Thursday, August 22, 2013
A wonderful part of my spiritual journey over the past few years has been my increasing involvement with Darkwood Brew and in particular the ability to engage with the sharp mind of Eric Elnes. He has helped me both to find a label that fit where I am on the journey (post-Liberal) and also to challenge it. In an interview by Christian Piatt, Eric suggests that labels describing where we have been are insufficient to describe where we are. He has been consistently using an Exodus metaphor of tribes of refugees in the wilderness to describe the Convergence that is happening. If you aren't familiar with what he's been saying read the the blog at Sojourner's first then come back. I'll wait.
Hey, thanks for coming back.
Part of my experience at the Wild Goose Festival this year was telling my story and hearing others tell their stories about where they've been and how they got into this wilderness where we are converging. That caused me to develop a modified version of the Exodus metaphor for Convergence that goes something like this:
There were a number of tribes in bondage in the land of exile. Among them were those called Evangelical and those called Liberal. The sad truth was that the bondage was self-inflicted. When some of the Evangelicals realized this, they left for the Promised Land knowing that that would mean a long trek across the wilderness. These post-Evangelicals were most severely criticized by that part of their tribe that stayed behind. Those who stayed behind believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only way to be truly free was to remain shackled to beliefs about the way to read scripture and judgments about sexuality even if that came at the cost of limiting their response to God's call to do justice. They made sure that the post-Evangelicals knew it and that they would pay a price for their bold push to new understandings. Thus while some paid the price of lost jobs and status to seek the Promised Land, others remained locked within closets of silence though they knew the path they were called to walk.
Similarly some Liberals longed for the passion of knowing God and understood that God's Spirit is like a wild goose: untamed and unpredictable, yet calling us to leaps of faith. They remembered that there was a baby in the bath water that was thrown out when the tribe chose to stop looking to the scriptures for inspiration and quit leaving room for mystery. The price post-Liberals paid in leaving their tribe behind was disdain and pity from those who clung to the crumbling institutions for their salvation.
As these two tribes have begun to meet and exchange the gifts of what each has brought along that the other lacked, they are also discovering that they have not been alone in the wilderness. There are also those Charismatic free spirits who have always been open to the wild, unpredictable movement of the Spirit. There are also those who always understood that structures like liturgy and doctrine are more spacious than rigid thus always have room for mystery. The fact is that there have always been desert dwellers who are now welcoming the self-freed refugees from the former tribes. Some found the wilderness not because they rejected or were rejected by religious institutions but because their life journeys, either through painful events or intentional exploration brought them here.
And now, regardless of prior path, a new tribe of Wild Goose Christians is forming with the understanding that they will best find the Promised Land together. Of course, these wanderers are those who appreciate that the journey is the destination. They also understand that they make the path by walking it. In this new Exodus they hear the voice of Jesus teaching them that God dwells not simply among them, but in them. There will be no flame nor pillar to lead them. God will not be dwelling in a Tabernacle that the people will carry, God is dwelling in the people. Therefore they must look within and to each other to find direction.
In this new Exodus there is a gentle computer-generated voice speaking from a built-in GPS unit. As the tribe moves along the way this voice confirms the path and when they are lost it simply says "recalculating." As with all GPS units, there is no judgment. The voice doesn't scold or correct, it simply recalculates. There are many paths to the Promised Land and there is also much room to wander, so recalculating is more the rule than the exception.
And those who have chosen to remain in bondage also hear the voice of the GPS constantly repeating "recalculating" though they alternately ignore and explain it away. One of the challenges for the Wild Goose Tribe is to find ways to help the ones left behind in bondage to free themselves.
We can't promise them soft landings for it is likely that they don't exist, this is a wilderness we are in after all. But even though we are not yet in the Promised Land (and if we are to learn from history, odds are that we won't be the generation that gets there) we do know that the wilderness is better than the bondage. Thus we have an obligation to speak truth to power and call out to Pharaoh to let our people go. Or more accurately, we need to speak the truth in love to our tribal kinfolk that they are their own Pharaoh's and they should break the shackles and join us in the wilderness.