The following concludes a series I had intended to end last week, but my laptop needed to be repaired. Rather than delay any longer, I have decided to go ahead and conclude this series so that I can move on to a new series of lenten posts I am very excited about (mostly because I get to read a bunch of great guest posts). I am typing this on my iPad, so I apologize in advance for any formatting issues. WordPress for the iPad is great, but not as good as it is on my laptop.
There are some “perks” to public theology. Warm fuzzies from online readers really strokes the ego. My heart is strangely warmed whenever I get a new Twitter follower. But if I let who I am and why I do this get mixed up with what other people say about me, then I’ve got a problem, because a lot of what people say about me is not very nice. There are other benefits to doing this. I do make a difference:
For Others: Small as my voice is, I am finding that I do not the conversation a bit. I get emails from strangers, thanking me for putting in words what they never could say, for giving them courage to speak up about how some in the church talk about poverty or women or gays, and, when they do speak up, now they have something intelligent to say.
For Myself: As a Christian, I need to learn to love those who mistreat me. Dealing with criticism in a respectful way is an ascetic act. I am not always as respectful as I could be, but that is all the more reason to keep doing this – because I have a lot to learn.
For the Church: I keep doing this for the church my kids will grow up in. My wife and I were having a hushed conversation about the way somebody we know had reacted to something I had written on gay marriage. My daughter overheard us. At the time, she didn’t really know about sex, and, living the Bible Belt, at her age then, if she had seen two men holding hands or two women kissing, she probably would have thought they were good friends. So she asks us what “gay marriage” means. So we talked to her about what I had written, and about some of the issues, as much as she could understand for her age. She responded with the exasperation that only an over-confident and precocsious seven-year-old can muster. “Well of course they should be allowed to get married!” she said.
As guilty as I feel about not being with my kids enough – about being too distracted by work to remember to play trucks on the floor or kick a ball outside – I know that I am teaching them about our faith. As they get older and begin to understand a bit more about what I do, about what it means to do research and to do theology, and often to do it in 144 characters or less, they are learning what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. As Fr. Alexander Schmemann put it, my kids are learning that the church exists for the life of the world. I think, as theologians in academe, it is a lesson we need to learn, too.