As I write this, I’m sitting in a small indie coffee shop adjacent to a nearby Southern Baptist seminary, (which honestly, usually makes me feel like a Rebel Soldier tiptoeing carefully around inside the Death Star with stolen blueprints for the Resistance.) I’m surrounded by clusters of gloriously-bearded young men discussing hermeneutics, moms with careening toddlers in tow engaged in a women’s Bible study curriculum, and a table of khaki-wearing (and noticeably, exclusively male) professors talking about “taking the Gospel to the global mission field” – and I am eavesdropping at Olympic levels and writing furiously while trying to not be noticed. They all seem like (and I’m quite certain are) decent, thoughtful, earnest people and surely far more complex to me here than if I encountered them on my social media timeline, where I might be tempted to reduce them to convenient cookie cutter stereotypes trapped in a dismissive partisan meme. As I lean into the cacophony of their colliding conversations to try to isolate and record them all in real time, I’m struck by their common overconfidence: the real (or assumed) subtle bravado that undergirds their exchanges; how seemingly self-assured they all are as they discuss and postulate and sermonize about the unfathomable mysteries of life and afterlife as if they’re discussing making a BLT. There is a matter-of-factness that sounds impossible to me now, given the subject matter, but it’s one I’m well-versed in as a longtime pastor. On this day, I’m not sure whether to be angered or insecure about how certain they are – so maybe I’ll settle for being a bit of both.
From “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans” by John Pavlovitz – Westminster John Knox Press