Things I Don’t Want to Think… But I Do…:Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
1. I don’t want to think that the evangelical community that once welcomed and nurtured me has simply become a political tool of right wing politics in the United States, but the evidence mounts day by day and week by week.
2. I don’t want to think that genuine theological education no longer matters, but every day I read postings and articles by people who obviously have not taken the time to read, study or receive the minimal instruction on the topics upon which they are commenting and, all too often, claiming to teach others.
3. I don’t want to think that “facts” have become relative and situational, but in less than three years “alternative facts” have gone from being a joke on cable news to an every day reality.
4. I don’t want to think that “the end justifies the means” has become the normative ethical standard in society at large and in many churches as well, but we hear it, see it, and experience it everyday. Once reserved for the disciples of Niccolo Machiavelli and considered immoral at its core, it is increasingly viewed as an acceptable ethical choice. Jesus asked, “Can a bad tree bring forth good fruit?” to which we now reply, “It all depends…”
5. I don’t want to think that as a country we have lost a sense of decency and compassion, but then I read that family separations are continuing and adding to the thousands of children already detained at the border. We no longer see the pictures. We no longer hear the news. We simply allow it all to slip away, forgetting that these are human beings made in the image of God.
6. I don’t want to think that the ugliness and violence of anti-Semitism can return, but it has, in street marches, synagogue shootings, random killings, desecrations and online chat rooms. Then again, in a recent survey, it is clear that the Holocaust is receding in the collective memory. Less than half of those Americans surveyed knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust or what Auschwitz signified, and only 43% knew that Hitler came to power through a democratic political process. Those who forget history…
7. I don’t want to think that the institutional Church in America has become irrelevant, but the “nones” and “dones” are growing in number year by year. We all see it, even when we don’t want to admit it. What’s worse is that when I find someone who is genuinely interested in a life of faith, it’s harder and harder to direct them to a church that is simply normal.
8. I don’t want to think that qualities such as beauty and reverence in worship are rapidly disappearing, but visiting numerous churches has convinced me otherwise. Whether it’s the preacher in the pulpit, or the worship leader on the stage, the mantra has become, “Let me entertain you”. Someone needs to write a new book on “The Cultural Captivity of the Church”, that is, if anyone would bother to read it.
9. I don’t want to think that the Church as we have known it is fading, but I am quickly coming to that conclusion. The real question is, what sort of Church will emerge from the ashes? Whatever its shape, it will have to carry the best of the past and marry that past to a vision for the future. It will require knowing the tradition and being grounded in Scripture and prayer. It will see the gospel imperative in “the least of these”. Most of all, in a fractured and polarized world, it will have to provide an alternative to the society which surrounds it, rather than a mirror image of that society.
10. I don’t want to think about dying, but I do. I’ve lost too many good friends and mentors of late not to think about it. I view it as the next great adventure. In the meantime, however, there are opportunities to share, to give and to learn. Those are the things I do want to think about…