Before I get started Rick asked if I would introduce myself to all of you here at Brutally Honest. My name is Father Tim and I am a 37-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. My wife Anna and I have been married 9 years this May. We have two girls, 3 & 6.
My background is in the performing arts. I studied to be an actor before I received my call to the ministry. I hold a bachelors degree in Philosophy from Asbury College in Wilmore, KY and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary (also in Wilmore). I am the son and grandson of United Methodist pastors and I served in the UMC from 1997 until 2003. I was ordained into the Priesthood in the Charismatic Episcopal Church on January 10 of this year. We are currently preparing for a move to the Detroit area where we will help to plant a church on the East side of the city.
I have a passion for all things Celtic (including a good 12 year old single malt scotch and Guinness stout), love authors from Alvin Plantinga and C. S. Lewis down to Ian Fleming and Jack Kerouac. I love just about anything to do with the ocean and my fondest dream is to spend a two-week holiday sailing on a tall masted ship in the Caribbean.
Now that that's out of the way let me get down to the topic. I have just spent a few of the most frustrating months of my life trying to converse with a number of self-proclaimed "progressive" Christians. For those who have never come across this particular classification, you usually find this species of churchperson prowling the halls of old-line denominational seminaries searching for the unsuspecting freshman seminarian in order to swiftly kill any remnants of traditional belief they have brought with them. Their secondary habitat is on clergy oriented blog sites and PBS religion specials where they smugly assert that only the most primitive believer still maintains a belief that the Bible actually means what it says.
In particular, I was trying to have a reasonable discussion with a few of the PCs, first on the topic of whether The Passion of the Christ was an artistic success, and second on the Christian response to the war in Iraq. What I soon discovered is that these most tolerant of all religious individuals, who never met a Buddhist they didn't like, quickly came to the conclusion that since my traditional understanding of the Scripture was not as theirs, I must therefore be unworthy of the name Christian. This was done while making many assumptions about my character and activity (not to mention theology) and absolutely refusing to address the statements I actually made.
The one thing that kept running through my mind during these exchanges was, "I thought only conservative, orthodox, uneducated people were supposed to act this way?" After all, this is exactly what the Religious Right has always been accused of. I know! I've read the articles! Only those who hold to a traditionalist view of the world are supposed to be capable of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. And yet here were PCs who (according to conventional wisdom) were above such things acting as if reason and tolerance were completely unknown to them.
Now the gut reaction to this kind of discovery is usually to whine, "that's not fair" and retreat into sulking. That's unfortunate because the best way for traditionalists to flush out this kind of hypocrisy is to meet it face to face. One of the lessons that I have learned (the hard way, as I do with most things) is not to let the PCs send you off on rabbit trails. If you have asked a question, stick with it until it's answered. Don't be bamboozled by a quote from Scripture. Remember these individuals only believe the passages that support their positions. Confront them with the whole Bible along with common sense and tradition and their argument begins to disintegrate.
And finally. . . stop expecting them to be the tolerant people they proclaim themselves to be. Like most of the arguments they put forward, their tolerance is about a mile wide and an inch deep.