This month's meeting of up/rooted.city was definitely a balm for my soul. I had spent the day cranky and living inside my head, replaying angry thoughts and worrying about the future. However, once I arrived at Wicker Park Grace, I was pulled out of my head because the other folks that were there invited me into their hearts as they told their stories.
Twelve of us shared apples, celery, caramel sauce, peanut butter and apple juice for a little over two hours as we talked. Four of us had attended the first meeting but eight of us were brand new to the gathering and the new dynamic was interesting and good. I liked hearing that all of the attendees were brought to the meeting through the internet somehow and that many folks were meeting with each other independently for lunch.
The long-distance award goes to Bill, Helen's dad, who came all the way from Oxford, England to meet with us. Bill said many interesting things, but I was most intrigued by the logic of one of his statements. He pointed out that since church attendance is so much higher in the US than in the UK, it's reasonable to assume that Christians have a fair amount of influence on the policy that the US makes. He then talked a little bit about our continued use of capital punishment, which he believes is barbaric. He pointed out that capital punishment must have the support of Christians in the US since we are such a large majority and he questioned how that could be when God commands us to have mercy as we have been shown mercy. His voice was an intriguing addition to the group.
The group included an atheist, an almost atheist, an agnostic, a former neo-gnostic, a couple of pastors, former and current evangelicals, former and current mainline protestants, and folks who are still looking for a way to describe their faiths. Beautifully, all of us are actively examining ourselves and the world for God. Over the course of the evening, we built trust with each other, telling stories and asking questions. I particularly appreciated Helen's good questions. We talked about literalism in biblical interpretation, the use of Christian music in schools as an art form, manipulation as evangelism, the teaching of some churches that "doubt is bad" and the funding of church plants, in addition to other topics.
The best question asked, in my mind, came from Steve, the self-proclaimed "atheist husband" of Lainie, who asked, "Wouldn't it be a more enjoyable world to live in if the Christian message that was heard came from Christians who weren't boneheads?"
Amen, brother. I think that's probably something everyone can get behind.
Out next meeting is Monday, December 17 at 7:00 at Wicker Park Grace. I look forward to the balm a new mix of people will bring in a holiday season that can be particularly hard for humans as we try to figure out how to follow God and celebrate Jesus in authentic ways.