After years of wrestling, I settled in a predominately white church. My logic was this: if every white person concerned about racial justice leaves white churches, then there will be few women or men there to help. This Sunday, I worried that Ferguson or other police shootings of African Americans would once again go unmentioned in the sermon or a prayer.
Born Again Again
Carol Howard Merritt on reclaiming faith
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My mind ventured off to the Contemporary Christian Music concerts I attended with my youth group. CCM was taking off, and evangelical teens had a mass of buying power. In my home, my mom would pay for any CCM that I wanted. So I listened to the music and even attended Disney’s Night of Joy. It was a magical evening in the kingdom. As Michael W. Smith sang in front of the Cinderella’s Castle, girls in the audience would raise their hands and scream, “WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!”
I often hear the term “cafeteria Christian.” It is a description of our current religious milieu. People pick and choose what’s important to them in their faith. It’s usually said with disdain—and a bit of eye-rolling. Theologians, who construct systems of belief, want to think about theology as a whole. They are afraid that a generation is going to come along and jettison a couple thousand years of careful thought in lieu of what feels good to them.
Many times we are working with church structures of a different time. I have seen churches with 50 people attending on Sunday morning, and they maintain 12 committees. There may have been a lot of retirees in the church, so we have committees who meet in the day. Or there might have been a lot of people without children, so everyone meets at night—on a different night, to ensure that the pastor is at every meeting.
I had been a pastor long enough to know that outside work was done with stealth. I could serve at the soup kitchen, teach art at the women’s shelter, protest against violence, or hone my writing craft, but I when I did it, I acted like a lover with a jealous husband. I snuck around at odd hours and guiltily confessed to members when they asked me where I had been.
My travels have allowed me to look at new church movements from the view of a seminary, practitioners, and denominational leadership.