Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Journey in the NY Times

Read it here: "Taking Their Faith, but not their Politics, to the People" from the New York Times, published June 1, 2008.

Oh, ANYTIME that an article about The Journey's many interests in social issues and the Bible gets written in a major U.S. paper that begins with how Southern Baptists shun alcohol is a convulsing good time. What are we at, about a half-dozen of these now?

To be sure, I'm not complaining about the thin gild of approval that seems to coat the news coverage of my church. The last thing I want is to read how much people should despise us for talking about stuff. But what I observe more than anything in these articles is that they aren't really about us, The Journey. Rather, they are about how the older evangelical churches (namely Southern Baptist ones) are seemingly losing their way in culture and influence and how churches like The Journey are leading the way to pounding the nails into their proverbial coffins. Nice.

Only it's not like that. While journalists like to overly portray differences as ideological, the core disagreements concern methodology and a level of charity for opposing views that older evangelicals are unaccustomed to showing. I admit I'm generalizing a bit. Neela Banerjee, the journalist for the New York Times piece, thankfully did not impress this point of view as much as others like Tim Townsend (of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) have in the past. Still, as benign as it is, by nature it is impossible for these news articles to be anything else but divisive when the reporter also searches out opinions of The Journey's more severe critics, like Roger Moran. Moran's negative commments about The Journey's Theology at the Bottleworks discussions should be understood in a very specific context and not taken to indicate that churches cannot associate. Indeed, Moran's views represent a small, albeit vocal, minority among more traditional churches. In general, The Journey has experienced little, if any, conflict with fellow Christian churches across several denominations, including Southern Baptist.

This particular article ends with a quote from yours truly, so I feel I must comment. It says,

Letitia Wong, 32, who said she favored a fence along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants, added: “As much as our faith informs our political views, we aren’t united in one way of thinking. What unites us at the Journey is the power of Jesus Christ.”

I don't remember saying specifically anything about a border fence, other than when asked how many people present thought it was too easy to enter the US, I raised my hand. And, if you think my quote sounds a little weird, so do I. In its proper context, I meant to convey that The Journey's primary emphasis is on faith in Christ and not on political stances. We have thoughtful liberals and thoughtful conservatives in church who derive their political leanings from their interpretation of how the Bible's precepts apply to public policy, and I think that's fair enough. We can disagree all day long about who and what to vote for, but at the end of the day, it is important that we recognize that we are Christian siblings who share the love of Christ. And in that context, politics takes a back seat.

My hubby says I'm famous now. I don't really know--perhaps infamous might be more accurate. That suits me just fine. If you're curious about the lead photo, yep, that's me waaaaay in the back shoving a forkful of monster nachos in my face. Can't see me? Good.

In addition, I offer a few corrections to the article, for the sake of accuracy.
- The Journey is affiliated with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association (which is a tier down from the Missouri Baptist Convention, which is itself a tier down from the Southern Baptist Convention), but it is a far cry from being a Baptist church. The church actually came about through the efforts of Jesus!--er, Darrin Patrick, through the Acts 29 Network.
- A 2,000 member megachurch? Shucks, not yet anyway. Service attendance over five services may reach 2,000, but actual membership is somewhere between 500 and 800.
- The Theology at the Bottleworks discussions don't regularly center on President Bush and the war in Iraq. In fact, we haven't approached that topic in over three years.
What others are saying:

Darrin Patrick at The Journey's website
Denny Burk
Revolution in Jesusland
Tom Durso at 501(c) Files
Stephen Murray
Guy Williams
Avery at AveryFineLine
Jonathan Merritt
Tim McNabb

The Times article was even reproduced internationally on a website called Vox Vocis in a language I can't even identify (the article remains in English).


keith said...

thanks for stopping by my blog!
I thought the article was both good and accurate as far as the general concept and shift in thinking.
I also really appreciate Darrin Patrick - I've seen and heard him at a couple of A-29 events. I also have had some good discussions with JMac as we may one day have our own theology on tap. I hope to be in StL in October with some of our dudes for an A-29 Boot Camp.

keith said...

Oh, AND...
New City Church (that's us) started in January of this year. We are members of the Macon Baptist Association (our City is Macon, GA). That makes us members of the Georgia Baptist automatically AND that makes us SBC. The humor for us is that the local association voted us in and we were not even looking to be a member!

Stephen Murray said...

Thanks for the link. In February visited a friend of mine who fellowships at your church and had a great time at some of the meetings you guys hold. Including the midrash stuff at the Schlafly.

Jonathan Merritt said...


I enjoyed contributing to the Times article. It was actually pretty fair compared to others I have worked on. Neela is a straight shooter.

Thanks for posting on my website, www.jonathanmerritt.com.

You may also visit (and sign)www.baptistcreationcare.org.



Letitia (The Damsel) said...


Thanks for commenting. I have seen the baptistcreationcare site and found Darrin's name there! I do appreciate that you are being thoughtful about evironmental issues.

Check out my latest post on the same subject.