Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Kind or New Way?

Followed up "Blue Like Jazz" with "A New Kind of Christian" - started yesterday, finished about a half hour ago. Like "Blue" couldn't really put it down once I finally started. Not sure I "agree" with everything, especially about how 'necessary' it is to figure out a post-modern model - couldn't we just work on being 'mere' Christians w/o developing a model? However, that POV, which I had *before* reading the book, makes sense to me philosophically - but my emotions and intuition seem to be charging in the other direction, much to my surprise. So much of what is said about this new (ancient?) way of being Christian is so *exciting* to me. I found myself frustrated that I finished so late in the evening that I couldn't call anyone, bounce ideas off them. Checked email after attempting some quiet and prayer - your email gives me excuse to sound off about about new Christians, sorry.

I find myself excited in a frustrating way, really - because I want to *do* something, right now. But I don't know what. Talk to someone? To God? But really I want to do something incarnational, missional, relational...real...I want to be re-ligamented, re-membered - right now!

It's funny, most of the critiques of modernity didn't bother me at all. In fact, most of what I felt reading was a sense of recognition, at times a sense almost of, "yes, of course, but get *on* with it - what do we do?" I haven't had language for it, much of the time, but much of this for me goes back to my first couple years of college, when my friend Micah and I talked about the church, its problems, its inauthenticity, its failure to read *all* of Scripture, its tendency to pick out one thing and elevate it above the rest (whether a liberal POV or a consevative one) with Jesus so often walking a middle way between. (Or maybe, as Mclaren says, a _different_ way above.)

Back in college, though we sometimes daydreamed about starting a church from scratch, my overall reaction was a sort of cynical despair. I remember Micah and I deciding that we probably only knew of about ten real Christians alive - including Mother Theresa and others we didn't know personally - and not including us. (At least we had that much self-awareness.) My despairing conclusions were put off, though - that is, I didn't fall into despair - because I loved loved loved college. And BSU was the center of that, the most vibrant and active and communal, er, community of faith I'd ever encountered. I loved it, and it kept me in God's presence and in love with people.

And then, in seminary...I really lost it. Me.

Reading Neo's 'dream seminary' really helps put so much of my seminary experience in perspective. I *hated* seminary. I met great people, yes, and learned things I've been grateful for and used in chaplaincy. I gained a much greater sense of, and love for, the whole of the church, not just the American, southern, Baptist expression of it.

But mostly I hated it. There are a lot of reasons for it, of course, and it's all mixed up with pain and my own sin and smallness of being and failure of integrity. But some of it...some of it, is that I think I was mostly post-modern, at a very modern institution. So much of what we were told to do seemed...irrelevant? Not wrong, exactly...just beside the point. So little of what we discussed had anything to do with people hurting. There was no acknowledgement of Christ's desire to redeem the whole of creation, including the creation itself, nature. Talk of other religions centered around apolgetics - usually with a poor understanding of the religion they were arguing with.

Preaching...I didn't want to be a preacher anyway, had never wanted to, couldn't see that it had anything to do with my calling...now I wonder, was that because I couldn't preach 'that way'? The way that every preacher I'd ever heard had preached, more or less, the way of modernity - of analysis and word studies and pithy sayings and things that didn't seem real or honest? 

Neo's seminary, one built on a triangle of community (which we didn't have), seminars (we had one-sided lectures - I've told you about classmates asking me to stop asking questions in class), and 'missions' - that would've been exciting. I didn't know the terms or what I needed - but I knew I'd expected something different, and I wasn't getting it, and what I was getting seemed irrelevant, and I began to feel so incompetent, so unequipped, became so lost and angry...

These days, I'm alternately filled with joy and fright. I didn't *learn* what I needed in seminary, and I feel so unequipped for what I feel led to do. Yet, I'm led to do it. And God teaches people by throwing them into the deep end...

No comments: