Three central values were profoundly neglected [by ‘the Left’]: the family, the nation, and religion. Family, flag and religion were abandoned to the right wing and defined by them – as though these themes were unworthy from the beginning of a critical analysis, as though the feelings connected with them were irrational and dangerous, as though an enlightened man [sic] had nothing to do with these realities!
The time has come for this blindness on the part of the left to disappear. It is not enough to unmask religion as the opium of the people, to bid farewell to the family as a coercive patriarchal institution, and to abandon national consciousness as jingoism or (even worse) well-deserved ridiculousness… The response to these spheres of life – religion, family and nation – cannot be an unproductive, disclaiming, superhuman “No” but a critical, transforming “Yes, but not this kind of religion, family, and patriotism,” full of love of reality.
- Dorothee Soelle, On Earth as in Heaven: A Liberation Spirituality of Sharing (1993)
We’re welcome to say whatever we want to about all the things we believe, but any sacred tradition we care to reference will remind us that the surest evidence of what we believe is what we do. Faith without works is . . . not actually your faith, as it turns out. We do what we believe—maybe it’s a relief to even say it aloud—and we don’t do what we don’t. It’s no secret after all….
If what you believe is what you say and do, the guiding provocation runs like this: Show me your receipts, your text messages, your gas mileage, your online history, a record of your daily doings and, just to get things started, a transcript of the words you’ve spoken aloud in the course of a single day, and then we might begin to get a picture of your religious commitments.
– David Dark, Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious
I won’t sugarcoat this: Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives. Human approval is one of our most treasured idols, and the offering we must lay at its hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation. Protecting the status quo against our internal convictions is obviously a luxury of the privileged, because the underdogs and outliers and marginalized have no choice but to experience the daily wilderness. But choosing the wily outpost over the security of the city gates takes a true act of courage. That first step will take your breath away.
Speaking against power structures that keep some inside and others outside has a cost, and the currency most often drafted from my account is belonging. Consequently, the wilderness sometimes feels very lonely and punishing, which is a powerful disincentive. But I’ve discovered something beautiful; the loneliest steps are the ones between the city walls and the heart of the wilderness, where safety is in the rearview mirror, new territory remains to be seen, and the path into the unknown seems empty. But put one foot in front of the other enough times, stay the course long enough to actually tunnel into the wilderness, and you’ll be shocked how many people already live out there – thriving, dancing, creating, celebrating, belonging. It is not a barren wasteland. It is not unprotected territory. It is not void of human flourishing. The wilderness is where all creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.
– Jen Hatmaker, quoted in Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness
[A passage from a soon-to-be-released book appealing for a newly invigorated role for theology in helping us live a good life:]
The most theological thing I have ever done was to plant a church—a community in which Bible scholars, ethicists, philosophers, and, yes, a stray “theologian” proper, have done theology as we have lived theologically. A community in which graphic designers, poets, musicians, sociologists, and even lawyers and medical doctors have become “accidental theologians.” It began almost imperceptibly and quite by accident. We should have known something theological was afoot when we found ourselves spending evenings on a back porch listening to a friend—a Christian Nietzsche scholar perched, with not a hint of ironic self-consciousness, on a stump in the backyard—call us to live lives that amounted to more than a never-ending quest for ever-greater degrees of comfort. I remember waking up at 3:30 a.m. to walk with that friend three miles across town to the train station—simply because walking was more life-giving than driving and the conversation along the way was worth the effort. Summer evenings were spent poring over Karl Barth, Søren Kierkegaard, C. S. Lewis, Kwame Bediako, Marilynne Robinson, and, yes, Nietzsche, with the visceral sense that our lives depended on the words on the pages. The questions of life were theological because theology was the question of life. Where to live—and with whom—was a theological question. We bought houses together; we shared cars. How and whether to own at all was a theological question. Rhythms of work and rest were a matter of deep theological reflection. Art and beauty were perhaps among the most theological questions of all. Theology was a question about the nature of the life we were living together.
I have learned that when plants put roots into the soil, their roots do not simply suck water and nutrients out. They share. They build community. They put out sugars, proteins and carbohydrates—“cakes and cookies”—
that gather and feed a communion of microfauna, whose activities hold and return nutrients that the plants themselves cannot make, at just the rate and amount that they require. The most important thing in good soil is
not nutrition, but biology. Or, to say the same thing: the richness known to plants is not an abundance of stuff, but an abundance of relationship.
– Marcus Peter Rempel, Life at the End of Us Vs. Them: Cross Culture Stories