My old friend “Josh” is retiring as a Pastor. We used to work side by side when I was an Interfaith Chaplain and Josh always supported by work. Our mutual admiration was encouraging, especially as I was exiting the Church (he and other friends were there to “celebrate” with me the day I gave up my ordination–good brew there too!).
I recently met with Josh at our favorite brewery for lunch and caught up on our lives. As usual we shook our heads, laughed and told a few stories. After telling me about a particularly nasty encounter with a parishioner, Josh said he drove away from the church that day with one main thought in mind: “I just want to be a KIND person.” What a great thought and intent. We agreed, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply practice kindness each day. As he put it, “People might actually come back to the Church!”
Our conversation continued with our shared (liberal) critiques of the political circus in the country (a clown car stuffed with. . .you know, clowns–and some are dangerous clowns!). At one point Josh said with a smile, “You and I don’t agree on Theology, but we sure agree on a lot of these things.”
Then I asked Josh, after all his years devoted to church leadership, as he’s leaving his many years as a pastor, what does the Future of the Church look like to him? He shook his head, “That’s an important question.” His answer was given with some sad wisdom: “It will continue to decline; youth are less and less interested. The Church needs to BE the church.” I asked him what that meant. He replied, to put into practice the “great commandment” from Jesus: “Love God and love your neighbor.” That’s it. I smiled as I responded, “And maybe it doesn’t matter what people mean by ‘God.'” He got my point.
We lifted our beers and agreed that a life of justice and kindness is the whole point. No matter where we are with faith, if we’re just kind people and care about social justice, what does the rest really matter?
I really like this guy. I continue to admire him. I like how he thinks, and his great sense of humility and humor. His wise intelligence. He’s given most of his life to church work and he’s left with this powerfully simple lesson to pass on: “I just want to be KIND–while always speaking out against injustice.”
Later, as I reflected on our brew-and-true time, it was even clearer to me: Theology needs to go; it needs to die; it’s already dead (and please don’t resurrect it!). It divides the world by inventing other worlds. It distracts us from doing exactly the things we know we ought to be doing: living kind lives.
So, let’s say goodbye to Theology. Let’s tell the truth: it’s not important. All you Theologians out there: Sorry, but time to put the old words we all know–really, we ALL know what they are–into flesh and blood; it’s time to live the words, to be just, loving, kind human beings. No one needs faith for that, but if you have faith, fine. Without the distraction of the “god-talk” we can work and live together side by side. . . like Josh and me.
And maybe even raise a brew now and then!