Saturday, June 22, 2013

Crosses on the River

I live in a wonderful town - Evansville, Indiana.  Sure, we're a little provincial - a little behind the curve - a little afraid of anything that even smells new.  Find me a town in the Midwest where that isn't true. 

Our fair city sits on the banks of the Ohio River.  We have a wonderful levy and greenway that offers residents a place to walk, talk, and enjoy the beauty of the river.  It is becoming a "go-to" place in Evansville, after years of despising the river.

A few churches in town have an idea to place 30 crosses on the public walkway.  These crosses will be "decorated" by children in the Vacation Bible Schools sponsored by the churches.  They will be in place for a couple of weeks.

Here's the problem: the crosses will be placed on the public walkway. 

Now, I'm one of those weird Christians who believes in the separation of church and state.  I'm one of those odd ducks within the Christian family who thinks this is a terrible idea.  Religious symbols - of any kind - and public property cause be great discomfort.

For one thing, Christians can't agree on what the cross means.  For some, it is a symbol of a blood-thirsty God who must be appeased with a sacrifice.  For some, the cross is a symbol of "divine child abuse" - the symbol of a God who nailed its child to a cross.  For some, the cross is a symbol of our own complicity in attempting to silence God's message of love by silencing the messenger.  For still others, it is a symbol of triumphalism - our faith is better than yours.

The churches that are pursuing this project are not at fault.  They believe in doing whatever they can do to get the message of Jesus' sacrificial death to as many as possible.  I get that.

The fault - such as it is - must be placed with the city authority that permitted this display to proceed.  They obviously have no idea of the lawsuit to which they exposed this city and its people.  They have overlooked the growing population of non-Christian residents - who pay their taxes and participate in the public arena with commitment and honor.  They have allowed the world of the mid-20th century to be confused with the 21st century world in which we now live - a world in which Muslims, Jews. Buddhists, Hindus, Wickans, and others are full and equal citizens.

So, my humble proposal is this: plan another display that will highlight the symbols of the rich religious diversity that forms the fabric of religious life in Evansville.  Let's have each faith community across the city create a symbol of their faith tradition and let's display them once the crosses come down.  Let's celebrate the wealth of faith experience that is ours and avoid the exultation of one tradition over another.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I'm getting things ready to teach a new "Introduction to New Testament" course at the church this evening.  Once again, I am reminded of how much we take for granted.  We assume that we know what needs knowing about the collection of books we call the New Testament.  Yet, after a lot of courses - both as student and teacher - I'm still learning!

Why is it that we assume that we know everything that needs to be known?  Why do we speak with such authority on matters completely beyond our pay-grade?  Mark Twain once referred to congress as a body of men with "tongues so ready and information so uncertain."  Sounds like us, too - right?

So, maybe today is a perfectly good time to have an aspiration that for the next 24-hours we will only speak of things we know something about.  We will not offer uninformed opinions.  We will not pretend to understand something we know nothing about.  We will not create answers - not matter how sensible our creations may seem.

We will use the words, "I don't know" and we will not be ashamed.

And then, we will go to work and keep learning. 

The river is flowing...jump in.

Monday, June 3, 2013

We've had to change pages since the old host has gone the way of the do-do.  

So, welcome to the new blogspot, known as "The View from the Riverbank."  

I'll try to be more faithful in writing a few reflections each week about the crazy way I see the world and invite you into a conversation with me.  Fair warning: I don't always see thing the way you might expect them to be seen.  

And I'm perfectly willing to learn from your insights and ideas.  

Welcome to the riverbank!  Sit down, roll up your pant legs, and get your feet wet!