Pew. Barna. Lifeway Research. These are just a few of the places we rely on for surveys related to life and faith in the United States. Once the findings of those respective surveys are made public many begin to attach meaning to the results.
For instance, for some years now we have been told young people are growing disinterested in religion. Yet, one of the most recent surveys conducted revealed a great deal of curiosity among young people when it concerns religion. The nuance in the findings is that these same young people tend to eschew simple answers to complex issues. In others words, “No pablum please.”
The problem comes in the “digest.” You know, the “cut to the chase” meaning of these surveys. We pastor types often feel as though we do not have time to sift and analyze. We look to “religion observers.” Martin E. Marty offers regular reflections on religion via “Sightings” and is one such religion observer. Al Mohler, President of The Southern Seminary, is another religion observer. Often referred to as a “culture-warrior,” Mohler regularly reflects on matters of life and faith on his website.
A new feature here at The Edge of the Inside will offer observations on religion in the form of re-posts by The Ex-Reverend. Why The Ex-Reverend? The designation is mine not his even if the title accurately reflects something about my new contributor. I thought of this addition thinking about a required college course in my B.A. – Comparative Civilization. Up until the year I took the course the “compared to” civilization was Asian – Japanese. The late Dr. Ruteledge offered another “compared to” civilization – Native Americans. Being from Oklahoma, it made sense to understand the Native American culture.
The idea behind this new feature with The Ex-Reverend is to invite comparative observations. Martin E. Marty could well represent a “mainline” religion observer. Al Mohler represents an Evangelical, Southern Baptist, Reformed religion observer. What would it look like to feature a writer who now describes himself as an “ex-?” How would we be enabled to hear critiques offered by someone who hailed from a very conservative denomination who holds a M.A. in Theology and regularly writes freelance pieces on religion who once pastored? I offer these re-posts in hopes we pastor types, as well as anyone reading and interested in religion in a similar context, may consider the analysis helpful. You may disagree. You may disagree strongly. But, it is my hope you will be helped to think critically, a trait we pastor types are too often considered to have checked at the door of our Christian schools of higher learning.
Why “re-posts?” Some people would find the occasioned expletives in the originals too much cause to ignore the heart of the observations. Many of the same find ways to dismiss elements of PG, PG-13, even R-rated movies as acceptable because of the very good message. But, read a piece offering a critical evaluation of religion and quickly the focus becomes something other than the import of the article. With permission from The Ex-Reverend, I will edit the posts “only” for the expletives.
You should know The Ex-Reverend is my friend. He has been a friend for about ten years. During our time as friends, we have talked about church, theology, the Lectionary, Scriptures, and the intersection of life and faith. Along the way hand-holds to help face often ignored complexities failed. Some of you will want to convert The Ex-Reverend. Others will wish him silenced. Still others will revel in thoughts of his perdition. But, he is my friend. And, his observations along the way have helped refine my own understanding of life and faith in the Way of Jesus. Maybe those offered here will do the same for you.