Beyond Label or Category June 28, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Religious Trends, Spiritual seekers
I sat with a table of clergy and laity leaders talking about reaching “young people.” In frustration, I asked them to define for me who these “young people” are and what they are like. It became apparent that the “young people” we want to reach are a generic, bland hash of upper-middle-class, calm, well-behaved “newer” versions of ourselves. The expectation is that “young people” will either share, or quickly adopt, our values, that they will enjoy what we enjoy, think what we think, and not question or challenge the way things are. Oh, and they will all nicely and cleanly fit simple categories — easy to label and control. This conversation is a glimpse into a huge problem we face — trying to reach and relate to people we don’t know or understand at all.
Cheapening the Church June 14, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church, U.S. Culture, Uncategorized.
Tags: hypocrisy, Religious Trends, The United Methodist Church, Values
Culture works on church like a cancer. Popularity is the new standard of excellence. Having a slogan or a sound bite or a brand is so much more important than being relevant or having integrity. Our get-’em-in-the-doors-by-any-means mentality has done more to kill the church than almost anything else, but it gives the false impression of success. I saw a man set a record for cramming over three hundred french fries in his mouth at one time, but the caption along the bottom of the television screen read Highlands Assemblies of God Church — and I thought, what a perfect metaphor! Super Size UMC. It’s no wonder that the rest of the world looks at what has become of the church and walks away shaking their collective head. They simply know a sell-out when they see one — reducing the gospel of Jesus Christ to slogans. I got news for you, slapping it on a bumper sticker ain’t evangelism — it’s the path of least resistance. It is what we do when we choose not to do the hard work of actually getting to know people and sharing with them the beliefs and values that give our lives meaning. It’s letting McDonald’s and Wal-Mart teach us how to set up a money-changers franchise in the temple. We have been doing it constantly since the 1960s. How’s that workin’ out for us…?
Farewell, Mr. Bradbury June 8, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Personal Reflection.
I am getting over the news that Ray Bradbury died. He lived a full and amazing 91 years, but even so, the news hits me hard. I discovered Ray Bradbury when I was eleven years old – R is for Rocket was the book — and in the next few years I devoured everything he had written to that point, reading some of the books two and three times. I was a lonely, geeky kid from a broken home and was the favorite target of bullies and big sisters. Books were my escape, and Bradbury was the first author I ever discovered that I resonated with in that deep, wellspring of the soul kind of way. His works of science fiction and fantasy blew me away. His style is flowery and often overblown, but wonderfully folksy and kind. Even stories of monsters and mayhem had that “told-by-gentle grandpa” feel. His was a simple, nostalgic and hopeful style. I actually do not much care for many of his later, more recent books, but his writings from the 40s and 50s will ever hold a special place in my heart. I picked up The Machineries of Joy, The Golden Apples of the Sun, and I Sing the Body Electric and my imagination was captivated once more as it had been forty plus years (Yikes!) ago. While I feel like I’ve lost a good friend, his stories will fill me until the day I die. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, and farewell. May your journey take you places you only ever dreamed of before.