Everyone's Got a Crusade... Me? I'm a Sponge.

Having a crusade (please forgive the violent medieval connotations) is an important and even precious part of being human: being passionate. There are so many things worth taking up as a cause. It seems all of my friends have a cause, and I find I have a tendency to take up those causes with them, on their behalf (I'm a passion-sponge) because I think it's ALL so important! For example...

  • Women's issues are my wife's crusade. Most of what she hears and reads and experiences is translated through a feminist lens, and evaluated via her passionate critique of misogyny and its expansive impact on society. She lives with the ongoing compulsion to do something productive about it. I'm incredibly inspired by this, and Jen has opened my eyes to so much I have taken for granted, assuming it was normative rather than symptomatic.
  • Queer issues are my good friend Adele's crusade. After coming out a few years ago, she has passionately advocated for equality, social justice, tolerance and respectful religious dialogue. Adele, too, has helped me become aware of so many issues of prejudice and injustice that would have never occurred to me in my own tunnel-vision-reality! (maybe I'm just slow...)
  • One of my professors is a zealot for Green Theology! His own view of God has radically evolved as he has explored the connections and synapses between stewardship and earth-keeping, and God and spirituality. It's a fascinating area that a lot of Evangelicals are [finally] getting excited about. Perhaps just in time...

For me, though, I don't feel like there's one definitive subject I am particularly passionate about. The Emergent Conversation was my "thing" for a couple of years, beginning in 2004 when I started writing about evolving faith and progressive cultural and philosophic ethos. Hence this URL. And I haven't stopped caring about Christian emergence... it's just that emergence is the process. A lot of us thought it was the answer. It was just the path to more (and bigger) questions about God and society and spirituality and the world.

So Emergent really can't be "my thing," because it isn't a thing (sheepishly, I believe Brian McLaren, Doug Paggit and Tony Jones have been saying that from the beginning). Worse, the folks who have made Emergent their permanent "thing" are really just mainstream Evangelicals - who aren't particularly different from typical Americans - finding a "style" (a superficial change of clothes and language) and sticking with it for way too long. Worse, they (we?/!) come to it very late (like Christian boy bands or Gospel Rap) and think it's the NEXT BIG THING... instead of last year's big thing.

Now some well-intentioned Christian idealists might like to say, "but JESUS is my crusade/passion/cause." And you might THINK that. And it sounds nice. But none of us manages to follow Jesus without bringing in all sorts of personal preferences and prejudices along the way.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... contemporary Christian music.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he fits into the social circles at work.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he's communicated by their charismatic pastor.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... social justice.
  • Or JESUS'... kindness toward women/the poor/the marginalized.
  • OR JESUS'... supernatural healing and miracles.

And honestly, none of those are bad. Not even the cynical first three. They are simply the reality of what human beings [with needs and wants] do with God. We make God in our image. Or the image of our ideals. And religion follows.

The biggest thing for me is realizing I AM a sponge for causes. Tell me yours, and I might jump on board! That's not because I'm so naive (which I might be) but because I just get so darned-excited about what God is doing in and through other people. And I'd like to stay that way. Academia (as much as I enjoy it) is centered on being a comprehensive expert on one very narrow field of interest. I'd rather stay casually informed about dozens of topics, stay excited about all of them, and find ways that their aims and priorities overlap and complement one another.

Glad I'm a sponge...


pastormack said...

If you haven't, you need to see an old David Spade/Jeremy Piven movie called 'PCU'. It makes fun of university culture in a great way. At one point, looking at a group of protesters, Piven points out a group called "the causeheads". Why? "They pick a world-threatening issue and stick with it, for about a week."

Much of what you are describing as causes strikes me as identity politics. I'm not sure how much Christians should be involved in this, no matter how affirming of our context it is. Seems like people training to be pastors ought to have as their cause "Christ and him crucified," and his glory through the work of the church.

A great example of a cause that went out of style: Darfur. This was front page a year ago. What happened?

Existential Punk said...

Pete, i am so glad you are a sponge! Thanks for the shout out!

Samir Selmanovic talks about in his latest book how we make our religion/faith an idol. VERY GOOD STUFF! You'd LOVE the book!


Peter said...

Mack, seen it - PCU. Classic! But not so wise as to make me rethink the value of causes. The world is a mess - someone ought to care.

Clearly, the folks I've listed in this post are not stuck to a different world issue, week to week.

I think your comment regarding "identity politics" is an important, perhaps cautionary reminder. But I don't see how it invalidates finding active purpose in our vantage and circumstances. Doesn't Liberation Theology attempt to "set captives free" and offer liberation and hope in Christ, in very tangible, socio-political ways?

Brand New Day said...

Peter - I absolutely loved this post! I especially loved where you said that you are excited about what God is doing! That is a hard thing for cynics like you and me to say... but when you said I got all warm and fuzzy inside.

I, like you, am excited about the Emerging Conversation, Process and so many other global and cultural engagements going on in our time.

Thanks for putting this out there. It made may day a little better :)


Peter said...

Bo, thanks dude. Missing you in Church History!

Rhiannon Y Orizaga said...

As weird as it sounds, I think academia is my cause. I love the university culture. I love being able to be around "causeheads" because I see young people who are looking for something to fight for, not just something to passively believe in. A lot of times I get swept up into other causes but to me the wonder of academic culture is that it is a cause magnet... and to me, all causes are about people. Blessing people is the ultimate task, and when we look at any cause, even if it's trendy or seems hardly relevant, the root of it, the core goodness, is that you can find a way to bless people. I know that I want to spend my life surrounded by people who are awakening to their own gifts, and awakening to ways of blessing others. As my good friend Jesus might say, Blessed are the Causeheads for they will find their Purpose.

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