Tag Archives: emerging church

A New Kind of Christianity #7 – The Sex Question

[This is the seventh part of a multiple-post review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, which I introduced here. In the book, McLaren sets out the ten questions that he believes are reshaping Christianity in the West.]

Question 7 is this: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?

This is the most frustrating chapter I've encountered so far. It is frustrating, not because I disagree with what McLaren has to say, but because he doesn't really address the most critical question that is involved in a dialog on this issue. What he does have to say, however, is sensible enough, and its worth reading.

In summarizing the chapter on this issue, I'm going to take McLaren's discussion slightly out of order because it makes more sense to me when it is restructured.

At the heart of the "sex" question is our sex-obsessed culture. We live in large cities, normally in great anonymity, and we have access to a wealth of birth control and medications that make the consequences of casual sex less imposing than they have ever been. Our economic system constantly brings us into contact with members of the opposite sex, and discourages marriage during the teen years and early adulthood, a time in our developmental cycles when we are highly sexually active. None of these situations are like anything that was faced by the cultures in scripture.

And that isn't all. With the mass media (particularly, the internet), pornography has become ubiquitous and advertisers have become alarmingly effective at exploiting our sexual instincts to sell their products: sexual idealism (in the way we look and in our lifestyle) is sold to us at every turn. On the other hand, extreme poverty leaves millions of people with literally nothing to do each day, other than have casual sexual contact with each other.

Set up against this doubtlessly over-sexualized culture is a very stringent code of sexual conduct that has been a part of most Christian traditions for a long time. The most rigid enforcers of this code are certain sects of Christians who promote a form of sexuality that McLaren calls fundasexuality. This is not quiet, respectful disagreement with different lifestyles, but a loud, militant, hate-filled, fear-full approach that seeks to humiliate and shame all sexual conduct that is undertaken outside of heterosexual marriage.

But are fundasexuals principally correct, though horrifically misguided in the way they approach those who think and act differently? Do those who disagree in a respectful, loving way have a valid point? It is here that I lose the ability make out what McLaren has to say on the subject. He suggests it is possible that, like the heliocentric view of the Universe that was overturned in the middle ages, our view of sexuality is now being re-examined. He also re-assesses the first six questions that he has addressed in light of the issue of sexuality, discussing – among other things – the need to avoid a constitutional reading of scripture, and goes into an extended, and intriguing, exegesis of the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunich, emphasizing that the "sexually different" found a place in the early Church.

Fair enough. Our churches should be open to the sexually different. Jesus ate with, defended, and welcomed prostitutes among his disciples. But I don't think that his analysis gets us to a very important question that lies at the heart of our uncertainty and confusion on the issue: Is heterosexual marriage the only proper location for the expression of our sexuality? In other words, if someone is promiscuous or gay, should those conditions be lovingly viewed as characteristics that we would expect might fade away as such people make the journey deeper into discipleship, or should they be considered a part of their permanent, God-given identity? I think that these questions need to be tackled head-on.

In any event, I appreciate the way McLaren deals with the issue of sexuality as a whole, treating homosexuality as a part of the larger picture, because a whole array of other sexual issues are brewing under the surface. Homosexuals, who statistically are usually around 10% of a population, are easy targets for criticism – large enough to seem imposing, but small enough that they can't defend themselves very well. And when everyone is dealing with their own array of sexually confusing issues (adultery, pre-marital sex, divorce, pornography use, sexual abuse of children, etc.), it can be awfully nice to have a scapegoat to keep the rage (and sense of guilt) drawn away from yourself.

McLaren concludes by pointing out that gays and lesbians may have a lot to teach the rest of us about the way we deal with our own, sometimes bizarre sometimes exhilarating sexuality. By being open about who they are, they are encouraging all of us to become more open about our own sexuality, and – perhaps – this will lead to an opportunity for healing, transformation, and liberation from guilt among all of us.

At the end of this Chapter, I feel like I am left with better questions about sexuality, but – in spite of McLaren's efforts – without much of a handle on how to approach the answers.

A New Kind of Christianity #6 – The Church Question

[This is the sixth part of a multiple-post review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, which I introduced here. In the book, McLaren sets out the ten questions that he believes are reshaping Christianity in the West.]

The first five questions in A New Kind of Christianity are sweeping and conceptual in nature. They deal with issues such as the essence of the Biblical narrative, its relationship to the Bible and the gospel message, and the nature of God. The last five, on the other hand, explore the implications of Questions 1 to 5 on a more localized, practical level.

