My luncheon companion's eyes glazed over, indicating a mind drifting from my 'pertinent' comments. "There I go again," I said to myself, "being the stereotypical, pontificating minister." Berating myself is so easy. However, I now treat myself a bit more kindly, since I have come to believe that often what I say is not obtuse but unwelcome.
For example, in a recent conversation over the War on Drugs, my companion passionately defended our current national policy, even with all its failings. I took an opposing view, but then moved to a deeper critique. I said that whatever program we adopt--punitive or medical--we will fail until we deal with our drug culture--legal drugs. We are repeatedly told through massive advertising budgets that, no matter what ailment or discomfort we have, there is a pill to help out. Heartburn, headaches, arthritis and constipation are just the beginning of the list of ailments helped by a pill. Then, if we are lonely, there are jeans, shoes, diamonds and soft drinks to draw others (or that one special person) to us. We are told over and over that wellness and happiness can be purchased and ingested. So, getting 'high' with alcohol or coke is the American Way.
My conversation with an enthuastic free-enterpriser was not any more successful. After listening to its copious and unambiguous benefits--individual and social--I suggested that, theologically, free enterprise had become idolatrous, promising all good and placing profit or principle before people. We invest far too much in this false god. False gods do bestow benefits, but they ultimately suck life out of individuals and society.
Over the years, more than one pair of eyes of denominational leaders have glazed over as I talked about the unbroken twenty-five-year attrition of churches and members. Automatically, evangelism programs are the suggested salvation. I see the real issue at much deeper levels. On the one hand, denominational leaders focus away from their constitutiency--the churches--in their singular concern for social justice. On the other hand, three decades of denominational evangelism programs have fizzled out because operating a program makes it easy to avoid the deeper issue of confronting core beliefs and risking the necessary conversion.
In a long-past workshop, I learned that to solve a serious problem one has to move to lower, more basic levels, for real problems have deep roots. To cut down the weed and leave the root allows the weed to live again.
Now, I hope that in your reading of the above confession I have not
shrunk my pool of luncheon companions.
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