“Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I’m very suspicious. It doesn’t make sense to me that you’d have the same solution to every issue.” – Louis CK
I always think it is interesting when a popular comedian offers a more inclusive and prophetic form of ecclesial identity than our church sometimes does. What I mean is this: I think we Presbyterians have gotten too predictable. We all know which causes or issues are going to generate a press release and which ones do not fit our talking points. I can almost predict in boilerplate form what statement denominational leadership will make, what issues we will offer commentary on and about what issues we choose to remain silent.
I just wonder if being prophetic asks a bit more from us, even challenges us to take on our own ideological allies at times, calling to mind a Savior who was not completely at home in any one ideological camp nor completely against any of them either. Recently I saw a Facebook meme produced by a Roman Catholic website that offered a series of statements that get at this idea. I offer a paraphrase: When we seek greater justice for immigrants, we are accused of being too progressive; when we speak up against issues related to abortion, we are accused of being too conservative; when we speak up against the death penalty, we are accused of being too bleeding heart liberal; when we say the family should be strengthened, we are characterized as too Republican.
In the wake of social changes and ecclesial changes regarding marriage or particular denominational stands or upcoming General Assembly causes, I worry that we Presbyterians are becoming all too predictable. It would be nice, and dare I say more deeply prophetic, to be surprised occasionally. Perhaps to come away thinking every now and then:
Wow, that sounds different than just a boilerplate cause that I could find being stated the exact same way at any mainline progressive assembly – are you sure my denomination said that? Wow, we just elected an evangelical as moderator or stated clerk.
Wow, we really do represent a vast spectrum of positions.
Wow, we are trying to form advocacy groups that are intentionally and evenly un-like-minded on many issues.
Wow, our church finally recognizes that while advocacy groups might have been important for one generation, they can also be counterproductive to our common theological affirmations, mission and koinonia, and we are actually working toward a program to disband them all and form them into a reconciliation commission.
I am not asking for it all. But, what would happen if we were to be occasionally surprised by what Presbyterians say and do? Perhaps, in such moments, we might find that we are more deeply prophetic and more vibrant in our witness than ever before.
CHRIS CURRIE is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.