In Question 6, McLaren asks: What is to be done about the Church?

I think it is appropriate that the discussion of the Church and the nature of its message – the Gospel – finds itself in the very center of the book's analysis. In a very real sense, they are the two things that are at stake in the explosive changes that are happening as we round the corner into a postmodern, post-colonial world. The "theory" that flows into an understanding of Gospel and Church will, I think, naturally continue to flow through the other issues that confront churches in Questions 7-10 – questions about sexuality, our vision of the future, and the way we treat people of other religions.

McLaren wastes no time reciting some sobering, but familiar realities: churches are shrinking. Rapidly. Disillusioned and bored with anything that the Church has to offer, people are leaving en masse, and many are not coming back.

Interestingly, he does not follow up on this observation with the now almost obligatory explanation of why he thinks churches are shrinking, and how he thinks Churches can start growing in numbers again. Instead, he opts to dig a little deeper into the question of the purposes that are served by the Church.

Our churches are remarkably diverse, holding to a wide range of different beliefs and having an even wider variety of practices. At first, he argues, one might think of this as a division to be remedied. However, what if we looked at it differently? What if, instead, we found this diversity to be something worth celebrating?

Catholics, he remarks, often find themselves being "saved" from ritualism in Pentecostal traditions Baptists are often "saved" from historical amnesia, by becoming Catholic. Political churches "save" people from personalized religiosity, and "personal" ones save people from overly politicized religiosity. Each church seems to do certain things well, and others not so well. Perhaps the Church as a whole is more agile – more responsive to the Holy Spirit – when it exists in many forms. If we can free ourselves from arguments about which traditions and practices are best, he argues, we can focus on how together we can act as servants of a single, grander mission.

What is the mission? Based on the ideas developed earlier in the book, the answer is simple: to make people Christlike embodiments of the good news of God's kingdom – people who communicate and share harmony and peace, and who are consciously seeking the implementation of a benevolent society. After an extensive exegesis of the book of First Corinthians, McLaren concludes that churches should be schools of love similar to what Paul envisioned for the Corinthian church.

But here is the catch: we really must sacrifice, or at least subordinate, everything else to this mission. If we are not obsessed with how to implement this idea – if its just another thing on a long list of other things we think we need to accomplish – we won't likely get the job done.

McLaren's answer as to what will draw people back is – interestingly – buried in the middle of a paragraph toward the end of the chapter: Why should people got to the trouble of being part of a church if it does a thousand other things well, but falters in this one primary calling? I think there is some intentionality in this. How to get people back is not the point. The point is to find ways to form those who are still present into the image of Jesus, no matter how many there are.

The issue is framed perfectly near the conclusion of the chapter:

The one grand calling, I suggest, tells us what the church most truly is: it is a space in which the Spirit works to form Christlike people, and it is the space in which human beings, formed in Christlike love, cooperate with the Spirit and with one another to express that love in word and deed, art and action.

The conversation that McLaren opens in this chapter is this – how can my local church, functioning within the particular traditions of its denomination, help to accomplish this mission? The beauty of the way this conversation has been framed is that you don't have to do everything well. Are you not particularly good at – say – using the treasure-trove of Church history to help in the process of spiritual formation? No problem. Others are doing that. Be in conversation with them, and borrow from them where you can – but in the end do the kinds of things that your church, your tradition does well.

It really is a remarkable vision.

A New Kind of Christianity #4 – The Jesus Question

[This is the fourth part of a multiple-post review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, which I introduced here. In the book, McLaren sets out the ten questions that he believes are reshaping Christianity in the West.]

Who is Jesus? Why is he important? Is Jesus the victim of identity theft?

These are the issues that are at stake in Question #4 – the Jesus question.

Consider this. If you look around long enough, you can find just about any kind of "Jesus" to suit your fancy:

  • A Jesus who will help you to accumulate wealth and live your "best life now"
  • A Jesus who is pro-Israel, and favors an aggressive military policy in the Middle East
  • A Jesus who hates Jews, because they crucified him
  • A Jesus about whom we can be sentimental in the midst of organ music and stained glass
  • A Jesus who is a master psychotherapist, ready to address every mental and emotional illness known to the self-help industry
  • A Jesus who hates homosexuals or feminists or whoever else you don't particularly like yourself
  • A Jesus who supports American culture, the American way of life, and American wars
  • Etc., etc.

