Over on Carol Howard Merritt's Blog there is an interesting discussion of the place of education in the spiritual formation of pastors that demonstrates something that Michael Kruse is talking about from another angle. We are rapidly degenerating into separate cultures in this country that do not talk to or understand one another.
The Big Sort that is characterizing this era in our history is a continuation of the conflict set in motion by the upheavals of the 1960's, which shook us loose from almost every steadying anchor in every part of our communal life: Christendom, Victorian morality, Post-War Bipartisanship, rigid family life and sex roles.... One part of America shook loose, and another part of America hung on for dear life to each anchor; other parts did a little of both. Now these fragmented Americas are struggling to find a way to live in the same country together. The preference at the moment seems to be another form of "separate but equal," where we have places that one part of America can live, but other parts are not welcome. My favorite picture from Bill Bishop's work on The Big Sort is a picture of a woman in full angry protest mode holding a sign that says, "I moved here to get away from people like you!"
And we, mainliners but especially we Presbyterians, are caught in the middle. We are being torn by each side. I have a response to Carol and to the not-so-civil discussion in the comment thread: it is our negative responses (fight or flight) to this conflict that have killed mainline churches all these years. Congregations ebb and flow, yes-- but 50 years of ebbing is more than a natural life cycle. We have not come up with a creative response to the conflict that is more and more rapidly balkanizing us into self-affirming echo chambers of cultural, educational, and socio-economic homogeneity.
This is the time to think and act anew. Not everyone will understand or appreciate it, but it is time for the Church to do what Christ did-- not to run! Not to fight! Stand, love, and take the punishment-- open our hearts and hands, and let them be scratched, bitten, nailed, broken. We must speak and live out love into the face of the whirlwind. We must hang on to each other-- whether we think the other lacks passion or that they lack intellect; whether we think that progress is on our side, or that time will prove us right.
What a witness a church that stayed whole while its native culture divided would be!