Apparently, when one starts a blog, one should begin with autobiographical details that include interesting tidbits about the blogger. Pictures are also regarded as important. Below you see me pictured with my favorite Van Gogh, Cafe Terrace at Night (1888). I am also wearing an Alabama Crimson Tide shirt because I am from Alabama and am a big fan of college football’s best program (I hear you Clemson but talk to me when you’ve won 5 in ten years.)
That I like Van Gogh and Alabama is good to know. I am also a Sting fan and have seen him solo and with The Police about 15 times. His solo version of Message in a Bottle at The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1981 remains the best thing I have ever heard. I have written and recorded about 120 songs during the past 25 years. Some of them are embarrassing, some are actually pretty good. I also fancy myself as something of a philosopher. The influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein has been huge but that does not diminish the influence of many other philosophers and poets living and dead. I bring all of these things, the most interesting things about me, to the study of religion because I am also a clergy person, the least interesting thing about me, in a denomination I do not currently care to name.
My religious journey has taken me from naive literalism (which is distinct from but close to fundamentalism) to its flip side, atheism (which is distinct from but close to non-theism) and back to Christianity through liberation theologies and the philosophy of the aforementioned Ludwig Wittgenstein. I imagine my Christian life as being similar to Simon of Cyrene’s. I didn’t ask for it. Someone just came along one day and stuck a cross on me and told me to carry it. I didn’t always feel that way. I would not have said that back in my early days when I was starting Bible studies in high school, attending Sunday School for 9 years without missing, preaching my first sermon at 15, and doing revivals with my friend Greg in early college days. Nor would I have said that during my atheistic days when I was studying Philosophy at Samford University, conducting BS sessions with friends (for some BS meant Bible Study but for those of us in the know it stood for something else), and meeting my future wife. But I do feel that way now. Because despite my best attempts to shed it (attended Law School for a year) I remain a Christian of some strange sort. I have not encountered anyone in ministry who thinks like I do. In fact, I have not found many Christians who think like I do. On the other hand, I have found no atheists who share my views on religion. I have put down roots in a very slender liminal space where I feel stranger to most and friend to those at the margins of theism and atheism. I write from these margins. When I address my Christian friends, I am actually hoping my atheist friends overhear and when I address my atheist friends, I am hoping my Christian friends overhear. Geographically, I live in a land of progressive Christians who value diversity and inclusion, but I have never been sure if that extends to people like me.
What I will be doing in this blog is attempting to pose questions that lead toward more creative and constructive thinking, while offering analysis of current conceptual traps that are keeping progressive Christianity from being as powerful as it should be. I will also promote my book ZeroTheology: Escaping Belief Through Catch-22s (Due summer 2019 from Wipf and Stock) though I will not mention it all the time or write only about topics it covers. Anyway, that’s pretty much it. You should also know that I like being provocative but never for the sake of only being provocative. I almost forgot, here is another picture. This one is from my childhood.