Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another Letter...

Dear Eavesdropped on Couple,

I posted my letter to you on my blog and received more comments on it than I could have imagined. Everyone's thoughts brought me to the realization that perhaps I should write you a follow-up.

From those who are or have been a part of UBC, the response was generally positive. What to you was an innocuous and benign statement-- that you get entertained but not fed at UBC-- was to them something that was, at best, ignorant and, at worst, an attack on the group of people they hold most dear in the world. It should be no surprise that they would come to my defense after my rant.

But there are a couple who were outright bothered by my letter, and a couple more who expressed at least a little uneasiness. Their comments have prompted me to expound on my letter a bit further.

There's an age-old debate about whether the "Word" as used in Scripture refers to Scripture itself or to Jesus. I believe it's an important, even vital, discussion to have, but I've long since lost interest in it. The proponents of both sides have come to their conclusion after much thought, study, and prayer. As a result, they take serious what they have concluded. My comment that those who speak of being "fed the Word do nothing but shit sentences that make no sense to the rest of the world" stung them the deepest.

The comment was effective in that it was humorous and an accurate representation of my experience with many who speak in such a way. But effective is not always virtuous. I could have waited for my irritability to pass and constructed a more thoughtful way to express what I was thinking that wouldn't have been quite as vitriolic. For that, I apologize.

This letter is intended for you, couple I eavesdropped on, but I'd like to respond to a few of the comments from others in the hopes that it helps you understand me and my church better.

First of all, I'd like to point out that Myles made a wonderful point. Those I disagree with do not have a monopoly on shitting sentences that make no sense to the rest of the world. Every group develops a language that is meaningful to them, but can become stale with overuse. If you choose to revisit UBC, you will learn quickly that we have phrases that have become trite, such as "authenticity" and "community." This language means something to us because it helps to define who we try to be, but, ironically, it can also probably seem a little exclusionary at times. We try to keep this in check, but it's not always easy.

Singleton made the comment that you don't "get it" and you can't "get it." Amy suggested I should have invited you to church so perhaps you would have a chance to "get it." I think both of these comments are right on in one aspect, and slightly miss the mark in another. It's no secret why the dozen or so positive responses to my post came from present or former UBC'ers. One thing we talk about is that belonging typically always precedes believing. In other words, you do not understand us fully because you are not a part of us fully. This sounds arrogant, but I don't believe it is because it is true of any church, not just ours. When you find yourself in the daily flow of a group of people you start to pick up on why they do and say the things they do. After a certain amount of time you may decide that particular church is not for you, but you will become a little more hesitant to make silly little comments about being "entertained, but not fed."

With that said, there are too many believers going around these days telling other believers that they "just don't get it." I think there are people who, when it comes to who we are and where we stand, "get it" but don't agree with all of it. These are people I can respect, even though our church membership will probably never reside in the same congregation. My friend Aaron is one such person.

I'd like to respond to Amy's comment that I should have invited you back to UBC with a little of Mike's initial comment about consumerism. UBC is a church. It is not a restaurant, it is not a store. I am not a used car salesman hocking a product, and I won't act like one. I am a part of a community of faith. We are people who are seeking to follow the way of Christ and to be more like him. Most of the time we screw up REALLY bad, but occasionally we get it right. We are always open to others coming and walking alongside us. Most of us, especially me, could do a better job of extending my hand to you when I see you. But initiative cuts both ways. Numerous are the entry points into the life of our community, but your brain controls your two legs and it's up to you to walk through them.

I do not regret my previous letter to you because it was what I was thinking and how I chose to express it. As Singleton has pointed out, I am not Jesus. I don't always respond like Jesus would. I do lament the fact that most of us who are human and passionate about certain things and are somewhat literate, find creative ways to demean and belittle the viewpoints of others with our words. Amy helped me understand that in her response, just before she creatively demeaned and belittled me by asking "and who are you reliant on, yourself or Christ?"

We are all wretched folk. God save us.


Further Comments...

This is no longer part of the letter.

-- The couple did peruse Kyle's books, but chose instead to purchase Blue Like Jazz. This was probably for the best, as the God's Will book may have scared them off, while BLJ is a good Introduction-Lite to "the conversation."

