The night is coming to a close. The books are tucked away and sleeping. The beagle is downstairs trying to talk her way out of a night in the box. And I have a few moments to look back over the day.
Did I walk today the Jesus walked?
Okay, did I take one or two steps the way he did?
This is a new way of putting the question as I pray my bedtime prayers. It seems much more pointed than the way I have done these reflections in the past. Oddly, it has even less wiggle room to let me off the hook for my sloppy and slothful ways.
Did you walk today as Jesus walked or did you walk the way of someone else?
Had Abraham not had faith, then Sarah would surely have died of sorrow, and Abraham, dull with grief, instead of understanding the fulfillment, would have smiled at it as at a youthful dream. But Abraham believed, and therefore, he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; but he who has faith retains eternal youth.
— Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
From The Violence of Love, a collection of the words of Roman Catholic Bishop Oscar Romero:
How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work; that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with a scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing priestly office! How many cabdrivers, I know, listen to this message there in their cabs; you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.
From Gregory the Great’s The Book of Pastoral Rule:
No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and act perversely. This is because no layperson presumes to refute the delinquent. Moreover, because such a sinner is honored by the dignity of is rank, his offenses spread considerably by way of example.
Evangelical and Arminian Baptist Roger Olson offers his perspective on the vitality in the mainline, including this observation about megachurches.
I have lived in quite a few American cities and have observed growing old-line denomination churches—some of them bursting at the seams. In almost every case they are charismatic or evangelical ethos-wise and exist in some tension with the hierarchy and especially the liberal theologians of their own denominations.
And here is his observation of one of our main ills.
All that is to say, much of the vitality of old-line Protestantism has faded due to the loss of an adequate spiritual-theological center. Old-line Protestant denominations have absorbed one aspect of American culture so completely that it is killing them—tolerance. And here by “tolerance” I mean fear of objecting to anything except intolerance.
I’d be interested in particular to your take on his suggestions at the end of his post.
Here’s an interesting and complicated study by the Public Religion Research Institute looking at religion, politics, and economic views of Americans. It has too much information for me to analyze here, but you are encouraged to give it a read.
I do want to share one quotation that interested me:
Religious progressives and religious conservatives also hold different views about what being a religious person means. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) religious progressives say being a religious person is mostly about doing the right thing, compared to 16% who say it is about holding the right beliefs. By contrast, a majority (54%) of religious conservatives say being a religious person is primarily about having the right beliefs, compared with less than 4-in-10 (38%) who say it is mostly about doing the right thing.
The numbers are not surprising, but as someone who reads a lot of John Wesley’s writings, I notice that both categories miss what Wesley argued was most important. Indeed, he often wrote that religion was hardly at all about right beliefs or doing the right outward actions. Religion, he said, was about loving the right persons (God and neighbor) and being transformed by that love.
I wonder if the survey had categories for that kind of response.