Hermits Rock

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The old lover is, of course, the CoC. The street we met on? Some shady cyberlane.

Then again, every time we go home to either set of in-loves we are back in her padded pews, singing the same songs, listening to the same verses explicated in the same way, and it feels like a comfortable pair jeans that are unwearable because of a rather unseamly rip in the crotch.

Recently, thanks to C, I have begun to venture far into the blogosphere (something that I will definitely have to curtail, if I want to get this book on religious poetry and politics to a publisher before the last tic-toc of doom has clicked and faded and tenure is no more). (Honestly, I can fault nothing but my own procrastination and puerile fascination with peeling off scabs that has me reading the blogs of fellow alma sibs.)

Lectureship season may have something to do with it, but the posts on these sites have taken a panegyric turn, even something of an apologetic, or exhortative turn. When Greg first posted, all I was able to write was a sad comment about canned mushroom soup, which unbeknownst to me at the time the Christian Chronicle had already listed as one of the top however many indicators of CoCness (do Southern Bs and CoC(Inst) and DoC and Primitive Bs and Methodists, etc. say…hey, waitagollydernminute, we’ve been using cream of mushroom since Campbell’s invented greenbean casseroles?) ahh, what a yummy potluck we'll have.

Affirming CoC identity has devolved into tagging. Though tagging is little more than a cyber take on a kiddie game, they are all very interesting responses. Responses that make me think, we wouldn’t’ve left had we known and lived in proximity to these people

When I started thinking about this post, it was first going to be a response to Greg’s state of the church address, then it was going to be a response to a passage that Travis Stanley reproduces from Tom Olbricht’s recent book in progress. (I only copy the first paragraph.)

In view of the current climate, it is appropriate to comment on the ease with which Christians depart from one congregation or from one denomination or fellowship to another. The reason often given is that the church from which they departed no longer fills their needs. They are no longer being fed. Explanations normally involve criticisms of various sorts regarding the inferiority of the people and theology of their former associates. Those of this mindset are of the predisposition that the benefit of the doubt always belongs to the one who departs, not to the one who stays. They seem to think, in overthrowing their current connection, they have the long history of God’s relationship with his people on their side.

I can’t think of how to frame a response to Olbricht and not reproduce the same logic he critiques. And, at the moment, I have no ready response to what he says… except it’s easier to stay, even when you are despised by the elders of Buck Snort congregation or Central Denver (wouldn’t want to be accused of ruralism), when you have a voice and a position of authority, and are listened to and admired by a coterie of seminarians. In no way do I mean any disrespect to Dr. Olbricht nor the stress of having to endure the vicious, vituperative remarks of fellow brothers. But when you are JTB or GR, deciding to stay takes on a whole new dimension. (I just found out that JTB has another site she keeps updated more than rudesermons, and more than afewvoices, I presume, since it seems to be off air.)

I am glad, very glad that Olbricht and all those persons I’ve linked to are remaining in the church as voices of change. Still, it’s easier to stay and be an advocate for change when your person isn’t directly discriminated against. People might not like what you have to say, or your opinions, or what have you but you are still, by virtue of being male and straight, in a different category than if you are neither male nor straight… you are after all Brother So-and-So, the heretic, but still Brother So-and-So.

Also, there are battles that are easier to fight from positions of authority; battles that are too spiritually and emotionally exahusting when you are a haggard grad student trying to keep your faith and family together as you trudge through a PhD.

Maybe I won’t ever get into the particulars of our leaving. It all seems like so much gossip and such a long time ago…



so we seldom reply to anything in unison, but nonetheless on this occasion we must both say (in greg’s voice because he’s the husband & therefore the head):

where’s the climax, man?

more tomorrow after we’ve had time to sleep, re-read, and possibly even think.

