Just be…

I was part of a panel discussion this last Thursday after the premier of the revival of the play, The Runner Stumbles, off-broadway (The Beckett Theater, 42nd St. between 9th and 10th Ave’s). The play is produced/acted by a theater group in which a life-long friend of Ashton’s is an assistant producer, actor, director, and all that kind of stuff. She contacted me about the panel, made up of clergy – Roman Catholic Jesuit, two Episcopalians (myself and Bishop Roskam of New York), and a Reformed rabbi. Well acted play, and a good panel discussion at least according to audience and producers.
I’m reading the book unChristian right now. It comes from the president of Barna Research Group and details the findings of a three-year study concerning the perception of American Christians and Christianity by “outsiders” – those who don’t claim to be Christians. It is geared to the American-Evangelical/Born-Again side of the Church universal. The findings suggest that at least for Gen X & Y (Busters and Mosaics, according to the author), Christianity and Born-Again Christians have a very bad image among non-Christians in this country. I don’t think this is really new news, except for Born-Again Christians (according to the research findings). It seems most Born-Again Christians think that “outsiders” have an impression of them as people of integrity, caring and concern, honesty, and general respect. It ain’t so!
Anyway, reading this book, which while articulating the problem well doesn’t present much more than a PR makeover as a solution (sadly), and participating in the panel discussion, and other general life-experiences here in New York City, tell me that there really is a great interest in spirituality among “outsiders.” Christians have a bad rap, and nowadays I believe that the bad rap comes from the bad examples exemplified by that part of the Church in ascendancy right now – Evangelical/Born-Again Christians. Most of the audience for this play, which concerns the tragic lives of a Roman Catholic priest and nun in rural upper Michigan at the turn of the last century, was older. Yet, there is a lot of interest expressed by younger people who visit St. Paul’s (the generations dealt with in the study and book). I think the interest is there, but we do a terrible job meeting people where they are, dealing with concerns and questions they are actually asking, and presenting the truth of the Gospel of Christ and the life in ways they can receive/understand/deal with.
Anglicanism is uniquely situation to take into account these two younger generations, but right now rather than being good examples we are battling over issues that those generations aren’t concerned with and are being thrown into division by extremist elements on the right and left. We, not just the American-Evangelicals, are being poor examples, too. All of us are struggling to find our true selves, find God, and find ways of living that are actually helpful in finding a good and peaceable life. This is a key element in the play and the book. What are our answers and what is our example?
There is the aspect of, “just be!”