To show just how ridiculous things have become, McLaren quotes from my favorite scene in Taladaga Nights (this probably goes without saying for ANYTHING involving Will Farrell, but…NSFW and NSFK):

How has the situation deteriorated such that Jesus has become little more than an expression of what we want him to be? And how can we see clearly through the Bible to a Jesus that is more authentic?

To explore this issue, McLaren utilizes a statement that Mark Driscoll recently made in Relevant Magazine (though he appears to intentionally avoid identifying Driscoll):

Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.

Here, Jesus is presented as one who is worthy of worship because he is a tough guy who is ready to kick butt. But this bada** Jesus hardly fits anything that we know about the Jesus of history, or even of Revelation. Rather, he is the model of what one might expect from a "Greco-Roman" worldview – one which favors Imperial dominance as a means of advancing power. 

This image of Jesus as conqueror, McLaren argues, is presented in a form of literature that is designed to encourage people to think about where the current course of events will carry history. It is not prognostication as much as it is imagination. In several important respects, such literature resembles our modern genre of science fiction (coincidentally, I recently explored an almost identical issue in  this post). Thus, the sword that comes from Jesus' mouth in this text tells us that Jesus' words are more powerful than the seeming might of Rome, the world Empire that was dominant when Revelation was written.

I agree. But I also think McLaren overlooks another obvious problem in this way of looking at Jesus. Why does Revelation say that Jesus is "worthy" of worship? Chapter 5 shows that it is because he submitted to violence, not because he was violent himself ("Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" shouts heaven, when Jesus is revealed not as an expected lion, but as a sacrificial lamb). It is also notable that, in the Gospel narratives, Jesus was, in fact "beat up" by some First Century tough guys. I suppose that Driscoll would not have respected that Jesus either, because he could have joined right in with the Roman soldiers who tortured him.

McLaren then goes on, in Chapter 13 to outline his argument for the path to a more authentic Jesus. In short, this path relies on seeing Jesus through the three-dimensional eyes of the Old Testament, rather than trying to force him into a six-line Greco-Roman narrative. Viewed in this light, we can see that Jesus came to "launch a new Genesis, to lead a new Exodus," and, in light of prophets like Isaiah, "to announce, embody, and inaugurate a new kingdom as the Prince of Peace." Look at Jesus in this way, he argues, and we will discover an authentic Jesus that is far more attractive and "unbelievably believable" than a Jesus that is shrunk and trimmed to fit our preferred worldviews.

I couldn't agree more with McLaren's approach to the Jesus Question. You find the "real" Jesus by looking at him in light of – and as a culmination of – the history of the Old Testament.  The two chapters on this subject hit the nail on the head, even if they are a little polemic.

A New Kind of Christianity #3 – The God Question

[This is the third part of a multiple-post review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, which I introduced here. In the book, McLaren sets out the ten questions that he believes are reshaping Christianity in the West.]

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a Christian who was genuinely distressed by his recent exposure to several Old Testament stories. Up until that point, his understanding of scripture had mostly come from teachings about the New Testament. Though he never read the Bible himself, those who had been teaching him about scripture had told him that he would understand God as a loving parent who sent his son as an example of how to live in peace. When he decided to start reading the Bible for himself, a natural starting point, I suppose, was the beginning. So, starting in Genesis and moving forward, he began to work his way through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and…

Joshua.

In Joshua, he encountered the story of the purging of Canaan. Here, the story goes, God told his people to mercilessly slaughter the people who occupied the promised land. Men, women, children. No one was to be left alive.

This was not an intellectual puzzle to my friend. He was being torn apart on the inside, because he felt like these stories betrayed his idea of God – an idea that he loved. How could God, who sent Jesus to teach peace and love for enemies, command people to do something like that?

I don't think he is alone.

The third question that McLaren introduces in A New Kind of Christianity is the same one that my friend presented to me – is God violent?

To address this question, McLaren begins by introducing the idea of evolution – the possibility that our images and understandings of God have continually changed, evolved, and matured over the centuries. Furthermore, God, he suggests is the one that initiates this evolution.

Scripture itself seems to indicate that something of this nature is happening. Moses, for example, is the first person to receive a particular form of God's name. Hosea later prophecies that a time is coming where God's people will think of God as their husband, rather than their master. Even Jesus suggests a move from master/servant to friendship in his relationship with his disciples.

