Awash in the sea of liberal culture...

Whew! It's been a busy week for us liberal do-gooders in Seattle! If you read this earlier post, you know that there's been a lot happening here. For my part, along with my regular work, I've spent the last six days helping out with the National Episcopal Healing Our Planet Earth Conference that St. Margaret's hosted, attending its accompanying events, and talking about its implications at church and youth group. In the process, I've been used as a prop in a liturgical dance about the desecration of Puget Sound, chatted with and taken communion from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, facilitated a discussion on the environment in a bar, complained about Christians with some friends in our co-op, sung songs of praise to the earth and the sea, and tried to sell the ideas behind The Genesis Covenant to a youth group. I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be able to make it to any of the Seeds of Compassion Conference with the Dalai Lama.

I know what some of you may be thinking, I understand, and I'm a little bit ashamed that I've come to fulfill the stereotypes so comprehensively. In fact, as I was standing in front of the crowd at the liturgical dance, using my body to represent man's oppressive environmental destructiveness, I had to ask myself how I got to this point. As I dramatically opened a giant glass door so the dancer could burst forth into the open air, I realized two things. Firstly, that I like to try to not care which side of the 'liberal/conservative' divide I'm on anymore (but really do), and secondly, that I really haven't changed fundamentally since my evolution-questioning, George W. Bush voting evangelical days.

I would guess that most people hit the point where they realize that they really shouldn't care which 'camp' they fall into--religiously, politically, or otherwise. We should just do, think and vote what we believe to be right, regardless of the 'movement' that we might happen to be a part of. In reality--among the young at least, but I suspect across generations--we secretly fret about what our neighbors think of us, and try to project a specific, commonly recognized image. While there might be some variety of images to latch on to, unless we're crazy we seem to always align ourselves with a particular, identifiable camp--even if we don't fully agree with the stereotypes--and privately define ourselves according to camp rules. I've always wanted to be seen as a good person (and to actually be one), so as a youth I latched on to evangelical Christianity in the attempt to do so. As an adult, that camp caused me too much cognitive dissonance, so I joined a new one in Anglican/liberal/emerging Christianity. While at heart my reasons for camp-attendance have been personal and individually determined, despite what I think I'm defining myself according to communal expectations. Hence, this week I didn't protest as much as I might have previously when asked to be used as a prop in a liturgical dance about the environment, and worked hard to see the good in what we were doing as we sang hymns to the earth in a Christian conference despite the pantheistic overtones.

(On a related sidebar which you might find interesting (but probably not as interesting as I do), along with wanting to be seen as (and be) a good person, I also don't want to be seen as mainstream (although I actually generally am). That's why as I post another blog about me (but also about you), I'm fretting about the fact that I'll just be seen as another self-obsessed 20-something blogger. But, as we all know, you're self-obsessed too, reading blogs in part to figure out which camp you want to align yourself with in order to define yourself as slightly distinctive, hip, and probably good.)

The good news is that all of our self-obsessions and camp-building are really just side-notes in the larger picture: group dynamics that affect the decisions that we make as communities, but not really what it's all about. That's why it's back to the grindstone, trying to do, think and vote in the right way, regardless of cultural alignments. And that's why now I'm going to take a timed shower in the attempt to continue cutting back on my resource usage, and then go to lunch with a deacon to try to promote ministry to people with AIDS in our community before I write a sermon on God's love for all people.

Comments

ROBERTA said…
Great post. As a 55 year old white woman who was raised as Roman Catholic, embraced Evangelicalism in her late 20's, wandered the halls of MHGS in her late 40's as a seeker and returned as close to her roots as she possibly could by joining the Episcopal church in her early 50's - I'm here to say the spiritual journey is one that unfolds on a daily basis - it's not linear in any way but more of a spiral.

While you were at the Healing our Planet conference (and I'm jealous - I would love to have met the Presiding Bishop), I was basking in the sun at Qwest Field listening to Native American drummers and His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

I too wondered, how I got to where I was that day! However, I'm not a 20-something blogger like you. I'm a 50-something blogger/spiritual director/grandmother who desires to truly live in the present - I have no idea what that means most of the time and the neighbors have given up trying to figure out what camp I'm in.....This is the best part about the aging process...You really don't give a fig what others think! You just live and love whatever and whoever God brings you toward....

Keep writing,
Roberta
Aaron said…
Tim,

Great post. I appreciate your honesty and it makes me wonder a lot about what I'm truly more concerned about: who I am, or how I choose to represent myself in the face of others with differing opinions. I think the difficulty is just that - not taking a stance, but owning it. But without a stance we can't begin to dialogue, and without dialogue we can't begin to be transformed. It seems that you have already started to do what most people (including me) find the mot difficult - to be honest and vulnerable and see where it might lead. Cheers -

Aaron

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