The Challenges on the Horizon  

Posted by The Metzes in , , ,

One of my elders brought the following blog to my attention yesterday: www.graceconversation.com. It's a pretty interesting idea - four guys write the posts - two from the Conservative wing of Churches of Christ (Greg Tidwell - hey, he's a Columbus guy . . . at a church here in town . . . that I've never even met in nearly six years of ministering here . . . only about twenty minutes away from here . . . (there's about 10 Churhes of Christ of any size here in Columus) and Phil Sanders, who used to preach at the Concord Rd. Church of Christ in Brentwood, TN where my wife went before we were married and where we were married) and two guys from the Progressive wing of Churches of Christ (Jay Guin, an elder for the University Church in Tuscaloosa, AL (a church we stayed at on the way to New Orleans a few summers ago) and Todd Deaver (the only guy I can't play two degrees of separation with - but I bet I could get him in three!!)- all four falling within the spectrum we could probably look upon as "mainstream congregations" (read: no extremists).

So, anyhow, I ventured over there and the site has gotten quite a flury of action in the few months in been up and running (putting our conversation here to shame! :-) The idea behind the site seems noble - bring folks - who share a similar heritage - from differing ideological backgrounds together to have civil dialogue on important matters in regards to the Churches of Christ. So I spent a few minutes perusing the comments today over lunch. I'm curious if other contributors to our Post-Restoration site have been there, but I wanted to make a few reflections based on what I read there.

I applaud their efforts at bringing a converstaion that is often riddled with inflammatory and slanderous language to the point of being counterproductive to a format that promotes mutual edification and respect. Now, I feel totally ridiculous having to point that out since we are all Christians, you'd think it'd be a given . . . but I think we know our flesh better than that!

And while applaud their efforts and hope that they are blessed, I cannot help but read the conversation as an outsider. To me, the dialogue seems riddled in modernly constructed arguments and logic, and frankly, I have difficulty following them - or even caring to. I may just be using all this post-modern stuff as a way to wash my hands clean of some really important stuff, I don't know, but I'm not certainly not trying to take some high and mighty ground here. It may very well be that I have become numb to much of these kinds of discussions - something I would count as another of my many personal flaws. But, I can't help but wonder it if it is something more.

I believe the "Progressive" response to the often-oppressive and legalistic tradition that many in Churches of Christ grew up with 20 and 30 years ago was a purely (for the most part) modern response. And that response, rooted in a thoroughly modern epistemological thought-structure has sown for many of us in the next generation of leadership, some major problems. The dialogue that ensues between these groups seems to be pretty linear (from what I can see in the responses I read on this blog). Point - counter-point kind of stuff. I find myself, however, coming from a totally different thought-structure that doesn't catch much in these circles.

From my perspective, conversation at-large has greatly changed for those outside the church and for those connected at an arm's length, but we, in our churches, continue to muddle through so many archaic and unrelated minuteia. I still believe it is important. I still believe it is necessary. I just don't think that it is as central as we have made it. Making it central has made it divisive, something that has become our identity more than even Christ, himself. It's almost like we feel we need to get our in-house stuff figured out before we can allow our conversations to venture outside into the "real world." Unfortunately, I think we would be much better served by taking these conversations to the streets and allowing those outside the church to help form our understandings, instead of the inbred group think we seem to be better equipped to promote in our current structures.

I, personally, am interested in the relationship the Christian faith as to other faiths of the world. I believe there is salvation found in those other faiths . . . just not sure how, or why, or to what extent. I'm interested in the redeeming qualities portrayed in the arts and how we can better incorporate them into our identity as a redeemed people. I have a great interest in ecology and its connection to faith and theology . . . an area of theology that has been dormant for so long in the halls of academia. I have an interest in being part of a community that is diverse and hetergeneous so that I can learn from people who are different than I am.

And yet, I find in my own tradition (both macro & micro) a people who are consumed with making a homogenous, uniform reality built on stoic mantra and stodgy, esoteric -ologies. Certainly, I think the aforementioned blog is a positive move toward dialogue, but I find the coversation morose and overly internal. I find a people who would rather ramble on ad naseum (myself included!!) about God, instead of meeting Him in the realities of the world around us - this is a message to me!

I suppose, as a means to promote discussion, I'm asking you reading, is this a personal character flaw. Am I being some kind of academic snob claiming "no one gets me"? Certainly, that is not my intention. Looking ahead at things in Churches of Christ, where is postmodernity taking us? A pressing question that lingers since my days with Dr. Hicks is, How does a tradition "born and bred" in a thoroughly modern intellectual construct survive the desconstruction of that base without losing its identity altogether?

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at Thursday, April 30, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

Great post. As you began describing the blog you wrote about, I found myself feeling the same way that you do and you articulated it well in the rest of your post. I used part of this quote on my blog yesterday from a Brian McLaren e-mail.

“Many of you will remember the two lists I talked about on the tour - the list of intramural religious debates in the Christian subculture hanging on one wall, and the list of global crises hanging on the other. A year after the EMC tour, it's clearer to me than ever that many if not most Christians in the US remain focused on the "religious arguments" list.
He went on to call this The crisis of purpose - a dysfunctional spirituality system that fails to provide a framing story capable of healing the previous crises. (note: by previous crises he means other global crises he listed earlier in the e-mail
In one Q & A session after another since our tour, I've watched the conversation be pulled away from Jesus' gospel of the reigning of God in relation to life-and-death global crises, and turned toward controversies and inquisitions about doctrinal opinions and "theological correctness." Some nights, I didn't even realize what had happened until I went back to my hotel room and just wanted to cry. But in the light of a new day, all this leaves me highly motivated, highly energized, and highly determined to help Christians who have open minds and hearts to question their inherited framing story and explore a radically different understanding of Jesus and his message.”

In regards to your last question, I have to admit, in hopes that I don’t sound too harsh or pedestrian, I find myself caring less and less about preserving any particular identity. Thanks for writing that…

April 30, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I have read much of the writing over at grace conversation. I wouldn't make this comment there, because I doubt it would be heard. Being heard is part of the problem over there, I believe. Experience and what I am reading is a debate, not a conversation. Each side either hoping to trap their opponent or instead of listening they are forming a response.

But, I believe that even if they are listening to each other, it is a mostly fruitless exercise. It is as you pointed out, thoughly modern, and I think a huge adventure in missing the point.
There is a huge pressure for conformity in churches of Christ. That is deep in the DNA due to the modern roots. And again all this effort to get uniformity instead of unity.

The question seems to (even by the title) to be about grace. It is either grace + nothing or it isn't grace. That seems simple to me but it did come simply.

Anyway, I don't know how the CofC will survive it's modern roots. It has seemed to me that it can't escape. That there is too deep a desire to be "right" in everything, as I see it our hope is in one that saves us because we can't get it right and he did. But I too have to accept those who se so stuck on being right.

April 30, 2009 at 3:30 PM

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