and get going on mine again…) It is surprising to me how many TEC people I am running into. So far everyone has had really good things to say about it. I never had any experience with TEC.
Getting ‘church’ the way Jesus would is pretty important. God is pretty uninterested in denominations, I bet. A Lutheran perspective theologically is pretty deeply ingrained within me. I value that. But the trappings of Lutheranism are – to quote ‘the man’ himself – largely adiaphora (negotiable). We don’t use the Lutheran liturgy as it may be found in a hymnal. Rather the act of worship, which is to enter into the presence of God and to join into the community that gathers as Christ’s Body.
Thanks for your interest. Keep in touch!
Greg, Thanks for the comment on TPQ… I’m glad I came back and read your response. I understand what you mean by Lutheran theology being ingrained somewhat deeply. I haven’t been through seminary, but I can still (after 8 years of not attending a Lutheran worship service) play out the whole service in my head, recite the LBW, and name the hymns for the right church season. Sometimes this scares my wife. There’s only one hymn, though, that has ever spoken to me in a deep way, and I think it describes exactly how I feel about “church” and doing church. It’s called “borning cry”… (lyrics: http://ingeb.org/spiritua/iwasther.html). It’s still my favorite.
I hope you get back to blogging regularly. I found this at a time when I find myself seriously considering whether or not I am a “person of faith” or if I’m simply having a crisis of such.