It has been an interesting couple of weeks as I initiated this dialogue to find common values and a common language in our community. I have heard from a number of people both in the comments to my blog and personally. One of the reasons that my new blog platform (coming next month) will be called “A Pilgrim Diary” is that I have no idea where this dialogue is going to take us. I have simply promised to follow the threads that emerge, very much like being on a pilgrimage.
Already a significant thread, even an obstacle, has emerged. Even in my invitation to a broad and diverse group of people to join a common table has revealed how much our division has taken root. I spoke of trying to get to the “other side” of the divisive and nasty spirit of our time. The feedback I have received so far could be organized into four basic groups:
- “Go for it, Brian. I am behind you.”
- “I appreciate your ambition, but I think it’s too late.”
- “We need you to name the specific problems so we can work on actual solutions.”
- “There is no ‘other side.’ We are just where we need to be right now.”
It is the second one (and by implication, the third one) that I mostly want to address today because this showed up in comments, conversations, emails, and news media over the past two weeks. In one form or another, I heard repeatedly that we may be beyond solutions right now. And, while no one named it specifically, the presence of Christian nationalism and mainline Protestant’s contribution to that seemed to be source of many of the comments and concerns.
I heard that the values of Americans are so out of sync that conversation is now impossible. I heard that the Christian church, despite giving verbal lip service to connecting with the broader community is probably too entrenched to actually do it. I heard shame about being part of a Christian tradition that has a history of genocidal colonialism. I heard grief about a church system that wants to address the growing presence of Christian nationalism, but does not have the energy for the fight.
I invited us all to this dialogue so see if we could find common values and a common language that would bring us all home to each other. But first, I think we have to start with elephant in the room, the one that your comments these past two weeks made obvious:
“What is a faithful response to Christian nationalism and how much have our mainline Protestant traditions contributed to it, given birth to it, and played into it?”
It is clear that this is on the minds of so many. It showed up in conversations and comments these past two weeks. It is increasingly showing up in the media as “something that must be addressed.”
For further research and analysis of the growing presence of Christian nationalism read the following two articles:
I will be especially interested in your comments and how your comments are similar or dissimilar depending on your relationship to the church. Please give a short description (life-long member, grew up in the church, never been to church, agnostic, etc.) along with your comment so I can track how people react to this depending on your particular orientation.
This is a difficult conversation, but one we must have if we are going to get to the “other side” and come home to each other.
Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades