Welcome to the online book club! As we get underway, a couple ground rules:
- This conversation is only for those who have registered to be in this group. If you want to be in the discussion, you must register in the contact form on my last post
- Registration will remain open during the first week of the club in case the discussion piques some new interest
- The discussions this summer will wrestle with the dynamic process of holding on to what one would consider the core of their faith and shifting on things one would not consider core. Each person will have different views on what is core and how the core is expressed and what isn’t and how one’s faith can thrive in 2013. Please respect each other’s comments, even when disagreeing. I get to moderate the discussion and, while I don’t expect it to be anything but thoughtful, nor do I expect things to be controversial, I will not let the discussion become uncivil.
- To post a comment, always use the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the post. Don’t click on the orange “Reply” hyperlink immediately after someone else’s comment. By using the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the page, it will ensure that the comments descend in the order in which they were received
REFLECTIONS ON THE INTRODUCTION AND CHAPTER 1
In her introduction, Diana Butler Bass talks about her growth, struggles and ongoing quest to experience Christianity in a congregation that pursues deep spirituality and community transformation and how that led her out of and then, ultimately, back to a congregation that identifies in the mainline tradition. While she always appreciated her childhood church’s stability and rootedness in Christian and American heritage, what led her out of her mainline congregation as a teen was its lack of spirituality and its close ties to the political and societal moderate mainstream during the time of huge cultural upheaval that was the 60’s and 70’s. She no longer felt that she could swallow, unchallenged, the morality of her God-and-Country civic religion. She felt like her home church no longer spoke to her spiritual yearnings and convictions. So she became what she terms a “spiritual nomad.” Leaving mainline and going to conservative, fundamentalist congregations, then journeying into charismatic churches and then back to a mainline church. What led her back was finding a congregation that taught and practiced a rich and deep spirituality and was actively working to change culture in its community rather than merely reflecting the cultural and political mainstream. Her congregation had found a way to hold onto the “faith of her fathers” while practicing it in a way that engaged the soul and the larger world.
In chapter 1, Butler-Bass talks about how the neighborhood of her youth, and consequently, the church of her youth all but vanished. A stable, working-class, white neighborhood dotted with mom-and-pop stores in Baltimore in the 40’s and 50’s became a racially, theologically and sexually diverse neighborhood taken over by strip malls and urban blight. The grid of her neighborhood still exists for the most part, but, practically, the experience of her neighborhood is gone. And the church that used to be the center of life and spirituality in that neighborhood is barely keeping its doors open. Butler-Bass sees her personal neighborhood shift as symbolic of what American communities and mainline churches across the country have experienced over the last 50 years. She sees the changes in America leading many, many Americans into the life of the spiritual nomad, seeking out a spiritual path that leads to places beyond the safe normalcy of the childhood church.
It may be surprising that I find this introduction and first chapter to speak so relevantly to what I believe is the experience of North American Seventh-day Adventism. After all, Adventism comes from the fundamentalist tradition that often spoke out against perceived flaws in those mainline denominations. Adventism built its identity on being a community that separated itself from mainstream culture and reached out to the community in order to save them from the culture. Quite opposite of the mainliners.
So why do I feel like it speaks so well to Adventism, and, I think, even specifically to the Adventist experience of my adopted hometown of Glendale, CA? Well, I won’t give all my answers yet. Let me hear from you. And we’ll get into the conversation. So, a couple questions:
- Would you identify yourself as a spiritual nomad? Why or why not?
- While Adventism’s numbers are still growing in North America thanks to immigration, why do you think Adventism is in decline among multi-generational Americans just like the mainline churches? If denominations that were “in bed” with the culture are in decline, wouldn’t it stand to reason that counter-cultural denominations would thrive?
- For those of us who grew up in or joined an Adventist congregation at some point in our lives, it helped us make sense of the world in which we lived. There were clear lines of what was right and wrong and a clear understanding of the future of our country and world. Do you still feel that same sense of “Adventist clarity”? Does the faith of your youth still seem to speak relevantly and prophetically to the culture in which you live?
These are starter questions. Let the conversation ensue and ebb and flow!