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December 10, 2003 — Leave a comment

Waking Up In A New World
I was re-reading a bit of Tom Frank’s “The Soul of the Congregation” and came upon the following quote on ethnography:

I’ve always wondered what it’s like for a housefly who comes on board a plane. Enjoying with the rest of us the life-saving benefit of the air pressure system, the fly has a great time dining off the airline food (probably enjoying it more than anyone else) and alighting on people’s heads. Later the door opens and the fly exits to find itself–where? What happened to the kids? My favorite garbage can? Where am I? But maybe this is projection.

I was intrigued by this quote out of the recent conversations by many on Churck Colson’s article in Christianity Today. There is a sense for me that some folks (like Colson) have traveled to a new land and don’t know where the old one went. When that happens, the natural tendencies are to: 1) suggest that the new ways are a passing fad which will pass soon, and or, 2) attack the new world as that which falsely leaves behind the values and tradition of the old.

As Jordan Cooper has rightly noted, the world that we live in doesn’t match Colson’s view. Colson argues for a single, monolithic worldview, using the modernistic tendency of polarization to suggest that we must choose a single option among the various options. And yet, life is rarely that simple. While I would like to believe that the same person inhabits the various roles I hold (pastor, father, husband, guitar player, etc.), the reality is that even my worldviews change slightly depending on where I’m standing.

Does this mean that there is no absolute truth? No, for there is a common thread of Jesus in all of these roles. Yet, how that truth plays out is manifested in different ways. But that is a topic for another time.

Thinking again to Tom Frank’s quote, I wonder if those who would hold on to the precepts of “old time religion” (be they in church, politics, ethics, etc.) haven’t actually been unaware that the world is moving to a new place. Thus, the role of the faithful person is to (using scripture, tradition, reason, and experience) observe the new world and see how to navigate in it. It’s a matter of finding the new trash can, the new family, and of recognizing the new lay of the land. We (of course) always carry the old with us wherever we go. But the old only influences the new. It doesn’t recreate the old.

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