Why obfuscate a spiritual and religious identity? That bait-n-switch doen't work.
So, I got called out by some good friends while I was in Chicago. You see, I have this habit that apparently confuses some people. I post things in my Facebook stream with little or no comment. I post editorials. I post other news. Specifically, we were discussing how I post missives about the challenges presently facing the Christian mainline without comment. This silence, it would seem, indicates agreement on my part. So we spent some time talking about what I really think it going on. These smart friends did the same. We're not in total agreement, but the conversation was great. One friend sent these two links a while ago. I've posted them before, but let me comment now (briefly).
It's a great post about authenticity and truth in advertising, candor, or...again, authenticity. It also assumes that people are churched, but that's okay. The suggestions still kind of suit. Communicate who you are. Be transparent about your beliefs...your beliefs about God and most especially your belief about your community. Be honest about your aspirations and your present reality. Don't inflate or obfuscate.
Then there's this article from Union's New Media Project. I've posted this one before. Ancient liturgy for scruffy hipsters with smartphones - It's an essay about a Lutheran congregation in Denver. You've likely heard of their pastor, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber. She's been rather prominent lately.
Why do I like this? Well, believe it or not, it has nothing to do with hipsters or smartphone...or tattoos for that matter. Sure, the novel is fun, but what if there's more than that afoot? I contend that people are looking for more symbols to make sense of the numinous and not fewer symbols. A tradition such as Lutheranism offers lush symbols. Nadia knows this. She highlights the numinous. She preaches God...not about God, but God. God is present. This is the assumption.
Now, you don't need to be all high church to do this. There are ways to be rather low church and make this work. Here are some baptist examples.
1. Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio, TX ("Where the less than perfect are more than welcome." Love that!)
2. Shell Ridge Church, Walnut Creek, CA
3. Calvary Baptist Church, Washington DC
I did not include my own congregations. I want you all to know who I look to for ideas and inspiration within my own tradition. Symbols are artifacts (icons) and relational (monasticism). The baptist tradition, as it looks for symbols, tends to lean toward the latter of the two. Perhaps you find that surprising, but there it is. The congregation (or fellowship) is the monastery. It's the community of the faithful called to be together in order to serve the world that God loves so much...Spiritual practices (prayer, study, charity, labor) serve this process. So, is it really all that surprising to find a little baptist church in Texas looking at Franciscan tradition? Not really.
In either case, none of these congregations are afraid of tradition. They aren't afraid to say "This is Christianity." They are transparent. Anything else is dishonest.