Given, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation…?
…in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation of sanctity.
Pleasant to the clerical flesh… is the arrival of Sunday!… He has an immense advantage over all other public speakers. The platform orator is subject to the criticism of hisses and groans. Counsel for the plaintiff expects the retort of counsel for the defendant. The honorable gentleman on one side of the House is liable to have his facts and figures shown up by his honorable friend on the opposite side…. the preacher is completely master of the situation: no one may hiss, no one may depart. Like the writer of imaginary conversations, he may put what imbecilities he pleases into the mouths of his antagonists, and swell with triumph when he has refuted them. He may riot in gratuitous assertions, confident that no man will contradict him; he may exercise perfect free-will in logic, and invent illustrative experience; he may give an evangelical edition of history with the inconvenient facts omitted;-all this he may do with impunity, certain that those of his hearers who are not sympathizing are not listening.
~George Eliot, Westminster Review, 1855
Over on Jeff’s blog he writes:
I read around the blogs & I sometimes wonder if we’re not just the blind leading the blind…
Then, to clarify in the comments, he adds:
…it just feels like we’ve identified the “circle jerk” that is US evangelicalism, and counteracted it with a blog-chic, post-modern “circle-jerk” of our own…
In some ways, we’re just like the church, only in reverse. What’s the point of that?
In response to Jeff I wrote the following comment. I think it could not have been more timely in fitting in with some of my thoughts lately. What do you think??
I respectfully disagree with you Jeff… and that’s what makes this SO much different than the circle jerking church.
How many times have you disagreed with me, expressed it, us carry it over to an email conversation or phone conversation AND still not agree. Neither of us felt as if we had to leave or change or become something different for the other to accept or approve or fit in. It wasn’t always fun, and at times this experience has been frustrating but I don’t feel I would have ever received as much rope or grace or whatever you want to call it in the church. With all that I have expressed online I would have been eventually kicked out of my church, not allowed to teach any longer, etc. Now that’s the bullshit in the church. The church doesn’t envelope free-thinkers – it usually squashes them.
At a youth pastors retreat years ago, the speaker said something that is SO true (and SO scary)… he said that as pastors we couldn’t afford to have a faith crisis b/c that could effect our jobs and incomes. The context was one of encouragement that this was one of the stresses of the job i.e. negotiation of our faith while leading others in negotiating their own.
This is such a trap… a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario. I felt I had to eventually leave the circle jerk church b/c all it was doing was propping up my weak faith. It wasn’t making me stronger, it was making me weaker. Living life without the training wheels of the church has made me more balanced, more spiritually focused, more “evangelical” (in genuinely caring for hurting people sense) and honestly more truthful in my life and dealings with others.
I don’t feel that the people I have met online are the church in reverse… they are the church “moving forward”…. to borrow a phrase. Trademark anyone??
My good friends over at PING invited me on their show this week to expound on my previous post on “Moving Forward”. Jump on over there and listen to Erik, Sharon, the PING crowd and I elaborate on all of our brilliant ideas. We are impressive!!
That’s my theme for 2008.
I recently decided that in my personal life, I tend to look at the past as a bench mark for my future. I’ve determined that all that does is throttle me in the present… and leads me to missing out on good things in the now.
In regards to SCP, there have been many times over the past few months that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep going. It’s taken me a while to exactly know what to write as we enter 2008. Now that I have taken a few weeks off, I seem to have a clearer direction.
I think that this theme is highly important for SCP. I am constantly amazed at how many people still visit this website and the number of new people that are still discovering this place and finding it to be thought-provoking, encouraging and comforting.
Many, many people sit in church each and every week and feel completely alone for any number of reasons. They identify with this site. We need to keep this light burning.
You are a part of that.
Let’s move forward together.