Standing in the lowly place with the easily despised, and the readily left out, and with the demonized — so that the demonizing will stop — and with the disposable — so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. That gives me life, that’s where I want to be. I think that’s where Jesus insists on standing.
Serpent handlers, like other Christians, have chosen something to emphasize. Over the course of two thousand years, others have chosen the precise nature and identity of Christ, the proper understanding and practice of the Eucharist, the correct way to baptize, the proper way to organize a church, which day of the week to call the Sabbath, and any number of other things as the sine qua non of being a true Christian, and in each case some other Christians have regarded that defining center of faith as ‘adiaphora’ — something indifferent.
—Seth Perry, excerpted from his commentary "Adiaphora and the Dark Extremes of an Eccentric Faith"
How do we respect the depth of a Christian snake handler’s faith — and talk about it without caricaturing or lauding his life?
A smug atheist reading of [Richard] Florida’s number-crunching would be that people who go to church a lot are less likely than people who don’t to move up the economic ladder. But a more accurate reading, I think, would be that people who who go to church a lot are more likely to move up. It’s the people who bend your ear about how much they love Jesus who are less likely to move up (and who are also less likely to attend church regularly). The irony is that it’s these zealots who want to claim an exclusive right to call themselves Christian.
—Timothy Noah, from his post "Religion and Mobility" on The New Republic site.
You might want to read Richard Florida’s piece on The Atlantic Cities first and then follow it up with Noah’s reaction. Both are well worth reading and may lead you down all types of paths depending on your experiences and where you live, or have lived.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
It is said that emerging Christians confess their faith like mainliners—meaning they say things publicly they don’t really believe. They drink like Southern Baptists—meaning, to adapt some words from Mark Twain, they are teetotalers when it is judicious. They talk like Catholics—meaning they cuss and use naughty words. They evangelize and theologize like the Reformed—meaning they rarely evangelize, yet theologize all the time. They worship like charismatics—meaning with their whole bodies, some parts tattooed. They vote like Episcopalians—meaning they eat, drink, and sleep on their left side. And, they deny the truth—meaning they’ve got a latte-soaked copy of Derrida in their smoke- and beer-stained backpacks. Along with unfair stereotypes of other traditions, such are the urban legends surrounding the emerging church—one of the most controversial and misunderstood movements today.
—Scot McKnight, from "Five Streams of the Emerging Church"
Josh Kron’s article in The Atlantic and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s dressing down of the journalism behind the piece has kindled interest in the emerging church movement again. But neither person offers a clear guide to what the emerging movement is. McKnight’s saucy explainer in Christianity Today (published in 2007, no less) is a good start. He dispels some myths about the emerging movement and lays out “the five themes that characterize the emerging movement”: prophetic, postmodern, praxis-oriented, post-evangelical, and political.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
At the Heart of Easter Sunday Is a Woman
by Norman Allen, guest contributor
I’ve always loved Easter. As a child, I divided the chapters of my Bible storybook to extend across Holy Week, reading each event on the day that it occurred. I recognize that the gospels are not a history lesson, but a bridge to truths otherwise beyond our comprehension.
I’ve also learned that the Easter story doesn’t revolve around crucifixion, an empty tomb, or even the glory of a resurrected spirit. It revolves around Mary Magdalene.
The Gospel of John tells of Mary going to the tomb in the darkness of early morning. Already we’re given the powerful image of a woman walking alone through dark streets and among hillside graves. Finding the tomb empty, she hurries to tell Peter and John, and returns with them so they can verify her story. As they rush off to report the news, she hangs back, to mourn.
In her grief, Mary sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for a gardener. He even speaks to her: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Still she can’t allow herself the truth.
It’s not until He says her name that she cries out in recognition. In that world-shifting moment, she doesn’t call him “Savior” or “Christ” or even “Jesus.” She calls him “Rabboni.” In a telling parenthetical, the gospel’s author reminds us that the word means “teacher.”
These few lines from the Gospel of John hold great meaning for us. It’s a woman who rises early and walks through darkness to visit the tomb. It’s a woman who stays to mourn, unafraid of her grief. And it’s this particular woman, shunned by society, who is first called by the risen Jesus.
The denominations that still deny women their place at the altar, might take another look at John 20.
But the story holds an even deeper significance, for Mary represents all of us. We are slow to see, slow to consider the truths that challenge the comfortable limits of our understanding. And perhaps we all need to hear our name spoken — to be called — before we can recognize the opportunity that stands before us.
Most important, at the heart of this story lies the relationship between a student and her teacher, a man who challenges and annoys and demands the impossible. Easter isn’t about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s about the enormous achievement of his star pupil, who has the courage to open her eyes to new possibility.
Norman Allen is a playwright living in Washington, DC. His plays include In The Garden (Charles MacArthur Award), Nijinsky’s Last Dance (Helen Hayes Award), and The House Halfway, to be produced at this summer’s Source Theatre Festival in Washington, DC.
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Any really outrageous human action tests to the limit our careful theological principles about God’s refusal to interfere with created freedom.