The Only Thing in the Middle of the Road is …

We say these things sometimes with out realizing our arrogance and condescension. 

“You are not like those other (Fill in name of group here)” We say, for example, thinking that this is praise while, generally, confirming our own stereotypes.

I want to admit, right up front, that I am skirting that line.   I know that there is some arrogance in what I want to express.  I am going to say it anyway.

I realized that I feel this way as I was teaching history class the other day.  We were reading about the rise of Islam.  One of the kids asked a question.  It wasn’t directly related.  But I realized I wanted to talk about it all day long. 

I love religions.


I am a Christian.  I worship the living Christ.  I believe that the fullest truth is revealed in the generally accepted canon of scriptures.   I think if a person were to only learn about one faith, it should be Christianity, because I think that the truths here are the most complete and important.

But I love religions.

There is so much beauty and power and power in mans eternal grappling with the Eternal. 

I know in saying this, I am going to stir up not only the people who think I am patting them on the head and saying, “Aww, don’t you have cute little ideas.”   I am also going to stir up my brothers and sisters in Christ who think that other religions are dangerous things which lead us down the path to destruction.

Probably at least one of those groups is right.  Maybe they both are.

But here I am, and this tension hasn’t quite resolved for me, yet.  So I am going to hold it, pray over it, study it and think about it and share it. 

And so… there it is.



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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “The Only Thing in the Middle of the Road is …”

  1. I’m not entirely in disagreement with you here, my friend. (Sometimes dangerous. Sometimes really helpful. Certainly beautiful.)

    I try to avoid mentioning typographical errors, but this one is kind of a sense error: “I believe the fullest truth is reviled in the generally accepted cannon or scriptures.” I think you mean reVEALED? (Also, canon.😉 )


  2. Thanks Jenn. For the solidarity and the editing. I fixed the typos, as they distorted the meaning. The revealed thing distorts the whole meaning. But the image of a scripture cannon is kind of funny. Maybe enough of a word play to be worthy of a whole post.


  3. Joseph Campbell (your distant relative?) had great comments about this.His assertion was that religion (all religion) is metaphor–and if you mistake religion for the thing is represents, you lose the meaning. As Bruce Lee said, “It is like the finger pointing to the moon. If you look at the finger, you miss the moon in all its heavenly glory.”


  4. My namesake (though no relation, bummer) has some interesting things to say. I went that route for a number of years, through college– affirming that the major world religions are all roughly equal pointers toward The Ultimate.
    My experience was that unless you begin to fairly arbitrarily cut out one major tradition or another, you end up with such a meddled mess of assertions you can’t really do much with it, on a personal level. For example, I can conceptualize the idea that God’s true nature is so far beyond my little ant brain that it is somehow simultaneously true that he is both personal and non-personal, he is both a triune God and also only has one nature, etc. etc.
    However, when it comes time to personally engage with this entity, I can’t– and I don’t think anybody could– relate, let alone worship. I think if you hold the idea that God wants to engage us, it has to follow that he is leading us increasingly to him.
    So I don’t go so far as Joseph Campbell, anymore. But this doesn’t prevent me from admiring other traditions. Thanks for commenting Jeff. Hope you’ll say more soon.


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