Seriously, me writing as myownself now: you stop too soon. There’s a very real need to articulate, if not for others then for yourself—if not for others, then for me—a via positiva. What Olbricht says here,

Those of this mindset are of the predisposition that the benefit of the doubt always belongs to the one who departs, not to the one who stays. They seem to think, in overthrowing their current connection, they have the long history of God’s relationship with his people on their side.

is wrong. I know the man, not well, but I know him and love him; he’s a scholar of the finest quality, and if it’s possible, an even better man. But he’s wrong He’s wrong because he posits a situation that requires a “benefit of the doubt”; he’s wrong because he puts words in others’ mouths, when it’s really others who should be filling their own mouths with their reasons for staying, or for going, or for making themselves spectators at a tennis match, watching reasons pass back and forth, back and forth. He’s wrong because to phrase the question, “Should I stay/go?” is already to allow oneself to be mired in a different problem that’s really beside the point. In short, what I’m saying is you can’t come up with good reasons because you’re asking the wrong question.

I’m not sure quite what the right question is at the moment. It’s possible it might be different for everyone. But I think you touched it, a few days ago. The question you broached then was not, “Should?”; it was, instead, “Where?”

The right question, also, is “When?” And it’s “How?” And it’s “Why?”

I, too, have been thinking of this subject, and I’ll post further on it, soon. (although you probably can see where I might be going…)

well, I didn’t explicitly get to this…but the who? can stay does begin to broach and you are right a positive response needs to be articulated.

a positive response that isn’t necessarily in the next post in any explicit way either. except in that place does matter. and “selfish” reasons like my faith can’t take it are perfectly valid…

because, again, who can stay is also part of the question.

but i wil give it some more thougth along those lines you mentioned.

It’s not only who can stay, but whom do I minister to that is part of the question. Where you are now, teaching a class that, in spite of your detractor (who nevertheless shows to class every Sunday), encourages inquiry, and as a result avows that other men and women are emboldened to more service, might indeed be something that you would meet in a CoC in Atlanta; but I doubt it: your class is not filled with the same baggages that would come in that CoC church. Certainly, it ha` it on, but your CoC, or post-CoC voice meets the DoC’s baggage and, rather than presume that both become corrupt, both become emboldened.

Who, in other words, always has an other-component.

and, lest I forget, there might even be a third who: Who is affected in the CoC by your absence in it? And might that absence be filled with something better, say, by convicting those who must fill, who may very well be better agents to speak to that body than you, to be more mindful?

Alas, afewvoices is indeed gone.

But my little personal blog will continue: random and mostly irrelevant, but there.

I have also been “tagged” and am working on a decently thoughtful response. So far I’ve discovered that my reasons for staying put in the CofC are personal rather than theological…

“rudesermons” is updated only as I actually get an opportunity to preach (otherwise, why write a sermon?). The fact that I have been able to do so 5 times now has been a gift beyond measure to me. I put the sermons online as a testimony to that.

Thanks for this post.

Ha! I knew if she were invoked enough, she’d come.

yes, she did come :)

and thanks for coming.

it seems to me, though GR, might disagree, but once the veil is lifted (in terms of believing the CoC to be the only thoroughfare to the pearlies) staying or leaving takes on mostly personal reasons…not that any of them aren’t important.

I’d probably agree that the reasons are primarily (though not completely) personal. I don’t think I’m willing to admit, though, that one must believe the CoC (or any sect) to be the only thoroughfare to the pearlies before asserting it better to stay than to leave. Instead, one may only need to believe the institution has a unique place in the family of denominations. I don’t think that to be catholic one has to be non- or anti-denominational.

hmmm…I want to say, I’ve been here before and if I have refrained from commenting ‘tis only because I feel the lack of the rapier-sharp wit requisite for doing so…

about the sort of date, that was fun and was a great and much needed ego boost at that point, since I was probably diagnosably depressed for the last 2 years I was at Harding…

and navel-gazing takes on a whole new meaning during pregnancy. did you know bellybuttons can actually change shape???

On that date, you were order, brightness, and good cheer; I, on the other hand, with a memory of someone else too close to mind, was (to quote Werner Herzog) chaos, violence, and murder—I have long regretted it. I was also, I must admit, a few years shy of fully appreciating good tiramisu and Space Ghost. (By the way, for memory's sake, it was Chris & Mary who sat in the backseat on the way to that opera, whatever opera that was.)

Regardless, sharp wit’s no excuse. I mean, Jeremy’s got full author privileges, and I think we can all tell his knives wouldn’t cut no tomatoes, baguettes, or aluminum cans. You’ll have to do better than that.

