Ouch…that hurt!

I relate to Rachel Held Evans statement “The truth is, it’s easier for me to love my neighbors to the left than my neighbors to the right.”, which she confessed in her blog post titled “Big Tent, Small Town.” Rachel is part of a church plant called, The Mission, and she writes:

“Our hope is that as we continue to serve our neighbors The Mission will become a safe place for those who don’t always fit in at the church around the corner—doubters, dreamers, artists, misfits, gays and lesbians, divorcees, the lonely and the disenchanted. In addition, we want our little faith community to grow into a true picture of the Kingdom, which belongs to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the humble, and which is made up of people of all different ethnicities, political persuasions, and theological positions. From my perspective, serving and loving the people in the margins is the easy part, for I am a bit of a misfit myself. The hard part is serving and loving those who are critical of our efforts, those who say our tent is a little too big for the Bible Belt. It is inevitable that as we seek partner with other churches in our area, we will run into the very attitudes and approaches that left many of us wounded. I find myself getting all defensive when local Christians question my commitment to my faith.”

I was so right there with her, I can see her vision, feel her passion and her pain.  I could have authored these very words.  But then this kindred spirit turned and convicted me with these words, “But if I can’t love my critics unconditionally, all my talk of missional living and interdenominational cooperation is just useless noise, clanging cymbals. If The Mission can’t find ways to creatively partner with those ultra-conservative churches on the corner, we will never be able to tackle the biggest challenges faced by our community.”

Ouch!  That hurt. I really wanted her to validate my decision to steer clear of my neighbors to the right, those who are critical and judgmental. I wanted to seek unity of the body, minus a few body parts.

While I totally agree with Rachel vision and have made unity across religious backgrounds a part of the Embrace Vision statement.  Lately I have been wondering if I was overly idealistic and totally naive.  Is it really possible?  Can you unite people who think that only they have the “truth” with people who see “truth” differently?  Is it just a rosy dream that only leads to the painful reality that the body is simply divided and can’t be united?  Is Rachel just naive?

Below is the note I am thinking of sending to Rachel:

Dear Rachel – I wish you luck in your quest to partner both to the left and the right.  I pray you are successful in this noble cause. I have been seeking unity of the body around shared mission for six years and have many scars to prove it.  While I don’t want to be a clanging cymbal or useless noise, I am ready to concede defeat.  I simply don’t think I can continue on in the fight. I pray God’s grace upon your efforts and hope that you never end up lying in a ditch with your dreams of unity battered and broken like mine.  May God surround you with people who share your vision and those who will pave a peaceful path for you to walk.

Warmest Wishes,

Wendy – A Wounded Dreamer

What do you think?  Too self-revealing?  Don’t worry about me; I believe God’s grace can heal all wounds.  I share this because I know that I am not alone in identifying with Rachel’s words.  I also know that seeking unity within the body is not an easy task and I want to be real about the dangers.

Any other wounded dreamers out there?



Filed under Theology, Top Post's of All Time, Urban Ministry

11 responses to “Ouch…that hurt!

  1. emlott

    For me, it’s more about stewardship of my energy. What is the best use of my time and energy? How does it fuel my sense of calling and passion? How does it better my family? Or does it deplete me, drain me, stress me, anger me, leave me useless for self and others? Reconciling with the far, far-right is not on my list of priorities, but I understand the desire.

  2. wmccaig

    Hi Elizabeth,

    A friend of mine said the same thing to me this week. Perhaps during another season of my life when I have more energy to give but for now, I think I will conserve my energy for things that really matter to me. Thanks for you words of wisdom.

  3. Hi Wendy,

    I’d not known of you or your blog until a moment ago, finding your post on Rachel’s blog, and then coming here. I don’t have time now to look more into it, or get familiar with your history or mission, etc. But I think I have the general flavor.

    I was a life-long Evangelical Christian until about age 45, and in ministry or teaching in some form all of my adult years till then. After PhD studies (but not fully because of them), I “left the fold,” and have not been lonely, felt guilty or tempted to return, etc. I’d determined, after loooong study, the conceptual foundations to be irreparably flawed. I have a similar kind of faith, still, though in a “higher power” more tentatively, broadly defined. There are other significant differences in my current views, also, that make way more sense of reality. And I consider Christians, of all types, as human “brothers and sisters,” seeking their cooperation on humanitarian actions.

    I don’t know if you are acquainted with James Fowler or Ken Wilber, but both are researchers/theorists who I think can shed wonderful light on the issues you (and Rachel) raise. My post in that same thread refers to both, though mainly Wilber. A developmental viewpoint is, to me, not an interesting optional perspective, but basically “required” to understand why people are “where” they are, ourselves included — not that any expression of any “stage” can be precise or explain everything, by any means.

    And Wilber goes well beyond most of the developmentalists he builds upon, in that he clearly deliniates perspectives, “lines,” “states,” etc., not throwing everything into just a given stage or level. This is critical… the whole is indeed complex, but complexity is what is required for anyone willing to do the mental work to try to grasp what is going on, and how we may be able to contribute (without burning out!).

    • wmccaig

      Welcome Howard…interesting your comments are very similar to what my friend Howard shared with me this week. I am familiar with Fowler’s Stages of Faith and I have read a few others who have demonstrated how different faith traditions are focused on various “stages” of spiritual growth. I agree that is helpful to understand. This understanding makes the whole exchange a bit less personal if you are able to get into the mind of the other. Would love to read your analysis of this work. Will see if I can find the post your reference. Thanks for visiting and contributing. Great insights!

  4. I, too, struggle with “loving those on the right” now that I’m no longer there. But the fact that I once was should make me more understanding.

    However, in those times when I can’t find the strength to be open-minded towards the closed-minded, I’m reminded that although Jesus was always loving, he wasn’t always kind. He compassionately embraced the outcast but had harsh words of judgment for those who cast them out.

    Since I’m not Jesus, that probably doesn’t give me permission to do the same, but hey, some days I like the idea that I can be “Christ-like” by saying, “Woe to you…you travel over land and sea to wind a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt 23:15).

    • wmccaig

      Hi Corey,

      I wonder if those of us who used to be to the far right and have found our way toward the middle might find this task harder than others who were never apart of that world.

  5. Dave

    Wendy, I have come to realize that I am fine in talking with those on the right, but they are not fine in talking with me. In my opinion they define their position to exclude the moderate or progressive positions. My most recent church I left would not allow me to come back or talk to anybody at the church because of fear. Fear is a difficult thing for them to overcome.

    God bless.

  6. wmccaig

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for sharing. I think many people have seen that fear element in their attempts at developing a dialog with some on the far right. Not sure how to overcome that fear factor but it is very real.

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