Before I begin any real study today, I think I need some time to just reflect and write. Maybe I’m wasting my time, but I feel like I need to make a download.
The moral compass inside of me has gone haywire. I feel some days like I am going to wind up being pulled in a direction I don’t want to go, and more importantly, God doesn’t want me to go, if I am not careful.
Here’s the thing. I don’t have a particular frame of reference for it, but I have to wonder if seminaries were as distinctly polarized as they seem to be today. The same goes for the country. This isn’t quite the question, but it is kind of getting at it. I am reaching a point where I don’t know if I will ever find a place for me in this world.
The conservatives in this country have mostly turned their backs upon the least of these, and their form of Christianity seems to be by and large either the bland, safe prosperity gospel of the Joel Osteens of the world, the professional wrestling style events of the Benny Hinns, or the equally bland services filled with contemporary, praise band style worship. In other words, the conservative Christians have all moved in the direction my mom had moved almost forty years ago.
The liberal Christians–and I mean Christians who embrace liberal politics–all seem to be hyper-obsessed with not offending anyone who isn’t a white male. One of the first required reading theology books I’m assigned is a feminist theology book, and as I’m checking it out at the library while waiting for my shipment of books to arrive, the tattooed library assistant lets me know that this is an especially good read. It’s not that I have a problem with it so much as that I have a problem with having it out front and center before any of us have read Augustine, Calvin, Barth, etc. I get why the teacher is doing it–she is trying to counter the experience past liberal seminary students would have had where feminist theology is taught in the second or third year alongside liberation theologies and world religions and other alternatives to the main, accepted canon.
The problem I have with it is that it will create the same sort of problem socialism created for Russia–students working in this shallow pool where they ignore the bigger one of history and the rest of the world will come to think that the rest of the Christian world is ready for and highly approving of this sort of thing. The ones who bother to go into ministries serving more traditional populations, or even minorities and refugees who still hold pretty conservative, patriarchal views, will be in for a shock and woefully unequipped to handle so many opposing views of what the church is and should be.
I experienced some of this while an undergrad almost twenty years ago. We would have many female professors who were happy to conduct a broad survey class in English or American literature that completely ignored some of the standard writers you might expect to see in that class in favor of a deep focus on a few of the more obscure female ones.
I can’t really talk about this with anyone, because I will inevitably encounter so much resistance from my wife or fellow seminarians who think I am promoting a perpetuation of the old guard, or I might run into a few conservatives who are of a mind that liberation and feminist theologies be done away with altogether.
I can’t even articulate very well right now how badly I need some grounding in tradition, which others may not need. I’ve done the Pentecostal thing, the Buddhist thing, the Agnostic thing–I’ve been to the radical places where the status quo is challenged in favor of a more intensely Christian experience as well as a completely non-Christian experience of God that is equally valid. I probably don’t need to be challenged the way some of these students who are lifelong Presbyterians do–the ones who are just out of their Religious Studies classes or whatever from their undergrad years.
I very much need and crave tradition. Not the kind of hackneyed hearkening back to it that the so-called conservatives of America are trying to do. I have no desire to see black people, women, gays, etc. put in their place. They should hold as many positions of power as they are able to. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Luddite, either.
I guess what I don’t believe in is saying something like, “Well, this didn’t work, so let’s try something new for new’s sake,” without really looking at what of that thing didn’t work, and what actually did. I don’t like using new technology just because everyone else is doing it, but I don’t feel any need to abandon it altogether, either.
I am of the strong opinion that the utopia a lot of these folks who are in my church think they are working toward is not going to be the same thing as the Kingdom of Heaven, the reign of Christ here on earth. Many of them, when they are at their best, say things like, “It’s really just about us all loving and respecting each other.” This is a good thing, but it can turn into a bad thing when liberals try to become as big on the morality policing front as the Victorians were–with simply different values and norms that they want to impose upon everyone else. The backlash against this is felt in the populist movements that support Donald Trump–and to dismiss these people’s concerns as all being racist and fearing the death of a white America is to sell yourself completely short. The backlash will broaden itself once more and more people get sick of having their individualism stripped away in favor of some label they get branded with after taking a personality test.
In short, I really don’t want the Western world to end up looking like Waco OR Austin OR something in between. None of these options seems to ultimately make me happy. Maybe I should just focus on myself, and realize that what I like is completely different from the rest of the world, and it could very well be that there just isn’t a perfect community for me here on this earth. If there was, then I probably would forget about Heaven and Christ, and simply create a religion that serves my ability to remain within that perfect community.