Originally published April 4, 2012
A favorite blog (newspaper column really) of mine is ¡Ask a Mexican! which manages to be both funny and insightful. Imagined as a place where people could ask the kind of boneheadedly ignorant questions they would never ask a real live person; its real genius is the way that it subverts prejudice by taking it at face value and responding with truth and humor. Only someone really self-confident in their identity, but also someone who didn’t take themselves too seriously could have pulled this off for as long as ¡Ask a Mexican! has been around.
It strikes me that much of Christianity, and especially the strain of Christianity which includes the Episcopal Church, is sadly lacking in such confidence (though I will offer the counter-example of Lent Madness, which seems to embody the same kind of cheeky confidence). So much energy in the Episcopal Church, as well as the wider Anglican Communion, is taken up with deadly earnest, woe-is-me, handwringing. But too many people think that answer to the larger cultural shifts away from religion generally is to abandon everything that makes Christianity, well… Christian. Hospitality isn’t about removing the markers of community; it’s about explaining the markers and walking with people as they navigate their way through them. We won’t bring people along with us if we keep telling them that there is nothing distinctive about Christianity. To do so is to suggest that there is nothing worthwhile about our so-called faith life.
I suspect that the underlying reason is just that lack of confidence within the Church about the claims which Christianity makes. Jesus wasn’t just a really swell guy with some good ideas, he is the Son of God, fully human, fully divine whose life is our best understanding of the nature of God, and whose death and resurrection is sure promise of God’s redemptive power. If you’re going to claim a Christian identity, especially if you’re someone who occupies a position of authority, then for heaven’s sake take it seriously!
Now to go finish that sermon for Maundy Thursday….