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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, October 27, 2003


Rant follows. Be ye warned.

Amid the goings on this weekend, I've noticed a common theme in conversations and discussions. Some were addressed to me, while others I overheard. Note the following:

"You're going to a Baptist church? Will they let you in the door?"

"How can you be Baptist in an Episcopal seminary? Why would you want to?"

"You're going to Jackson, Mississippi? Don't you need a passport?"

"You live in Indiana? Why?"

What you don't hear, in the written version of these questions, are the tones of incredulity, suspicion and (in some cases) something bordering on derision with which they were asked.

These things, and others like them, I hear every day-- and probably say myself far oftener than I realize. But, for whatever reason, this series of small events piled up until they were enough to attract my attention, and got on my last nerve.

For the record, here's the answers I wish I'd given:

1. Yes, I went to a Baptist church on Sunday. Yes, they let me in, and were most gracious and welcoming in the process. No one waved a Bible at me, or termed me a heathen, or suggested my soul was in exceptionally in need of salvation. These are Christian people, concerned as much as any congregation with living out the call of the Gospel as best they can; and, although we have some differences in our faith practice, I was quite comfortable joining the worship and fellowship in this community. Although I am a member of the Episcopal Church, I am first a Christian; and that gives us a common place to start.

2. Please understand that not all of the teaching at Seabury applies exclusively to the Episcopal Church. In fact, much of it is pretty generally mainline protestant in nature. Yes, we have pockets of particularity-- sacraments, and liturgy and such. Those are the things that distinguish our tradition, and so of course they are part of the life here, in curriculum, and in worship. I am grateful for that, and will not apologize for it. But the primary emphasis of this institution is to raise up Christian leadership, which is encouraged and defined both by finding where we fit, and where we diverge. We would be much the poorer if we could not work within and talk through differences in tradition, and we would be serving the cause of Christ very poorly indeed.

3. I am actively looking forward to my trip to Jackson. I will be visiting a place that is very much part of the United States-- and more importantly, people who are as integral a part of the Body of Christ as those in Dyer, Indiana, or Evanston, Illinois, or any other spot on the world map. Yes, there will undoubtedly be differences. This is the point of my going there. This is a good thing.

4. I live in Indiana because I like it there. My home town is not that far away-- geographically closer, in fact, than many places folks take for granted as accessible Chicago suburbs. It just happens to be outside of the city, which allows for breathing space; and over the state line, which makes the cost of living lower. For good or ill, Hoosiers are not so dramatically a different breed; and I love living in a place that allows equal access to urban and rural environments.

Here's the deal: stereotypes develop-- well, because there are people who fit them. Some Baptists wield the Bible more like a weapon than a witness. Some Episcopalians are more concerned with social climbing than salvation. Some people in the Deep South operate in a way foreign to Midwestern understanding. Some Hooisers are hopelessly parochial.

But if you look down my blogroll, you'll see a row of names that I'd like you to know. They-- we-- are a motley crew, and prime stereotype busters. Check them out, and learn the lesson: if you try to pigeonhole based on facts like age, or church affiliation, or home town, you are going to miss a big part of who people are, and the amazing, complicated gifts they offer.

So, look at the ways that we stereotype one another; and then, with due respect-- get over it.


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