Could I be more stupid?
And you would be right to ask me that. You see, my friends, I was under the delusion that evangelicals, discovering the emergent church movement (a.k.a. what mainline Christianity has been preaching for a century) would all of a sudden come running to the United Church of Christ. They would see an awesome "God is still speaking" video I post on my Facebook and say, "Hey! I want to come to your church! I never knew there was such a progressive denomination out there!"
And I thought it would be more or less that easy. Build it and they will come! Send out the message! Spread the Good News! I thought it would be that easy because I don't know anything about Evangelical Christianity.
But the depth of my ignorance hit me this week:
- I read The New Yorker's review of T. M. Luhrmann's new book on American Evangelical's relationship with God. This was an eye-opener. Not only did I know nothing of what she wrote - but I also realized that it's pretty damning that I need an anthropologist to explain all this to me. Is there any greater proof needed that our country has an extreme cultural divide?
- Christian Century just published an article, Crunching the Numbers, that surprised me - while 18% of Americans identify as mainline or old-line Protestant, a full 26% identify with evangelical Protestant denominations. I used to giggle when an evangelical friend didn't know something basic about Protestant churches. What folly! It's not their job to know about us - it's our job to know about them.
- Rachel Held Evans posted about why she isn't running towards a mainline church, where almost all her "new ideas" would be old hat, and instead remains unchurched like hundreds of thousands of other emergent ex-Evangelicals. It was a wake-up call to all of us.
- And finally, Rachel's post included a quote from a recent Frank Schaeffer article in the HuffPo about the huge boat that mainline churches are missing. He writes, "I don’t get it. Where is everyone? Why is the “emergent” evangelical church reinventing a wheel that’s been around for centuries? And why aren’t the mainline churches letting us know they are there? If the mainline churches would work for the next few years in a concerted effort to gather in the spiritual refugees wandering our country they’d be bursting at the seams.”
Mr. Schaeffer, thanks for laying it so bare.
Because the truth is we are here. But I have a hunch that we aren't letting people know we are here, because we do not speak the same language.
Of course, I'll only know that for sure if I take it upon myself to learn a thing or two about Evangelical Christianity. And so the journey begins...