So, does this mean that the people of Israel were flat-out wrong when they discerned that God wanted them to commit genocide? Not necessarily. What is God to do, for example, to make himself known in a tribal world that is steeped in paganism and violence? Is it possible that the best/only starting point is to pick out one of those tribes and help them (and those around him) to see that he is present by giving them the sort of military victories that would make them credible? This answer is not entirely satisfying to me, but it is much better than the alternatives.

McLaren encourages us to think of a second grader who reads in her textbook that you can never subtract a larger number from a smaller number. Is this true? Well, yes, if you are speaking only of natural numbers. However, later, in sixth grade, the same person learns that you can, in fact, subtract larger numbers from smaller numbers. Is this also true? Yes, if we are willing to take into account a more complex system of mathematics. The "truth" that can be taught to the student depends on her level of sophistication. Furthermore, you often have to learn the more simple truth – one that is limited in scope – before you can move on to the more complex one.

God may be, he says, gradually revealing himself to humanity in much the same way. And, he cautions, we should be careful to think that we have now "arrived." Surely, our own present understandings of God are also limited. The journey continues.

Yet we do have a distinct advantage that the tribal societies of the Old Testament did not have: Jesus. Quoting Elton Trueblood, he points out that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ doesn't mean that Jesus is like God. Rather, much more radically, it means that God is like Jesus. Jesus is, in other words, the revelation of God that ought to take precedence over, and shatter, all other claims to revelation.

We can thus picture the history of the revelation of God like this:

Think of the letters as different points in the process of revelation. These points do not line up completely. There are points where great advances are made, but there are also points of setbacks. Still, there is a more general trajectory that moves in an upward direction. At the end of the diagram is the sun – meant to symbolize Jesus. He is the ideal toward which we must constantly orient ourselves in order to keep our bearings.

When we think of the way God is revealed to us – not just in the question of whether God is violent, but in other ways as well – McLaren suggests we should center our focus on Jesus, not on scripture. After all, it is Jesus, not the Bible that scripture itself characterizes as the "Word of God." The Word didn't "become scripture and get published among us." Rather, it became flesh and dwelt among us.

McLaren concludes with this thought:

The character of God, seen in Jesus, is not violent and tribal. The living God is not the kind of deity who decrees ethnic cleansing, genocide, racism, slavery, sexism, homophobia, war, religious supremacy, or eternal conscious torment. Instead, the character of the living God is like the character of Jesus. Don't simply look at the Bible, I am suggesting look through the Bible to look at Jesus, and you will see the character of God shining radiant and full….When you see him you are getting the best view afforded to humans of the character of God.

(emphasis mine). As I have mentioned in connection with at least one prior post, this is not a completely new idea. Various theories of progressive revelation have been around for some time. However, as usual, McLaren has found a way to distill and express those ideas in a form that can be digested and opened for discussion among a wider audience.

A New Kind of Christianity #2 – The Authority Question

[This is the second part of a multiple-post review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, which I introduced here. In the book, McLaren sets out the ten questions that he believes are reshaping Christianity in the West.]

The second question addressed by McLaren is the question of how the Bible should be understood.

To begin his analysis, McLaren outlines three problems that arise out of our approach to understanding the Bible: (1) it has repeatedly placed Christians on the wrong side of scientific discoveries, from Galileo to Darwin, (2) it hasn't yielded reliable solutions to important, emerging ethical issues, and (3) it has allowed us to use the Bible as a club to dominate and wound others.

The prime example that is offered for these problems is that of slavery. Over the course of several pages, McLaren demonstrates how the Bible was used not only to justify slavery in the South, but to advance it (Leviticus 25, some said, actually requires those who follow God to own slaves). Of course, such an interpretation is unthinkable to 99% of all Christians today (though I think I'd get a chuckle out of seeing a "Slave Owner's Bible" alongside all of the other specialty Bibles on a Lifeway shelf). But if we're still reading the Bible the same way, he argues, who is to say that it isn't being used today to justify something that will be discredited 100 years from now?

So there is the basic question – can we find a way of reading and understanding the Bible that won't result in abusive, self-justifying interpretations?