As for pregnant chads, I’m not allowed to talk about anybody else’s…

jesus might have to bust out a fig withering malediction on your lazy arkansas heiny…

in other news, jesus reads true confessions of the opera goers with rapt attention.

his only other request is that M or C retell it from their POV.

and, then, he’d like to see spouses don mexican luchador masks and bust open some whoopass.

yes, this would make jesus happy on this lard’s day.

Speaking of witty repartee, and following from 3 comments above: GR, I think you’re too young to be deciding to commit to a sect, at this time of your life, for the rest of your life. When you’re 35, or 55, you’ll think very differently about this CoC than you do at 25. I think it’s called resignation. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s not worth it. at this time in your life, the church catholic is where it’s at.

J: Shouldn’t Jesus already know all about what happened that night at the opera?


One day I’d love for you to describe the church catholic of which you speak so often. What does it comprise?

Banter aside, you’re right. I am only 25, and have only been out of the so-called Harding bubble for a couple of years. I’m stretching my theological legs in Chicago as I try to figure out what happens next with church, faith, etc. I think one of the reasons I try so hard to stick with the CoC is that I’ve seen so many of my friends abandon what they know for what might be. I don’t (necessarily) want to do that yet. I like Chesterton’s idea of a democracy which includes the dead, and I don’t want to leave my heritage behind if I can avoid it.

Point taken, Greg. We’ll see what happens ten years from now. Perhaps I will have started my own church, in which we will worship Bea Arthur and commune with PBR and Lunchables.

Um, wow. So I just followed the first of your links in your comment to me above, Greg. I hadn’t even read that comment on GKB’s blog until you linked to it.

I can’t believe I’m actually shocked by a comment. It’s been a while since someone’s been able to catch me off guard.

Lunchables? So long as my wafer is covered by provalone and not balogna, in ten years, who knows? That might just be kosher. Point is, we just don’t know where we’ll be in that time. It’s what I tell my half-dozen 18-year-old cousins who got knocked up last year: how do you know you’re even straight? You’re so young, and now…

Ah, I’m getting tired, and the joke was old when I began it. That some people can be so sincere, and yet so, so banal and crude amazes me. You’re brave for taking the stand you do, GR. For your sake, someday, I’ll try to describe that church catholic for you, but I warn you it’ll probably take the shape of a wisp of fog.

Clearly we are writing at one and the same time. Re: your last comment: And here I thought you were just being overly gracious!


I’m not brave, I just have the sort of stubborn streak that can cause nightmares. And, as for the CoC, let’s just say that I haven’t been to one in several months, and I will be attending the local episcopal cathedral tomorrow for Ash Wednesday services.

I know. Who could blame you? The episcopalians at least welcome you with all those happy people… and, they actually celebrate lent.

Oh, who cares if they celebrate Lent. I just love those fabulous robes. And the bishop’s hat? I spy my next halloween costume!

i’ve got bad news for jtb…the end result of pregnancy changes brains & memory more scarily than the belly button (which will never look quite the same, btw). i didn’t even remember who her date was when we were in the backseat, and certainly don’t remember the opera or tiramisu. now that’s scary.

okay, i know i read it in scientific american…but i was unable to read the entire article and now i can’t find it. i was waiting for my dentist to clean my teeth… and now for the life of me i can’t find it…and i can’t blame brain attrition due to nutrient depletion!

but the article said that pregnancy (hormone wash) and motherhood makes women smarter.

here’s something on it.

but she’s just a journalist… and i only alludes to the hormone stuff :)

Tiramisu is not to be associated with opera. Only opera is to be associated with opera.

maybe jtb will be one of the lucky ones, then…i am apparently the reason for the dumbness stereotype

Since I am allergic to mushrooms I will avoid that terrible soup.

I am interested in your story. Perhaps in future enstallments I might learn if this is a Freudian slip:

“Still, it’s easier to stay and be an advocate for change when your person isn’t directly discriminated against. People might not like what you have to say, or your opinions, or what have you but you are still, by virtue of being male and straight, in a different category than if you are neither male nor straight… ”

Unfortunately Christians, of all strips, have a history of discrimination.

Bobby Valentine