On Friday April 17th the Austin American-Statesman ran a front page article with my mug plastered on it that highlighted how the religious culture of Austin has changed. It is a good article and I felt it deserved as thoughtful of a response as I could produce on a Friday night. So here it is. The original article is here.
In graduate school, one of the few books I read that radically changed my life was a little book by an ethicist and a chaplain called “Resident Aliens.” Its premise was simple, but it pried open a very hopeful window for me and changed the trajectory of my faith. According to one of the authors, the world changed on a Sunday night in 1963 with the Fox theater in Greenville South Carolina opened its doors in defiance of the states traditional ”blue laws” which kept such businesses closed on a Sunday. In that moment, the reign of Christianity as the default-faith of that community had ended. The shocking part about that story for me was how this might be really good news for Christians… and indeed, in a way, it has been.
I grew up in an entirely weird era in which Christian musicians were having “crossover,” or , “secular,” hits and somehow, this felt like it was supposed to be really good news. I remember carefully tracking how Amy Grant’s “Find a Way” was doing on the adult contemporary charts and breathed an inexplicable sigh of relief when her entirely secular song “Baby Baby” finally hit #1.
Christians CAN be cool! …right?!
That was the message I heard in youth group and it was a message I had every hope of embracing… if I could only be cool. As it happens, It was also entirely exhausting to try to be cool and increasingly hard for me to reconcile with the Bible we were all supposedly reading. Be Christians and be cool. Ugh. Maybe I wasn’t good at either.
Being cool ….is hard. …Or, at least, so I have heard.
“Cool” has never been my strong suit, hence the blog intended for “misfits and lousy joiners.” I am not prone toward being cool. In high school I was effeminate, artsy, intellectual, and frankly I found myself wanting different things from life than to which the cool kids seemed to have access. As an adult… well… not much has changed. C’est la vie.
But there was something about the Bible we kept reading that haunted me. It just never struck me as probable that Jesus got crucified for being too cool.
So what am I to make of living in a city that no longer sees itself as religious or even spiritual even if it still kinda is? …Nothing.
As I understand it Christians really should be used to not feeling 100% at home. The longing for a different world is part of what it means to be a people of faith, a people of hope and it ultimately drives us to everything we must do to clearly be a people of Love. Whether the world is more like me or entirely different, the call to love remains the same. And when I harken to that call to love the world is an astonishingly beautiful place regardless of who else is in it, even if they end up killing us like Jesus.
I am misfit and a lousy joiner…because I am also a homesick soul…. I don’t mean I am longing for an afterlife as much as I am longing for God’s kingdom to come, to be made real in the here and now. Y’know, that whole bit about the lion lying down with the lamb, when racism is unthinkable, when hunger and starvation are a vague memory. I long for the day when peace is a thing to which we default rather than war, the idea of debts are ridiculous, fidelity is hot, and forgiveness is just a happy habit of ours. Till that day, I am perfectly happy being different — a misfit — a little strange to the environment and an obvious minority, an alien.
I am certainly not afraid of the hope that gives me any more than I am afraid of my neighbor who sees the world differently than I do.