Chapter 8 continues the thought by assessing what has gone wrong with our way of looking at the Bible. Specifically, McLaren says that we've come to read and use the Bible as a legal constitution. In other words, we are approaching it like lawyers, looking for precedents in the way it is interpreted, distinguishing the spirit of the law from the letter of the law, and attempting to discover its original intent. This type of approach immediately presents some difficult problems. Do we love our enemies as Matthew suggests? Or dash their infants against the rocks, as a Psalm suggests? Or perhaps we should destroy them utterly in the best traditions of Deuteronomy?

Tensions and seeming contradictions abound in the Biblical text, so what ends up happening, he argues, is that we have to find some interpretive technique to resolve all of the problems. A lot of frameworks have been proposed, but none of them seem to work. Worse yet, the process of interpreting the text ends up empowering scholars and leaders, who hold a sort-of trump card over everyone else because they are supposedly more experienced and educated in the interpretive processes.

At the heart of the problem, of course, is the fact the Bible writers never thought they were writing a legal constitution that people would pour over for thousands of years. The situation reminds me of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, where – decades after the title characters become rock stars – a cult forms around them, transforming their chill, Southern California attitude into a religion. Many of the Bible writers, I think, would be surprised at how seriously we go about parsing every word that they wrote.

So – if not a legal constitution, then what? A better metaphor, McLaren argues, is a community library. Like a culture, which is defined by what issues it is willing to argue over, the Bible presents us with a set of issues about the nature of God and the manner in which we relate to God. It represents an ongoing conversation in which we are invited to participate. As such, it shouldn't be viewed as the final authority, but as a living dialog. It is the conversation itself into which God's breath of inspiration brings life.

The primary illustration of this point is the book of Job. In Job – almost an ancient-day opera – we have several different characters presenting different visions of God. Over the broken shell of a man that is Job, they bandy about their beliefs about why suffering exists, and what God has to do with it. In the end, even God himself appears as a character and speaks. There is no complete resolution to the issue at the end, only a breathtaking meditation on the power and mystery of God.

What is the book of Job doing? Its not really telling us a lot about God. But it is pointing us toward an important conversation – something that is worth further investigation and consideration.

McLaren concludes by indicating he doesn't want us to be under the authority of the text (as conservative Christians would advocate) nor over the text (as liberal deconstructors might think of themselves), but in the text. In the conversation.

A few comments:

First, I think McLaren does a good job, again, of putting his finger on the question: something has gone terribly wrong in the way we approach/think about scripture. What can be done about it?

However, I'm struggling with his attempt to characterize the approach as a legal constitution. A constitution is, essentially, a document that authorizes a state to act on behalf of the people, and that proscribes limitations and rules for how the state can operate. Perhaps this is what he has in mind – thinking of denominations or churches as being the equivalent of the "state" in such a metaphor. However, I think the phrase legal code, or even legal authority  is an even better way to express his idea (this would allow narrative elements of scripture to function as an analog to case law and precedent).

Or, possibly, I need to remove my occupational lenses and go with the flow.

At any rate, I also have reservations about the legal metaphor as a whole. I am not sure that a large number of Christians think of the Bible as God's "law." In fact, I think that, if you ask even the most conservative of Christians if the Bible is God's "law," they would say "no." To the contrary, they would say that it contains a message about how we are (or can) no longer be subject to God's "law" by finding forgiveness and justification. It is, to them, about escape from and avoidance of the consequences of law – but not law itself.

For that reason, though I am in agreement with his basic criticisms, "legal constitution" (or code or precedent) doesn't work for me as a metaphor for describing the current approach to scripture. It is a system that involves methodologies of interpretation that are similar to what lawyers do, no doubt. But it is also similar to things that are done in the study of ancient literature, rhetoric, anthropology, even history. All of those systems, including the legal system, are the product of modernity, and they  presume that objective truth can be found through strict, rational inquiry. What we need is a metaphor to describe that entire gestalt, and I will freely admit I don't have a better one right now.

In the end, however, McLaren makes a very good move when he talks about the need to think of scripture as a a library that contains an ongoing conversation. I don't think he resolves all of the conundrums that are involved in the issue, but he is certainly moving in a positive direction that resonates with me.

