About to have a brain meltdown...
- Dear Fellow Postmodernist Christian Thinkers,
I am currently about halfway through A New Kind of Christian and have
realized that if I don't find someone to process this book with soon, I will
have a mental breakdown. I imagine (and hope) that this is not an entirely
foreign sensation to some of you. For me, it stems from finally reading and
having presented to me in a fairly succinct and cohesive way, a lot of things
I have been wrestling with and mulling on for a long time. I am a recent
graduate of Smith College in Northampton, MA, which is a women's college and
a renowned haven for homosexual and extreme liberal thinking. I am a
heterosexual Christian from an evangelical background, but socially I tend to
be fairly liberal in terms of social justice, the responsibility of
Christians to their community, etc. Although I was in the vast minority at
Smith (a sometimes highly persecuted minority at that) I grew tremendously
from the challenge of learning how to deal with lifestyles I totally disagree
with and how to be a believer in the context of it not being the social norm
as it is in much of this country. Smith is also a very challenging
institution academically (ranks generally as the best women's college in the
world) and so I had a wonderful opportunity to study Christianity from the
academic perspective- socially, historically, and even theologically to an
extent. It was an enormously enlightening experience.
Now I am graduated and living in Northampton, which embraces Smith in
terms of its "alternative lifestyles" and is very similar in this way. I
love being here because things are not stagnant- because there is no sitting
on the fence. You either are really a Christian, putting your neck on the
line for Jesus, or you aren't. There's no time for putzing around about
silly theological stuff that, when the pressure's on, completely doesn't
matter. I have tried to grow (and will readily admit this is an ongoing
process) into someone who can live in the real world, getting into the
trenches with people and being very real with them in such a way that they
see Jesus as a viable option for their life and not just the figurehead of
some "old, dead, white man's religion" as I have come to think of it. This
latter description is the way I have discovered many of the people where I
live, especially women and double especially lesbian women, look at
Christianity which is like a quadruple strike against it. They dislike it
because it's old, they dislike it because it's dead (let's face it, a lot of
people in the church these days are pretty stagnant), they dislike it because
it's white (multiculturalism is all the rage these days), and they dislike it
because it's generally patriarchal and many of these women HATE men. Even
those that don't hate men hate institutions that are run by men.
In trying to be a light in this community for my faith, I have struggled
with a lot of questions throughout my life that have been compounded by
living in this setting for almost five years. (I came from a very rural town
in western New York. Going from there to Northampton... can you say culture
shock! Fortunately, I never fit into Oakfield either because my parents were
wonderfully unorthodox thinkers and prepared me well, so it wasn't too bad.)
How do you share Christ in a way that is relevant to a fairly young, totally
postmodernist society? How do you get past the generally held preconceived
notion of Christians being a bunch of judgmental bigots? How do you deal
with the totally legitimate question of what to do with other faiths and how
to live with those people of other faiths without being holier-than-thou or
judgmental, but still maintaining integrity? How do you interpret the Bible,
including all its hard parts? And on a personal level, what do I make of
this whole Christian thing? What has being part of the traditional church
culture for all these years done to my perception of Christianity? What's
God really all about? How do I answer the questions of my boyfriend, who is
not a believer but is searching for answers and is posing some questions that
stump me? Obviously, this book is hitting my buttons.
Okay, I'm done rambling. I think my point to all of this is to see if
there is anyone out there who would want to be my Neo... maybe not have all
the answers, but at least be willing to have a wonderful Socratic dialogue
with me about my questions. I'm obsessive compulsive emailer, so that would
be a fine way to go. Please!!!! I need help.
In Christ's Love,
- Dear Beth;
There is a great theologian called Stanley Grenz who writes about
postmodernity as well as homosexuality and women. I'm just starting to work
through his works.
> How do you share Christ in a way that is relevant to a fairly young,totally
> postmodernist society?I guess it'll have to be the message that Philip the evangelist was sharing
in Acts 8:12 which is the Kingdom of God. It'll have to be a message of
love and power and not just of words. We've been working on that message
for a while at our church and have headed in a two prong direction. One,
talk about the Trinity and how all encompassing our lives are in the
Trinity. Two, the economy, culture and government of the kingdom of God.
Of course I hope you know I'm just using all those terms as a short hand way
to pass information. We don't use those terms when speaking to a seeker.
We're still in the process of trying to work out a new "sinners" prayer
signifying conversion or when a person leaves their old life and enter the
Kingdom of God. Mostly the prayers we come up with are too complicated (in
>How do you get past the generally held preconceivedWell, we acknowledge our past (from Crusades, Luther, Southern Baptist and
> notion of Christians being a bunch of judgmental bigots?
onwards) and apologize. We also talk about the various reconciliation that
we've been involved personally with our native people and with Israel. We
then tell about other groups apologizing for past errors. And then we try
to demonstrate that we (perhaps the only flesh-and-blood Christian they
know) are not judgmental or bigoted.
