I stood in the damp grass, on a warm afternoon, eating a veggie dog at the foreclosure-free picnic, with members of Mercy Junction. My husband started a worshiping community in Chattanooga, and they determined that housing issues would be a central part of their ministry. So they gathered, in solidarity with a man who was facing foreclosure after losing his job.
Arthur Remillard sees the best of football’s warrior culture as a man training his body into subjection for the protection of the weak and the advancement of all righteous causes. And maybe it’s because I know so little about football, but I don’t see it. How does throwing a ball around a field protect the weak? How does sucking all the money from educational institutions advance righteous causes? How does making a touchdown make a man more righteous?
I’ve been interested in the idea of “taboos” for a long time—those intricate rules that overarch our society and ideas of the sacred. They can be tools to keep people from harming others or themselves. They can be used as social conditioning, arbitrarily enforcing certain behaviors as a means of control.
When I began in ministry, men took the time to advise and counsel me. There were few women, and the ones who were there were far away from the rural swamp where I served. They were in more urban areas, miles from the lectionary group where we sipped chicory coffee. It took me years to sort out that I needed to consider the source. I was dealing with different issues than the pastors surrounding me.
We live in the land of all-you-can eat buffets. We entertain ourselves, so we never have to feel loneliness. Our celebrity culture brands ordinary people, so that we can keep consuming one another, never allowing space for loathesome humanity. We keep ourselves productive so we don’t have to mourn. If we fill our lives full with stuff, food, distraction and entertainment, we'll never even have to think about the emptiness.
We know what stories do. The words bind us into a larger narrative. They give us an emotional and historical connection. They allow us to transfer important values. But they also allow us to build an intergenerational self.
Many of our institutional theologians wonder why they ought to be on Facebook. Many look at social media as a trivia game that they’d rather not play, while the basic architecture of human existence is being rearranged through our avatars.
I am tired of pretending that we want to hang out at the country club and eat cucumber sandwiches in fancy hats. We are not some sort of upper-crust elite society. Now, it's time to discard that tired label that ties us too closely with a particular race and class. It's time to call forth another name.
The religious landscape in Chattanooga is interesting. It may be a magnified version of what’s happening in a lot of places. There are many culturally hip churches that are utterly regressive when it comes to women.
It happens all the time: I’m reading a beautiful piece of theology, and while the thinker is waxing on elegantly about God and man, he barrels in on the subject of women or Jewish people, and suddenly I’m hit by a barrage of nastiness.
What will we do in the next ten years, if we have choked out all of the available pastors in this clergy bottleneck and the shortage comes upon us? Even if we simply plan for 70 percent of our positions to go away as 70 percent of our pastors retire, we will still need the 30 percent who are left.
I was reading Morgan Guyton’s blog post asking if Christians can transcend celebrity culture. I resonated with that weird feeling of being not-quite-famous. I’m usually at a conference center, where people are looking at my colored leader’s nametag, trying to figure out who I am, while looking over my shoulder, to see if there’s someone more important behind me. Sometimes people figure out who I am and say, “Tribal Church! You’re Tribal Church.” Then 5 seconds later, “You’re so much shorter in real life.”
And I wonder how I could be shorter than a one-inch avatar.