-- I LOVED Jen's comment raising her quills and pointing them to the offender. How beautiful is that? Almost immediately after the couple's comment my first thought was "I'm blogging about this." Confrontation in that moment would not have been a good idea. The tone of my post may not have been a good idea either, but much better than confrontation.

-- The title "UBC's Godfather" was bestowed on my by Carney, who knew not of Big Phil. "Uncle Craig" is just fine with me. Less responsibility, more opportunity for fun.


Aaron said...

Good post. I appreciate your modified tone and clarifications. I've never been to UBC, but it sounds like you have something special there.

I think the relationship between belonging and believing is a complex one. On the one hand, logically (and biblically), a person should not fully belong to a church unless that person is a believer. On the other hand, the way people often become believers is by gradually wading into the church's life. The first steps of belonging are often the means God uses to bring about believing, and once a person has believed, he/she can be fully immersed into the life of the church (don't you like how I used the word "immersed" in a double-meaning way?).

Singleton said...

Thanks Craig. You are wise. Your letter is soothing and makes me feel better. I'm goign to go get some koolade and read and live life to the fullest right now. Not get bent about the miscommunication of the human race (that's us!)

amy said...

Likewise, I appreciated the update. I agree with Aaron that often we belong to a church before we believe, as that has been my experience in becoming a (frequently overly sensitive) believer.

Myles said...

If it's any consolation, a couple of the undergrads in the lifegroup I lead call me "uncle Myles".

ruth said...

my last comment stated that the letter was funny. what i should have said was 'well written'. your choice of words was fabulous. while it might have been a bit harsh in points, i understand where you were coming from. you reacted in a way anyone would act when the people they love (their family, their friends) are criticized. yet it was good for you to clarify once you were out of the height of the emotion.

greenISgood said...

I'd like to politely suggest we stick w/ Carney's "UBC-GF" - "Uncle Craig" is a little too creepy..(for me)......Annie has plenty "uncles" already including her favorites, Uncle Tim and Aunt/Uncle Raul, and she is really blessed to know the current "Godfather" - that's my vote and now I'll stop shitting sentences b/c it's time to eat again.

Anonymous said...

while big phil does his time up here at solomon's porch, i am sure he wouldn't mind if you were the godfather.

StandingOutInTheCold said...

Craig, fellow UBCers, this is Greg Owen. I know not all of you know me. I've been going to UBC since my freshman year at Baylor four years ago. Its been great, I've learned a lot, I've lived a lot. But I think that I understand where this couple is coming from. And I think that we make the problem worse when we say things like "they don't get it, they can't get it" or make fun of them for using the term "get fed the word." We are and strive to be a community that is open and loving to those within, and hopefully those without (is that the opposite of within?). I agree that this way of speeking is silly and that they probably have no idea about what UBC really stands for. But that should lead us to compassion and not to condecend. I'm not trying to lecture anyone, and I'm certainly not saying that we should be phony and put on big happy smiles all the time. But what I am saying is that when we become reactionary and defensive, especially about language and catch-phrases or other petty things, we work againts what we value. We cannot at the same time claim to be a community of faith that anyone is welcome to join at any time, and belittle and put down any who are not already part of it. Maybe there is some "it" that they can't get unless they dive head first into UBC. But maybe they have some "it" that you also can't get unless you dive head first into their lives and their world. So, I understand your frustration. I understand where you're coming from. I don't think that you should censor yourself or lie about how you feel. But I know that if four years ago someone at UBC had told me that I didn't "get it" I probably would never have come back because I don't want to be part of a community that holds themselves in such high esteem. Nor do I want to be part of an exclusive club. You might say "well that's your problem for not finding out the truth" but if we really strive to be vessels of Love then lets put down our pride and try to help people "get it" if "it" is really worth getting, rather than resenting them for not having already gotten it.

Jeanne Damoff said...

I've always liked you, Craig. Truly. It's pure delight to see you developing such a marvelous way with the written word. And now, having read this second letter, let me just say that I think maturity is a very good color on you.

I wouldn't be surprised if sometime in the near future God flings the door of your influence wide open.