Holding the future in their hands
In the world of Progressive Christian blogging, we spend a lot of time feeding peanut-gallery comments on church politics. We argue for theology, review Bible scholarship, and share experiences from our lives. Does it matter? Well, as Griel Marcus spent a lot of time pointing out, in the world of pop culture, every single act is political. Listening to the Sex Pistols is a political act. And so is reading theology or complaining about the last church election.
But in the world of political history, only those who triumph among institutions and demographics win the future. And only the watersheds that separate the past from the future matter, becaues only those watersheds significantly remake our world. Thus, bloggers and activists, take note: our theology, our church politics, our broadcasting, our refining of ideas only have significance for the history insofar as they're able to reach the future.
A great opportunity for a watershed was lost for the progressive church this week with the election of Mark Andrus to Bishop of California. Rev. Andrus is an honest, skillful, articulate, and astute man; he will shepherd the diocese through any financial or political or social rough weather it may face in the next twenty years. But all of the Anglican world was trembling while California thought about electing a gay bishop, despite Canterbury's ban; everyone wanted to know if the church was capable of really facing twentieth-century issues like sexuality and the open discussion of sex, or if the church would lurch back into the stone age. Everything depended on the smallest of cadres of Americans: collared and elected Episcopalians in northern California. And elderly and removed and liberal as they are, they were growling for a fight. The result, alas, is that they opted for a safe route. They protected their diocese and elected the most capable candidate for the position, rather than looking to history and saving the church from insignificance.
The temptation may be to blog in reaction; to philosophize, to refine our theology of the body further in order to counter Canterbury on its own ground; to find new battlegrounds, new candidates, other dioceses (though what diocese would be a fiercer leader in battle than San Francisco, who lost so many of its gay Episcopalians to death in the 1980s? which is : and all of that is important. But let me point out an even more fertile territory to look, for those who truly desire to engage the future.
I was recently emailed by the father of Julie Federman. Julie is a high school junior in a course on world religions. She is asking people ages 12 to 25 to talk about their personal relationships and experiences with religion and spirituality.
Her project site is called Spiritual Youth.
(may i humbly ask any youth ministers out there to consider this as a project?)
Julie is one of a new generation. Despite the fact that Julie's (backwards?) high school teacher worried that by blogging, Julie would be entering a world of deviancy and porn, sociologists know that Julie's generation are in fact conducting politics and exploring their social identity largely through the world of the internet. Blogging and social networking online mean that high school students in the suburb or the city encounter a far greater range of ideas than their normal social geography would allow. The April marches of half-million high school students, for example? organized over Myspace.
Julie's project therefore has the potential to be a much more political experiment than any of the preacher-to-preacher blogs of my dear friends, than any liberal-to-liberal chatter on the Huffington forums or the Daily Kos. Youth always open up the discussion. They always find a way of opening up a question in new light. Why is that? Because they're filled with new light and young life. Because they must: because theology, religion, and spirituality only matter to them insofar as theology is relevant to the new world opening every day.
Engaging other youth, exploring their experience of the issues, Julie Federman stands a chance to become a much better expert on the culture of spirituality than any of us. I dutifully submit her blog to you and recommend that we all pay attention.
All of this is one reason that the Networking Connection -- the working group on networking the Progressive Christian movement into something political and historically important -- is reaching out to Tribe, Myspace, Meetup, Moveon, and other online places.
Online, civic engagement is a much more real artifact of life, especially for young generations, than it is in any three dimensional coffeehouse, cafe, university, or church I can think of.
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