I have spent a decade or more mostly keeping quiet about what people call spiritual things. And by spiritual things, they usually mean metaphysics, ontology, cosmology, epistemology, and theology – whether or not they name these. For me, my whole concept of spiritual things is rooted in that storied and ubiquitous, historical person Jesus. I believe he is who he says he is. If you understand what I mean by this, then you know it’s an extraordinary thing to say and believe about reality. Nevertheless, I do believe and trust I have good reason for it.
Out of belief comes life and all its attending stories. I have, over the last ten years deliberately chosen to keep some of these stories quieter and private. Other than a few interviews and the occasional post at arthouseamerica.com/blog, I’ve required of myself what I’ve so often hoped for from others – a little reserve, maybe even silence. And so, on the topics of God, People, and Place, interdependent topics I’m very passionate about, I had gone mostly quiet.
For a time, quiet was my protest. I think I was fatigued and embarrassed by the reality that the majority of people who write or speak in public (using language and terminology associated with Jesus and the phenomenon known as Christianity) are not the spokespeople the world would actually benefit hearing from. And I’m certainly not putting forth the idea that I am.
I can think of many people I know and love that I wish friends and neighbors could hear from though – could spend even ten minutes with. The trajectory of my life has brought me in contact with people of remarkable artistic, philosophical, and theological vision. I want everyone to know them! But few of them are mainstreamed. And most who are vocal, using explicit language in winsome, thoughtful ways are often speaking and writing only to those who are already committed to the conversation. As much as we like to view the Internet as the public square, not only is that a utopian notion, but truly naïve at this point. The Web is a web – less an information superhighway and more the streets of New York City – where you could live your whole life and miss that the best information about the most important things is found at the corner of Bank Street and Waverly Place. To maximize NYC you need a friend, a curator, a recommendation, a tip. Getting at God, People and Place in a coherent, believable way, may require the same.
It’s heartbreaking how divisive people can be when it comes to their opinions about God. There’s nothing so destructive as when the conversation is reduced to: You’re an idiot if you believe – you’re an idiot if you don’t. Like the late John Coltrane and Johnny Cash, and contemporaries Bono and Dylan, the great American songwriter Paul Simon keeps bringing his spiritual search into the public square. A few years ago, Paul got a tip to meet with one of the people I do trust to speak out loud, the late John Stott. Here’s a transparent, honest interview Paul did that recounts his meeting with Mr. Stott. In my opinion, this is how you talk about your spiritual life and quest in public without coming off as a lightweight, a bully, or a know it all. This is human, artistic process in full view where every sphere of life and curiosity finds it’s way into your art. The art informs the world but turns back to you, continuing to inform you, bring you pleasure, and inspiring your eyes to see and your ears to hear.
Because of the public behavior and language of people professing to be Christian, many authentic, clear-spoken people have quietly ceased having public conversation related to Jesus and his narrative. This is unfortunate. Understandable, but not sustainable. People and place need devoted voices expressing the third way between the noise of the religious far right and the silence of the privately embarrassed, disillusioned follower of Jesus. It’s neither generous or inclusive when voices are silenced or shamed into silence.
So, I’m going to take another shot at being a public person who holds to ideas about the existence of God, the mission, glory and shame of humanity, and the earth as a remarkable place. This blog will be where I express those ideas and tell my stories. Will you join me in fleshing out what a new, humble explicitness might look like?
Peace to you. Here we go.