Referring to age or style just isn’t helpful, any more than referring to a woman as “the one with the great legs” would be in a professional setting. It diminishes people. We have different identifiers for Christian authors—reformed, social-gospel, neo-orthodox, liberal, evangelical, progressive, social justice, etc. But none of them reflect Rauschenbush’s clothing or Barth’s haircut.
Our intellectual architecture is being dismantled. But it is also being reassembled. I use the architecture metaphor because I believe that what we are creating will be in place for many decades to come.
When we work with others or with ourselves, we cannot let the diagnosis define us, as humans. We need to resist the temptation to identify one another by our sickness or defects--even though the act gives us a certain power over one another. Looking beyond the label to the context forces us to think theologically about people.
“You have to grow tougher skin, Carol,” my colleague told me when I invited him to lunch and asked for his advice on a church matter. I inhaled deeply. That was the same response I heard repeatedly for the first ten years of my pastorate. Whenever I got frustrated, well-meaning friends and colleagues would tell me that I needed to miraculously grow some sort of Teflon epidermis.
As the sun rose, I drove twenty-seven miles to my office at the little church in the Cajun swamps. Even though visitors to the office were rare, I showed up on time each day. Determined on my journey, I felt that familiar wave as I crossed the bayou. I eased my car to the gravelly side of the road. I stood, stretched. Breathed deeply.
I grew up along the beaches of Florida and couldn’t get enough of that pounding on the sand. I swam against the tide and rolled with the force of the water. I loved the feeling of getting caught up in the turmoil of the waves until I didn’t know which way was up.