Being a professor is amazing. I am grateful for the opportunity and I am enjoying it so much. Do I miss being in pastoral ministry? Yes. Would I be a pastor again? Absolutely. Am I called to help the next generation of women & men find their way into ministry in the church? Yes!
Since my last post I have had 2 sets of intense conversations about the degree & type distinction – the first centers around the internet and the second relates to 9/11.
We live in a politically turbulent time and many people harken back to the 60’s/1968. This is a 100% valid claim. Many people alluded to the similarities and made a case that our current environment/situation is even worse than it was back then. Those who like to quote that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ shrug these similarities off by talking about how things are cyclical and how people like to hit the panic button but in the end we figure it out and things just keep on going.
That might all be true. The differences that I want to account for, however, are three-fold:
- the internet
- 24 hour news cycle
- increased cynicism, distrust, and discouragement
The growing disillusionment with the system, the fatigue from the constant barrage or coverage, and the crisis overload of manufactured spectacle causes me to ask …
Is it possible that our political, economic, racial, domestic, foreign, and environmental concerns are not just different in degree from 1968 but are in fact a new type or different kind of crisis?
I at least want to be open to the possibility that we have crossed into a different sort of quagmire and that we don’t want to simple shrug that off with a ‘this happens every generation or so‘ kind of mentality. Which brings me to the second point.
9/11 was a watershed. It just so happens that the readings for all 3 of my classes this week are from the 1990’s. I can not overstate how old they all sounded. It was like they were from a different era. I started pastoring in the 90’s and every time I talk about the changes that I have seen in just those 20 years, people laugh in recognition of how quickly things have moved.
Invariably the nothing new under the sun crowd says that God is still on the throne and that things have been changing since Bible times.
I just want to be open to the possibility that we have crossed into a different era. Between the internet, airline travel, farming practices (industrial agro), constant media, the global war on terror (not a country) and 1,000 other factors … the change is coming not incrementally any more – but exponentially.
Something is definitely different. That can not be questioned. The question is, “is it different in degree only, or is it different in kind?”
I would love to hear your thoughts.
March 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm
I fear you may be on to something. After the election, there were two things I kept leaning on to reassure myself, based on my past experience in government and public policy work.
1) There are good people in the system who will resist when necessary. This has been proven to be true, in places we can see – like the Alt-staff twitter accounts – and, I’m sure, in many others than we cannot see publicly.
2) The system is built to maintain status quo and any major changes always happen incrementally – it was the first thing we learned my public policy graduate program – so there’s only so much irreversible damage that can be done in the two years before midterms (or impeachment – whichever comes first). This is the part I’m no longer as sure of. Even before the inauguration, I was horrified watching the NC state legislature nearly destroy their democratic system, practically overnight. It’s hard to put together any long-term strategy to combat what’s happening when the terrain you’re working in is completely redrawn every day.
On the flip side of that, as I’m venturing into community organizing, particularly with the Faith-Rooted model developed by Alexia Salvatierra, where the goal is deep, long-term transformation over or in addition to quick gains, it’s becoming increasing difficult to manage measured, longer-term, relationally-based advocacy strategies when 24-hr news cycles have everyone’s anxiety at a fever pitch and social media allows nearly instantaneous mobilization and reaction. I’ve been thinking a lot about the deep discipline and training that was so much a part of the 1960s civil rights movement and I’ve been fixated on finding ways to bring that same discipline and, more importantly, a spiritual center and groundedness forward into this movement space, but for all of the reasons in your post, it’s going to be a real challenge.