Stuck in the middle with you
My friend, Larry Kamphausen, posted an interesting essay on his blog recently. You can read it here. He's struggling publicly with what it means to be stuck, caught between two (or more) ecclesial realities. He says:
have felt stuck for quite sometime, truly seeking to bridge and mend
the divide isn't really what most American Christians are really
interested in. We are interested in our journeys, which makes sense.
but I have to ask to what are we all journeying? Not that The Society
is some grand thing to copy, the results of our conversations is
perhaps under scrutiny ambiguous at best. Several of us became and have
remained atheist or agnostic. I don't think any of us returned either
to the Mainline churches or evangelicalism. Some of us remained where
we were, other's returned to the ethnic and orthodox churches of their
families. Christianity in some general sense failed us, yet that it
seems is what we are still seeking a generalized Christianity that can
wear one of the coats of American dualism in a way we are comfortable
with. I think I have given up on Christianity, what I am looking for is
the Church, the mystical and real and tangible body of Christ. My
fellow disciples of Jesus wandering about in this barren landscape we
call America I invite you on that search, and have to admit that if
that is not what you are looking for we probably wont walk long
He summarizes my own struggle well enough.
And, of course, when I wrote to him about it, I reminded him of
Bonhoeffer and his own "religionless Christianity." Bonhoeffer was
struggling against the formalism of his own state church in 1930's
Germany...and the decade following surely had it's impact on Bonhoeffer's ecclesiology. If you have not read Life Together
you might want to give it a shot. It's a short book. It won't take a
lot of time, but if you are like me, it will stay with you. The short
of it is that Bonhoeffer thinks of Christian community as something to
be treasured because it is so very rare. I wonder if part of our
trouble these days in the US is that we forget this singular truth of
true Christian community. It is rare.
We are caught up in our poles. Liberal. Conservative. Free Church.
Catholic. Which immigrant group does your tradition claim as it's
origin? German? Irish? Some kind of English? We have so many identities
attached to Christian identity that we can get confused or bogged down
in how to be Church while also trying to be...Irish or liberal or
middle class or...whatever. Our call is to be Christ...to be the body,
to serve God. No more. No less. The rest is often a distraction.
I too spent time reflecting on the meeting of these great Tweets. A
tweet-up is a fabulous thing. I'm glad we did it. I learned a lot. I
want to get together again. But it also served to underscore just how
stuck we all are (myself included) in the language of the American
Christian landscape. The surprise that my brand of Baptist is mainline
and other kinds of Baptists may not be, or that I was raised as a
humanist (of sorts), the faith expressed in a Benedictine oblate who
attends worship at Willow Creek, the struggle of the Pentecostal
pacifist (I think?) who seeks a neo-monastic community...We're all
combinations of these historical narratives now. We don't abide in just
one very often any longer.
Larry's struggle is one with which I can resonate.