A Study in Brokenness

I have been working with Ken and Cally over the past year and a half to build a home group ministry for St. Paul’s. Members have come and gone and we are about four right now. We meet every Tuesday (the members’ idea, not mine, but I certainly don’t mind) for an hour and a half. We show up, talk and catch up with one another for about 1/2 an hour (or more depending on the need), do the “In the Early Evening” (pg 139 BCP) to bring us into a spiritual frame of mind, and then read through a couple chapters of Scripture. We think, discuss, and then apply what we’ve read to life – just finished Luke.
Tonight, we are going to start reading through a little book that I found way back in the mid-80’s while I was working in campus ministry after my bacheloriate experience. This book changed my whole perspective of leadership, follower-ship, and brokenness. It is entitled, “A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness,” by Gene Edwards. It is short, easy to read, and in my opinion quite profound. The book focused on the Biblical King David and how David responds to his son Absolam and King Saul.
Here is chapter 4:

The mad king [Saul] saw David as a threat to the king’s kingdom. The king did not understand, it seems, that God should be left to decide what kingdoms survive which threats. Not knowing this, Saul did what all mad kings do. He threw spears at David. He could. He was king. Kings can do things like that. Kings claim the right to throw spears. Everyone knows very, very well. How do they know? Because the king has told them so – many, many times.
It is possible that this mad king was the true king, even the Lord’s anointed?
What about your king? Is he the Lord’s anointed? Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. No one can ever really know for sure. Men say they are sure. Even certain. But they are not. They do not know. God knows. But He will not tell.
If your king is truly the Lord’s anointed, and if he also throws spears, then there are some things you can know, and know for sure:
Your king is quite mad.
And he is a king after the order of King Saul.

(Edwards, pp 11-12)
We all have our own “kings!” For example, bosses, presidents, police chiefs, coaches, bishops, pastors, presiding bishops and primates, and any number of other “leaders.”
Are our “leaders” people we consider worthy of following? Does it really matter whether we consider them worthy or not? How do we know whether s/he really is or is not worthy?
A good leader knows how to be a good follower. A good follower can, if thrust into such a position, be a capable leader. How do we respond to our leaders? Do we treat others (whether our leaders or those that follow us) the way we want to be treated (as a leader or follower)? Are we too quick to judge or are we patient enough to let things play out? Are we quick to rebel? Are we quick to put-down?
All we tend to do is repudiate and malign and condemn our leaders – our presidents, our priests, our bishops, our bosses. In the present troubles we face, why do we find it necessary to believe that we really know better? How do we, particularly spiritual leaders, how do we know that we know better then they? Really? Do we honestly believe we know the mind of God concerning God’s plans for us, for our leaders, for our underlings?
We think our leaders are mad, or at least incompetent, or perhaps heretics, and of course we can do better. Sometimes this is true, but within the Church who is the one who moves and guides and places in positions of leadership this or that person (or perhaps one of us)? God does. Do we believe that? Are we sure we know the mind of God? Really? All the time? Isn’t that being just a bit arrogant and prideful? Isn’t that being just a little bit mad? Maybe we are the mad-king (or at least a stupid follower with great ambition – perhaps an Absolam!).
Too many of us want power and will do whatever is necessary to get it – even if just a little bit. We are wonderful arm-chair Vice-Presidents, party-bosses, Senior Wardens, priests, Archbishops, you name it. We get all uppity when we think we’re being put upon. We get all insecure when our little kingdom is challenged or when someone perhaps more talented or more popular or a little better looking then us shows up and we end up doing very mad things. What if we just let things happen – grow in wisdom and the ability to rightly discern as we grow in brokenness?
Read this book. If you are like me, it will challenge and perhaps change your concepts of good leadership and good follower-ship. Tonight, we are reading up through page 25 (the first third of the book). The background reading can be found in First Samuel chapters 8-20.

“A Path-Breaking Survey”

There is a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It is part of the Religious Landscape of the United States Project. The survey pool was 35,000 people – a huge undertaking. I think this will be a very important and significant image of American faith and will reveal the dynamic picture of spirituality/Christianity in this country. The results will be significant, too, in our politicized and polarized “conversation” (some might say war) between different expressions of the Christian faith in the U.S. and of who and what are (will be) the defining characteristics of Christian faith in the U.S.
I was somewhat surprised by the age distribution across the primary Christian groupings. Members of Mainline Protestants, within which the Episcopal Church is located (why or why?), are not nearly as old as I imagined and American-Evangelicalism membership is not nearly as young. The distribution is statistically the same and consistent across age bands.
Mainline Protestants, despite all the talk, talk, talk of inclusion and diversity, have the most lopsided distribution according to race – 91% “White (non-Hispanic)”. I’m frankly surprised by this… well not really, not really at all! Members of “Mainline Protestant Churches” are more segregated than all other Christian-faith groupings and just as segregated as the “Historically Black Protestant Churches” that have a 92% distribution of “Black (non-Hispanic)”. The Orthodox are the next most segregated Christian group and comes in at 87% White and Jews are 95% White, but both of those make sense.
Now, income distribution – Hindus and Jews are the most wealthy! Hindus? Go figure, but in some ways that makes sense, too. I was surprised that Evangelicals and Mainliners income distributions are almost the same. Once again, Jews and Hindus are the most educated.
And get this, there is an equal percentage of Evangelicals to Mainliners who report “Living with a Partner” when asked about their marital status – 5% for both (Catholics – 7%). I don’t know whether “partner” is defined exclusively as same-sex or not. AND, there is a 1% lead among Evangelicals (13%) over Mainliners (12%) who report being divorced. Catholics come in at 10%.
Finally, I was shocked, let me say it again – shocked, at the responses to the following item: “How many children at home…” With all the talk of family values among the Religious Right, I would have assumed lots of kids among American-Evangelicals and because of the traditional teachings, among Roman Catholics, too – but the vast majority of all faith-groups have no children at home: 65% of Evangelicals, 71% of Mainliners, and 61% of Roman Catholics have no children. I don’t think that represents issues of age (empty nesters, etc.). Hum….
Here is the main-page for the Survey where you will find the statistics.
Here is a LA Times article on the Survey endeavor
Update: Here is a good American-Evangelical response to the project/survey results from Christianity Today online.
Here is a video overview from the Pew Forum study:

Hat-tip to Titusonenine