"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Doritos, and Veggie Trays
week, I was invited to give the opening presentation at a three-day
"Gathering of Leaders" conference for about 45 Episcopal clergy from
around the country.
conference theme was "Hope-filled, fear-less leadership for a missionary
was to set the tone: how can we counteract the prevailing wind of fear in our
culture, and be people of hope instead?
started out by observing that, even with all the possibilities and blessings
and riches of our country, and of the Episcopal Church, there's a spirit of fear.
the antidote to fear is hope.
vague hope, but hope in what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.
what the conference (and the movement called Gathering of Leaders in general) is
called to do is inspire and develop hopefulness. Hope-full-ness.
was the theme. That was my task.
to talk about it?" I wondered over the week or so before giving the talk.
it hit me: I remembered something I learned when I was a youth pastor, serving
in my first church job right out of seminary.
it the "Doritos-verses-vegetable-tray" lesson.
based on something I stumbled upon while doing youth group events. If, at a
middle school or high school youth event, I put out large bags of Doritos, the
youth would devour them. They'd tear through bags and bags of 'em.
one day an adult sponsor of youth happened to bring a vegetable tray. Nothing
fancy, just one of those pre-made sets you see at the grocery store. She set it
out next to the bags of Doritos.
still ate Doritos, but they ate less of them. A LOT less of them. I had four or
five bags left over from the seven or eight I had bought, and normally I had
a healthy alternative, they just didn't fill up as much on junk.
had it! The image I wanted to share in my talk, and now pass on to you:
of spending time -- any time -- criticizing or whining, offer a healthy
of spending energy -- any energy -- on what my dad would call "bitchin' n'
moanin'" about problems (your problems, your family's problems, the
church's problems, the nation's problems), offer a hopeful alternative.
from perfect in carrying it out, but dear Lord, that's the kind of spiritual
leader I seek to be: Instead of criticizing people for stuffing their faces
with the varieties of empty spiritual calories our culture offers, spend time
developing and setting before people an alternative, a delicious,
nutrient-rich, deeply satisfying alternative.
No, that's not all they'll eat. But wow, how much less junk they do eat, when given a choice.
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…