December 5, 2013

Broken Link, Broken Church

When you click the link for the LifeWay Christian Bookstore listing of Any Day a Beautiful Change, this is what you see:


It's really not surprising that the link is broken. I mean, I wrote an uncharacteristically snarky open letter to LifeWay essentially asking them to remove the book from their catalog. Somebody would have to be seriously asleep at the wheel not to have quickly pulled the listing.

The fact of the matter is this: my little memoir of faith and family doesn't belong on the shelves of a LifeWay Christian Bookstore, or even as a special order on their website. And to be completely honest, I'd keel over in surprise if any LifeWay best-sellers are on the shelves of, say, the Claremont School of Theology bookstore. (Okay, maybe if there was a class that studied evangelical culture from a scholarly perspective.)

Conservative evangelicals don't read memoirs by liberal mainline lady pastors. Liberal mainline lady pastors don't read biblical commentaries by complementarians. Honestly, most liberal mainline folks do not even know what "complementarian" means, as it is used by evangelicals. It isn't something that exists in our context. Sexism, yes, but intentional theologically-constructed sexism? Heck no.

We don't read the same books. Nor do we go to the same churches. Most of the time we don't even think about one another's existence. Sometimes I wonder if we even realize that we are, for all our differences, nevertheless sisters and brothers in Christ, worshipping the same God. 

There is one book that is sold in every Christian bookstore. It is sold by LifeWay, and Cokesbury, and the Thoughtful Christian, and Family Christian Bookstores, and the Seminary Co-Op in Hyde Park, and by golly even Amazon and Costco. And the brick-and-mortar bookstore that may or may not still be in your town. It may well be the only book sold in all those places, the only book that is read by conservatives and liberals, Anglicans and Pentecostals, Charismatics and Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and members of the United Church of Christ. We may read different translations and apply different hermeneutics and end up with divergent interpretations, but the Bible is holy to all of us. 

And it's that Holy Bible that gives us these words:

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
(Ps. 133)

There are signs of hope. There are more and more writers and preachers who don't seem to follow the rules about how they are really only supposed to talk to the people who already agree with what they are saying. There are websites like A Deeper Story that bring the most eclectic collection of Christians into one place and open the comment section anyway. There are evangelicals discovering feminism and progressives discovering evangelism. There are local congregations where the kindred are not mandated to agree about everything in order to live together in unity. There are missionaries bringing clean water and advocates crying out for justice. And in the center of it all is a Table where Christ is the host and no one is ever turned away.

We call the Church the Body of Christ; why would we be remotely surprised that it is broken? But God habitually wrests grace from brokenness. 

There is hope for the Church. 






1 comment:

  1. I think I might be somewhere between a liberal and a conservative evangelical Christian who is a lady pastor and a Jesis feminist who loves you and your book and pretty much all the Jesusy things that come from your heart. Those who don't read your story or want to learn from anyone who may be coming from a different perspective are missing out on the fullness of the body and of Christ for that matter and the grace found in all things.

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