Castle, caravan, or cookout?

Some people see the Church, and the Country, as a castle. A fortress with fortifications constructed to protect the good from the evil. The good people from the evil people. The good values, society, norms, history from the decadent. The Truth from Lies. The Pure from spoil. Usually, it seems, the castle protects the past from the future. Whether in the religious or political expression, it is fundamentally conservative in the truest sense of the term.

Other people see the Church, and the Country, as a caravan. A community of people on a journey, traveling together, growing together, pilgrims on the way to the future. The caravan grows as it goes, as new pilgrims join the trek. The individual pilgrims become something better than they were before through the experience of community and the lessons learned and boundaries stretched along the way. We may never reach the Promised Land in this lifetime, but we can get closer if we are willing to venture forth. Usually, it seems, the caravan focuses on finding a future that is better than the past. Whether in the religious or political expression, it is fundamentally progressive in the truest sense of the term.

This dichotomy seems to be at the root of a lot of our divisions today, and I think it reflects, to some degree, two different personalities shaped by two different cultures. Most personality inventories have some version of this dualism; the language that sticks with me is “need for certainty” vs. “tolerance for ambiguity.” Others substitute “growth mindset” for that latter term, I think.

You probably have picked a side in this battle; frankly, it’s hard not to these days.

But the more these two worldviews wrestle for supremacy, the more I think they both risk missing the point.

The Church, and the Country, could be a cookout. Cookouts are rooted in the present. They don’t generally have an agenda, or an initiation rite. They are not “about” anything, really, other than the opportunity to celebrate together, with minimal structure or even dress code, our proximity, our neighborliness, our love. You show up, you bring what you can bring, you enjoy what others have brought, you have fun.

If that sounds impossibly unserious, reflect that it may be at least as Biblically rooted. The preeminent message of the New Testament: Love. The thing Jesus wishes for people: Peace. The thing the angels call us to do: Rejoice. The most scandalous thing Jesus does, consistently, throughout the Gospels? Carouse with impolite company.  

Sounds like a great cookout to me. May we never get so caught up in arguing about what we need a castle to protect or what we need to caravan together to go discover that we forget to fire up the grill and celebrate the open space we share right now.

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