Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Layman's Introspection

Notice anything new on this blog?

Besides the advertising? Which, by the way, does not appear to be a gold mine for me.

I'm tinkering with the name of this blog, which started out as "Outside, Looking In." A name I came up with on the fly two years ago when a friend urged me to cave in and start writing online.

Today, I changed it to "One Layman's Introspection" to try and clarify the point of the essays I write. Perhaps it's overstating the obvious, but my opinions are just that: my opinions. They're not divine, or inerrant, or infallible. In other words, they're just like your opinions.

Only I happen to think mine are at least worth reading!

Still, for a person who doesn't embrace change, I felt it was time for a title change.

If you think about it, "Outside, Looking In" can sound a bit voyeuristic, like I'm some sort of peeping tom, hanging around in the dark watching people unawares.

Some of my readers may find my opinions as scary as having a weirdo hiding out in their bushes, but that's certainly not the imagery I want to convey.

Then, too, there's the perception that people on the "outside, looking in" want to be part of the "in-crowd," and are feeling sorry for themselves that they're not as popular as everyone else.

Anybody who's read many of my essays, however, knows I have no desire to be part of any social clique, because many of them are based on artificial commonalities like status or materialism. Even religious cliques can be stratified to celebrate professional titles, denominational doctrines, and particular freedoms that lesser folk still stigmatize as in appropriate. For example, I know that I've not been invited to some events because I don't drink alcohol. I'm not in the giddy, churchy beer and wine crowd.

And if I have to compromise my principles to be in most "in-crowds," then I'm better of outside... and not even looking in! Not that my principles are perfect, but if people can't accept me for who I am, then why should I want to hang out with them anyway? Of course, this is a two-way street, because I'm not always accepting of people who are different from me, either. But isn't being aware of my problem my first step in solving it?

So the voyeuristic, socially inept image conveyed with "Outside, Looking In" is being retired.

In its place, at least for a while, is "One Layman's Introspection," which keen observers will notice has the same initials - OLI - that already exist in my blog's URL, www.o-l-i.blogspot.com. I'm not ready to establish a completely fresh URL, and I don't want to lose people who may not have added my site to their list of favorites, so I wanted to keep the OLI.

Plus, I really am just one layman, which in church parlance means I'm not a professionally-trained theologian or licensed preacher. Personally, after knowing a number of people who've gone through seminary, the only real difference I see in them is their greater knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Many of them entered seminary with an already impressive grasp of the Gospel. Yet they tend to emerge from seminary more disillusioned about professional Christianity than when they went in. Sure, now they have a diploma with which they can dazzle pastoral search committees, but they can also quickly diagnose the problems in churches looking for pastors to replace the one that just resigned.

If that's an exceptionally cynical view of seminaries, then I'm sorry, and yes, I do need to acknowledge that some seminary-trained teachers of the Bible have benefited greatly from their schooling. I'm just saying that being a Christian layperson isn't necessarily anything to be ashamed of.

And introspection? Very few of my viewpoints are crafted on the fly. I'm old enough now to have spent some time thinking about a lot of the ways and reasons why North Americans do church the way we do. I'm also fairly aware of my own flaws and frailties as a follower of Christ, which is one reason the tagline of this blog remains "confessions of a refugee from conventional North American evangelicalism."

I'm a recovering cynic of the dominant seeker-sensitive and contemporary influences in our church culture, which helps explain my episodes of tart critiques of popular methodologies in the name of religion. I'm convinced evangelical Christianity has flirted with the world for so long that it's no longer the older worship styles that have become irrelevant, but most of the contemporary parts churches insist are now necessary. But think about it: what person desperately in need of salvation really cares if you've got a rock band and smoke machines in what you used to call a sanctuary if you've still got the same old church cliques and manufactured programs that helped stigmatize churches as havens of hypocrites in the first place?

No, just because I'm toying around with a new name doesn't mean that my charming New York-ish brashness is being replaced by a hip new vibe of New Age Zen and contemplation. Or even that I'm being sexist since it's "layman" instead of "layperson."

I still invite you to read what I've been thinking about and evaluate each essay for yourself based on Biblical truth. Call me out on stuff that you think I've gotten wrong. And flatter me by incorporating my on-target introspections into your own.


Yes, this blog is a form of therapy for me, as well as a resume of my writing.

But why are you reading it if there's not something here that speaks to you, too?

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

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