Sunday, September 10, 2006

a future or+hodoxy

A while back, I read Brian McLaren’s A Generous Or+hodoxy all disjointed and out-of-order. I was preparing a talk to give to the faculty for a “professional development” session, and knew that some of his stuff would come up as challenges to me. Last week I decided to read it again, from the beginning forward this time. So I took it to the gym with me to read during rest time between sets (this week’s Jesus Asked podcast episode was a corrupt file). As I read through Chapter 0 (for mature audiences only) I chuckled every time he mentioned that it might be a good idea if I returned the book to the store. Finally, when I’d once again read to the point where he suspected most readers were thinking “store credit”, he suggested that I should switch the dust jacket lest someone see me with this book in my possession. That was particularly funny, I thought, because someone in the gym had already asked me what I was reading, and prompted a short “churchy” conversation. By the time I’d finished my workout (4 chapters), I’d had 4 theological discussions.
The first was with an indeterminate, bible-belt evangelical church member; the second, a skeptic of all things religious, thought-provoking, or literary; the third, a Mormon who suggested a few books for my reading edification; and the fourth, a non-Calvinist Presbyterian who had read the book himself. This fourth conversation went on for quite a while and covered as much theology as McLaren covers in his book. Often, it would seem, you have to go to a gym to have a real, honest, transparent conversation about beliefs, theology, doctrine, lifestyle, questions, doubt, etc.
There are those who completely change when I happen within the same workout area they are occupying. There are others who seem to imagine that like them, when in church you are one person, but at the gym you’re another person. But then, there are those who are always who they are; and that consistency, to the others, is quite confounding and beyond comprehension.
I really enjoyed my conversation with this consistent, real, articulate, open-minded, deep-thinking Jesus follower, and we vowed to grab some coffee and talk again very soon. Then today, as I came into the gym, he was leaving and said, “I left you something on the shelf in the alcove of the locker room.” I know you’re thinking I’m going to switch McLaren’s dust jacket with my new John Piper’s Future Grace, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to read them both with their dust jackets intact.