I have a need for routine. Due to a nice dollop of Attention Deficit Disorder, if I don’t follow at least a few, nothing gets done. Unfortunately my ADD is accompanied by a soupçon of Obsessive Compulsive disorder, which can make finding a balance a little challenging. While my love of routine rarely lasts all day, in the morning, I am on it. I wake up, I make coffee and I watch a little news to see the weather and gather my wits. Then, I sit down at the computer and start my morning reading. And, I’m starting to notice something: much of what I read is deeply theological, but it doesn’t do shit for my everyday life.
Right now, on the Emergent Village Facebook page, there are links to articles about the post-colonial method as opposed to the sociological method in the study of religion, another about liberal theology and its lack of a legacy and Slavoj Zizek telling a dirty joke about Jesus. There are posts about monotheism and tribalism, anthropomorphizing God and someone’s book proposal. The other progressive/emergent pages and blogs I follow aren’t much different. Nor am I any better, as the last two things I’ve written don’t have much practical application. It seems to me the conversation has left the real world to reside in an ivory tower.
I hate to say it, but there are multiple places where conservative evangelicalism kicks our progressive/emergent ass and this is one of them. Every Sunday morning, evangelical pastors stand up in pulpits and present a message that might make my skin crawl, but it’s sharp, it’s simple and it relates to their congregation’s lives. Evangelical writers do the same thing. Okay, so maybe they’re not as to-the-point as the pastors are, but they still find ways to apply their subject matter to their reader’s everyday existence. I may have found Tony Jones’ A Better Atonement interesting and thought-provoking, but it really didn’t do a lot help me be a better follower of Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, there are authors out there who do exactly what I’m talking about. Brian McLaren is a great example. While I know I took a shot at him just a second ago, Tony also does a good job with his Questions that Haunt blog series (it’s also been turned into a book). Rachel Held Evans does excellent work helping younger people navigate the tricky theological waters they face. And, while it’s not really cool to admit it, I think Rob Bell does a better job than most when it comes to this. You say his style gets on your nerves and he oversimplifies? Maybe, but Rob’s reaching a lot more people than the rest of us, so he could be onto something.
Look, I know this deep theological stuff is important; it’s the foundation for everything that comes later. But, eventually, you have to stop laying a foundation and start working on the building; otherwise, you’re just wasting time.