Thursday, March 1, 2012

Radical Christians and Out There Older People

At my creativity blog, I wrote a post about what we consider to be "out there" as we get older.  I talked some about plastic surgery and said:

"Yes, my stodgy Lutheran self would like us all to be comfortable in our physical bodies just the way that they are, the way that God made them. When I figure out how to do that, I'll let you know.

My stodgy Lutheran self is amused to remember that for many people of my generation, the idea that God made our bodies as already perfect would be an "out there" concept."

I also have been thinking about the fact that I'm a Christian is often considered the most radical thing about me these days.  My stodgy Lutheran self doesn't really see my Christianity as the radical kind.  I'm not giving away all of my possessions.  I'm still working in the higher education industrial complex, and not the morally safe community college kind but the for-profit kind.

My 19 year old self would probably tell my 46 year old self to go out there and do something really radical.  She would scoff at the idea that taking dinner to homeless people is a radical idea.

Still, I have colleagues who can't imagine giving up their evenings to feed the poor.  My 19 year old self would say, "You only do that once or twice a month, for pity's sake!"  She would like me to feed the poor on a daily basis.  My 46 year old self would like that too.

I find myself in the odd position of having to explain Cardinal Bernadin's idea of a seamless garment of life to people who don't understand how anyone can be anti-choice these days.  I find it odd because my 19 year old self would have told you that there was no point in arguing over a clump of cells--abort them if you wanted because it's your body.  My 46 year old self has the advantage of technology, and modern ultrasound technology makes her queasy about beginning of life issues.

I find myself in the odd position of being the person who can explain all sorts of Christianities to baffled non-believers.  Need to know the difference between an Evangelical and a Pentecostal?  I can do that.  Need to know why some of us are called Protestants?  I'm your girl.  Want to understand why some Christians see Mormonism as a cult?  I can do that too.  I'm an ecumenical gal.

But what's strangest to me is how radical my choice to spend time as part of a church community seems to almost everyone I know.  If it was 1958, it wouldn't be at all radical to go to church on Sundays and to work through a church on social justice projects.  But 2012 is not 1958.

I'm looking forward to reading Diana Butler Bass' new book which I think will explore some of these issues.  Today she'll be on the NPR show On Point, which I'll catch online later.  I expect that she will tell me that the future of the church does not lie in the institution.  I'm cool with that.  I think that our buildings keep us tethered to spiritual practices which take us away from a life with God.  I'm not sure what to do about that.

This blog post, written by one of the founders of the D.C. Sojourners community, explores what it means to be a success and what it means to be an institutional success: 

"An institution’s job is to encase the renewal insight in a preserving shell that can carry the renewal seed to a future generation — and not to die to their organizational identity, . . . .
If we are lucky, we outgrow the organizations that we ourselves give birth to and become 'joyfully disillusioned' with the very institutions that we help to create. And if we are wise, some of us will grow by staying within the very organizations that we ourselves have outgrown.

The tension of this seeming contradiction is the transformational stew of new possibilities, both for the individual who stays and for the organization. We should not expect the institution to be more that it can be."

Here are some Thomas Merton quotes, from that same blog post:

"Be anything you want. Be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form. But at all costs avoid one thing: success."

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects ... is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism ... kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Food for thought.