“Survival is underrated.” Brian McLaren, February 7, 2007
It’s ok to take care of ourselves, it’s ok to be a friend to ourselves, it’s ok to say no, it’s ok to have a life outside of ministry. Brian hammered these thoughts home today in many different ways, and it spoke to me.
His most thought-provoking comments were on thinking as a social act. Each of us has a social group with norms of thinking; think of it as a circle. In the center of the circle, thinking is easy. When you are thinking things that are strongly in the center of your group’s accepted norms, thinking is effortless. The more we move toward the boundary, the harder it gets to think, the more resistance the group gives. We need some friends to give each other permission to think, that help us out on the edges where we are plowing through new ground.
Sometimes when we do that, the center of gravity moves, the boundary expands, and thinking becomes easier and broader. Sometimes, you find yourself further out than the group can go, and you are alienated and alone. When that happens…you may need to find a new group.
I’m sure that made many uneasy. What about orthodoxy? What about staying grounded? But from Brian’s experience, and from what we see of the church’s huge irrelevance to many in our culture, I suppose our boundaries DO need stretching.
I’m finding the reaction to my top ten lists for Barclay Press to be quite fascinating. In broad generalizations, with only a few exceptions, those who have been among Quakers for some time love my positive list and have questions/concerns about the things that make me crazy about Quakers. Those who worship with Friends, love Friends, but come from other backgrounds, absolutely love and gush about the crazy list.
I think this proves McLaren’s point. My crazy-making list challenges some things, moves me to the boundary lines a little bit. Some in the center give resistance to the stuff on the edges (including myself…I find myself wanting to re-affirm to some who love my second list, “Don’t forget, I WANT to be Quaker! I don’t want to give it up!”) But it gives life to those who are out there on the boundary lines, and I think they are really longing for us Quakers to move our center of gravity and expand the boundary lines so that we can be about Jesus’ business together.