>How do you dealhow
> with the totally legitimate question of what to do with other faiths and
> to live with those people of other faiths without being holier-than-thouor
> judgmental, but still maintaining integrity?McLaren says it's nobody's business who goes to heaven and who doesn't make
it. I just present my faith as real and life changing. In a postmodern
society that is totally cool because truth is relative and experience is as
valid as rational argument. McLaren also likens evangelism to inviting
people to dance with us so if anyone became interested in my faith
(hopefully because they see love, grace, truth and power in it), then it'll
be like they accepted the invitation to dance.
>How do you interpret the Bible,You join 2,000 years worth of debates and conversations and agree that some
> including all its hard parts?
things are plain weird and are best left alone or poked at with ten foot
poles every couple of years or so. They are not central to the faith.
Modern thinking says that given time and persistence we can understand
everything and knowledge is king because knowledge is power. We master our
universe by totally breaking it down into mathematical formulae.
Postmoderns are way more accepting of mystery and quirkiness. They are also
more willing to say that culture and history shade truth. That is truth is
not objective but exists in our minds and we're cultural, historical and
social creatures. Ergo no problemo with ancient strangeness.
> And on a personal level, what do I make ofModern thinking says we study something from an objective viewpoint. I say
> this whole Christian thing? What has being part of the traditional church
> culture for all these years done to my perception of Christianity? What's
> God really all about?
lets be post modern and understand by developing a relationship with the
object we're trying to understand. In this case, it's the person of God.
Try to approach God via different church traditions (liturgical,
evangelical, charismatic) and different approaches (prayer, worship,
reading, meditation, contemplation etc)
Neo is my hero but I'm no Neo although I hope to be someday when I'm ninety
or so. My greatest luck is that I belong to a post modern church whose
pastor is a total McLaren fan and who has sweated blood in trying to get his
church to think postmodern.
- Dear Caroline, Beth and all those out there:I read A New Kind of Christian about 3 months ago and I ate every word of it up. I relished every moment of it. It was the first book I've read with a Christian theme that I couldn't put down. In fact I was sold on everything.Since I've had time to reflect on the book I have come to some conclusions.1) I hate the word Post-Modern. It has become the new answer. How do you connect to young people? Hey let's get post modern. It's leaped up from humble beginnings and is now it's on the cover of Worship Magazine (why do we even have a worship magazine?) It's frustrating. In fact, we now have great new label "PoMo" and we have compartmentalized and put post-modernism in its "right" place.2) "Post-modern" thought seems to simply things. Or maybe it doesn't but is seams to. You can only make reference to this imaginary line that hovers over the societal spectrum so many times. How do you fight for justice if you just keep point to this imaginary hovering line. How do you make a stand on anything if we all say, "truth is subjective and relative."3) The idea that any stream of thought can provide answers also frustrates me. When we search for answers we really don't want any human being to tell us the answers. It would be a disappointment if a question you have been mulling around in your heard for years was suddenly answered in a simply conversation. If the process of finding these answers that makes life worth living. It's the relationships along the way, and self-realizations or spiritual realization or even Godly realization that make you go yeah! I get. If I really think about it, I'm actually searching for questions rather than answers.These words are a true reflection of where I am at right now. Who knows what I will be thinking about post-modern thought 10 days from now.Just adding to the conversation,(and trying to grow in Christ)LesLes Klassen
Centre for Education and Work
p: (204) 786-9495
I just want to comment on the male/female issue in Scripture, since many of
the people you are talking to have a reaction of the patriarchal parts of
the Bible. I have recently read Good News for Women, by Rebecca Merrill
Groothuis. It's the best book I have come across that explains the
egalitarian view (versus the hierarchical view) and it helps explain some of
the more difficult passages in Scripture that are hard to understand
concerning this topic.
Please understand that this book is written for evangelicals, so I wouldn't
be one to just pass it on to your friends there. Rather, it may help you to
help them process this issue. Also here is a web site that might help.
In fact, some of Groothuis' articles are on this web site, but the book is
- Dear Beth,
Great post! I empathize with your reaching out to a community that is not an "easy sell"--too often these people are treated with contempt instead of reached out to with Christian love.
This summer there was a great discussion of "A New Kind of Christian" at email@example.com. You can still join this group. You can look at the posts to see where others are/were at. I would suggest posting the post you wrote to this group. Although most of us are no longer actively participating, there are always newcomers with whom you might start up a conversation.
May the love of Christ always encourage and empower you!
PS: I grew up in western NY as well (Spencerport, near Rochester) and went to grad school at Columbia, so I understand what you mean by culture shock.
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