This is a “get to know me” post.
I really thought I was coming home from Europe to become a church pastor. I had been ordained for a decade and had been quite well received by the chapel folks in the military. But as soon as I got back to the US, I ran into all kinds of trouble. So I distracted myself for awhile in secular education work, but then I really stirred up trouble, so I quit that work. Once I had time for contemplation and study, I found myself completely out of place in the mainstream of religion. The harder I tried to make things work, the more they broke. It finally hit me that I had long been an outsider, so I began reaching out to those who had been similarly disenfranchised from religion.
That’s how my online ministry started. The virtual nomadic hunter-gatherer life was far more fruitful in spiritual terms, while the domesticated fields were full of toxic rot. This engagement of the fringes manifested in all sorts of ways — switching to Linux and Unix, learning about obscure networking stuff, developing a writing style to captured like-minded readers. But in the process I began turning over a lot old rocks and ruins, and discovered that whatever “mainstream” meant, it was all very wrong. I moved farther afield and discovered that a lot of non-Christian folks were using stuff that reflected the more ancient biblical viewpoint. A lot of real weirdos and kooks starting hanging out with me (in virtual space).
Too be honest, I really believed we could still find some place to stand near the mainstream, if not inside of it. But after more and very consistent rejections, I gave up on that. It was pretty lonely for awhile, because nearly everyone who really liked what I was doing were people I’ll likely never meet face to face.
Those who were too conventional became scared off by my explorations. You should imagine that process brought even more radical changes in my outlook. Eventually, I began to discover where I really belonged. Oddly enough, this space became its own new “mainstream” in the sense that I was ready to starting working on a whole new society. In other words: While I was at one time reaching out to marginalized folks, there came a point when I moved out there on the margin and put down roots. So now I’m reaching back into the mainstream to pull out folks who need to escape. The field of focus remains folks who are marginalized, but it’s people who aren’t self-consciously so. They aren’t standing out on the margins intentionally. This change wasn’t a conscious decision process; I’m not self-absorbed enough to think I can create a new reality all by myself. This thing coalesced around me bit by bit. Now I look around and realize I’m not alone; I’m not some kook raging in the wilderness. There’s a village growing up around me.
And that village keeps looking at me for clues. Personally I wonder if they haven’t all made some huge mistake, because I’m not sure I can do them that much good. But this thing persists and I refuse to just run away. This is where I belong, so if you’re going to keep hanging around, let’s try to make the most of it. This is what’s behind the recent series on building a new Christian Culture. The interaction I get seems to call for this kind of effort and no one else seems to be working on the question.