Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Resident Aliens

Sometimes, when one misses a book or movie when it is new, it is difficult to get around to it later. This is the case for the book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, which I missed when it came our in 1989. I also didn't read it when many classmates in seminary did, opting for another book from a list of options. But the time came recently for me to get around the the provocative book written by then Duke Divinity School work mates ethics Professor Stanley Hauerwas and minister to the University William Willimon. There lives have since changed and Willimon has for some years been the Methodist Bishop in northern Alabama. But their 175-page book has remained worth reading as an assessment of being a Christian in America at this time.

The title Resident Aliens comes from the Old Testament and connects the experience of Jews living as strangers in a strange land to that of Christians in an environment where Christianity can no longer be assumed. This week, I want to share quotations from the book. For the many who have read the book, it will remind you of its themes. For those who haven't, it may encourage you to add the book to your reading list.
A colony is a beachhead, an outpost, an island of one culture in the middle of another, a place where the values of home are reiterated and passed along to the young, a place of distinctive language and life-style of the resident aliens are lovingly nurtured and reinforced.

We believe that the designation of the church as a colony and Christians as resident aliens are not too strong for the modern American church—indeed, we believe it is the nature of the church, at any time and in any situation to be a colony. perhaps it sounds a bit overly dramatic to describe the actual churches you know as colonies in the middle of an alien culture. But we believe that things have changed for the church residing in America and that faithfulness to Christ demands that we either change or else go the way of all compromised forms of the Christian faith.
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You see, our parents had never worried about whether we would grow up Christian. The church was the only show in town, On Sundays, the town closed down. You could not even buy a gallon of gas. There was a traffic jam on Sunday mornings at 9:45, when all went to their respective Sunday schools....A few years ago, the two of us awoke and realized that, whether or not our parents were justified in believing this about the world and the Christian faith, nobody believed it today.
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In the church's view, the political left is not noticeably more interesting than the political right; both sides tend toward solutions that act as if the world has not ended and begun in Jesus....We must be transformed by the vision of a God who is righteous and just, who judges us on the basis of something more significant than merely what feels right for us now.
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Like an aging dowager, living on the edge of town, bankrupt and penniless, house decaying around her but acting as if her family still controlled the city, our theologians and church leaders continued to think and act as if we were in charge, as if the old arrangements were still valid.
That's a taste of the prologue and first chapter of Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. For those of us on the buckle of the Bible Belt, many of the old arrangement stay true. I prayed the invocation for Armed Forces Day Saturday on the steps of the courthouse in Woodbine. I write openly on faith for the local newspaper. These sorts of arrangements, which continue here in Camden County, are the exception to the new rule. And even here, Church competes with soccer and other events on Sunday morning.

More from Hauerwas and Willimon will follow for the next few days as they offer a provocative assessment of life in the Christian colony.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Resident Alien



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