I wrote about this whole issue extensively on my former blog, about a year ago. In that series, I concluded that the key to encountering God in scripture is to plug into (and participate in) a larger conversation – a sort-of hive mind. At the heart of the conversation is Jesus himself, interpreted by the New Testament writers and in the context of the Old Testament. But others are also part of the conversation – church Fathers, friends, pastors, parents, spouses, commentators, translators. Keep the conversation open, even though it can get messy and confusing at times, and you are likely to experience something deeper and truer than you will by simply tuning into a narrow bandwidth of voices

McLaren develops that idea much better than I did, but I sense that he appreciates the challenge that follows his argument. Getting out of a strictly rational, reductionistic mentality when we read the Bible is very, very difficult, and I expect it will take decades for the current approach – whether you call it "constitutional" or something entirely different – to be overcome.

Elisa Padilla on the Gospel in American Culture

Image[1] In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was reading The Justice Project, a collection of essays on the subject of justice, published through Emergent Village. In the last chapter of the book, Elisa Padilla, one of the its editors, makes a plea for churches in the emerging culture to be about more than alternative forms of worship (t-shirts instead of suits, guitars instead of organs, etc.). She is worried that emerging communities may just use different wrapping with the same content.

She puts it this way:

…if your gospel is only about yourself, your spirit, your converts, and your words, and in practice your highest loyalty is to your flag (which means you do not mistrust your authorities nor question the news you are fed), you can easily live in peace, accumulate wealth, and call it a blessing from God. In your naiveté and passivity you can support racism, land expropriation, inequality, abuses of power, wars for oil, nuclear build-up, economic exploitation, contamination, and all kinds of injustice, and still remain a good Christian, because your too-small gospel has nothing to say to the issues of your times.

Padilla challenges emerging faith communities to detach the gospel from these kinds of consumer-oriented systems of belief, systems that are offered by many Evangelical church leaders. And while she limits her remarks to communities that are consciously inserting themselves within the emerging culture, I think she has also laid out an important challenge for twenty-first century American churches in general – come to grips with how the gospel has been distorted by Americanized ideals about individualism and economic freedom and start preaching it for what it really is.

Its a very good ending to a very interesting and challenging book. I hope the book makes its way into the libraries of a lot of Christian leaders, both within and outside of the emergent conversation.

An Evangelical Developmental Cycle?

nickandjosh300x300[1]I recently had a chance to listen to this interview of Sara Wheat on the Nick and Josh Podcast. Sara is a self-published author, whose first book is Untameable Heart: Confessions of an Emergent Christ Follower.

What caught my attention about the interview was Sara’s telling of her life story. When she was young, she said, she was one of the “good kids.” She went to Church, tried to avoid certain key sins, and did other Christian-like things. Many of her classmates were a lot wilder, more prone to partying and living the wild life. Then, when she became an adult, something odd happened – she started to question her long-held beliefs and seek out a more meaningful form of spirituality – one that involved more openness and grace, and less legalism. In the meantime, her “wild” friends, she later discovered, had settled down and become  conservative evangelicals, holding beliefs very similar to what she had held in her youth.

She related how odd it was to run into her old classmates, years later. They expected to have more in common with her, but were surprised to find that she had discovered a different way of thinking about Christianity.

Among the people that I’ve known (even those as old as me – I’m 45), Sara’s experience is familiar. An embrace of conservative evangelicalism during youth tends to burn out during early adulthood. The result is either a “softer” spirituality – one that is more open and grace-oriented – or a complete rejection of organized Christianity. On the other hand, I’ve also observed a pattern similar to some of Sara’s high school friends – a wild, rebellious youth that eventually moves into the relative security of a fairly stringent set of “rules” – in others.

All of this has got me wondering if there are certain natural, evangelical life-cycles that have been at play among those who are now in their 20s, 30s, even 40s, and whether anyone has made any effort to study it.

Christian Smith’s Souls in Transition – a book I haven’t read yet – seems to be addressing some of these issues. However, I’m curious about whether anyone else knows of any work that’s been done in this area.

Sara’s book, by the way, sounds great. I hope to read it soon.

Welcome!

…to former readers of Running With the Lion, as well as the (very few) listeners of the Synchronicity Podcast, the ill-fated project that I’ve been producing for the last few months. You can expect the posts here to run along a similar vein as the faith-related posts at Running, only with more emphasis on the unique perspective that I can bring to the table from the vantage point of a practicing litigator. My hope is also to re-enter the emergent conversation, as I speak from that perspective.

Those who are interested in continuing to keep up with my geek-ish interests, as well as my irrational devotion to an NFL team that went on a 13-year run without any playoff victories, will be best served by monitoring my usual random and semi-coherent musings on Facebook.