Breaking the Silence

I want to write a book that addresses all the issues, questions and concerns we weren’t allowed to mention when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s.  Over the next few months, I will be sharing my ideas with you, more or less as they come to me, and as often as possible. 

I have been a pastor, but I rarely preach these days.  

I am not an academic teaching at a prestigious seminary or university.  

I am not a writer/speaker.  

In short, I am not the sort of person who typically writes books about living the Christian faith.

Here’s what I bring to the table.  

I was a pastor for 20 years, so I understand the inner workings of churches and the pressures pastors face. 

I spent 15 years leading a faith-based criminal justice reform non-profit called Friends of Justice.  I still have an iron in that fire, albeit on a very part-time basis.  Several dozen people avoided lengthy prison terms because Friends of Justice was on the beat. The folks who sit on juries, I discovered, are much like the people I preached to on Sunday mornings.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, if you are a criminal defendant.

I have a PhD in church history and theology and I have my face in a book every chance I get.  So I have a pretty good idea of how Christians have thought about God, Jesus and the Church over the past 2000 years.

Finally, my paying gig for the past three years has been as a hospice chaplain.  I am constantly talking to dying people and have learned a lot from them.  Since I will soon be 65, I have more than a passing interest in human mortality and it’s distressing implications. 
I will be writing for people who want to believe the Bible but aren’t sure what that means anymore.  I am writing for people who love Jesus but aren’t sure about his followers (or his old man).

And I’m looking for feedback and reaction.  If you see yourself as one if the people I am writing for please read my stuff and tell me what you think.

11 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence

  1. Hey Alan,
    Glad to hear about your plan. In many respects, we have both traveled on the same railroad, albeit I am much farther down the track than you as I just turned 82 recently. We attended the same seminary that is no longer the seminary we knew and respected. I have followed your journey for more than a dozen years and have great respect for the contribution you have made to an honest approach to genuine/authentic Christian witness. I am probably a bit more (maybe more than a bit) cynical than you about institutional Christianity yet I have not lost hope and as long as prophetic voices such as yours continue to sound the trumpet, I will not concede that the fight has been lost.

    I will look forward to your thoughts as they take shape and provide feedback whenever I feel I may have something worthwhile to share.
    Blessings and Peace!
    John Cleek

  2. I disagree with part of what you say you aren’t. You are a speaker (on occasion) and a writer. I see your stuff all the time. And it’s good.

  3. Alan,
    I’m sure you’ve read Peter Enns, Brad Jersak, and Brian Zahnd. It would be great if you could complement what they’ve written. I’m sure you’re right that a lot of people don’t know how to believe the Bible any more, and a lot more say they simply believe it, inerrancy and all, but have never thought through what that means.
    May God bless and inspire you as you write!

  4. Alan, as you know, I have followed your stuff for a while and have admired your work while disagreeing with some of your ideas. As for where I, along with many others stand, I am deeply concerned about the country we are bequeathing to our children and grand children, in particular, the vast government debt. It doubled during the administration of George W Bush and doubled again during Barack Obama’s turn in the Whitehouse. Government deficits grow mainly because politicians want to give government services without having courage to levy taxes to pay for them. It is as if grandparents lived it up on credit and expected their grand children to pay.

    On religion, I do not have affirmative belief in life after death nor do I believe the super natural content of the Bible. Why are we 80 somethings at Broadway Baptist Church and support it financially? It is a reasonable question. It is habit and the fact we consider it an honor and privilege to associate with interesting people of good will. Sunday School is important to us. What is my moral code? It is passive rather than activists. I am not in a do good contest. Mother Teresa I ain’t. It works out approximately as follows:

    Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

    Do no harm.

    Maintain charitable attitude and actions.

  5. I enjoy and learn from your writings, so, if I can be of help reading new writings, I’d be happy to read them…and would plan to anyway, some day. I’ll commenGreet on them best I can from my somewhat unique perspective. (Grew up in small KS town, 4 years high school at Benedictine boarding school in Shawnee, OK; 4 years in Denver seminary; 4 years of Theology in Rome; 16 years in parishes in SW KS and college chaplain for 4 years; 10 years as secondary teacher and pastor in Amarillo area, 18 years retired and working on nuclear abolition and as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams.
    Jerry stein

  6. Yeah, I think you should proceed. Honesty, and a willingness to be vulnerable, builds strength in people and relationships and communities.

  7. DEAR Alan,
    You are a ray of sunshine in an often dark day to many. My own preparation includes a theology minor, as a philosophy major, undergraduate. It’s often those of us, who have the courage to come out in support of the innocent people. Unlike you and Dr. Andrés Guerrero, I have never written anything that can be mentioned, or is important. However, like you, I will never rest until my good friend and mentor Ramsey Muniz is free. I’m the one who has traveled all over the country, to marches and demonstrations, with the Ramsey Banner. Along with the Elder Brown Berets, Jorge López and Jose M Villarreal PhD. It’s not easy, like you, my age is 64. I love Irma and Ramsey Muniz dearly.
    Thank you for your selfless time and energy.
    God bless you

  8. I agree with others here, don’t say you aren’t a writer. A writer is someone that writes. What I read is your passion to make sense of what you observe, experience, watch happening around you, to others, and the world, to understand it and there is no better way to understand a lot of things is to explain it to others. That is strange but real mental phenomena, to work toward understanding something you don’t quite understand, through explaining it to others, and discovering that once you’ve done with it, you DO understand whatever it is.

    What I read is you exploring the same questions, issues, inconsistencies, and challenges that I have and think about. If you think about whatever it is, you can be sure someone else, maybe many someones, think about it to. That was an affirming and validating lesson about writing I discovered years ago, writing for periodicals in a couple fields unrelated to religion or faith. If it was something I wondered about was interested in, curious about, then others were too. And if it was controversial, everyone afraid to talk about it, all the more were others just waiting for that one brave voice that dared break the sound of silence.

    The best to you in this.

  9. Oh just more of those pithy nuggets of wisdom I’ve loved since the first time I heard it. All it takes to write well is to open a vein, and let the blood flow out onto the paper. Of course, that made more sense back when we used quill and nibs.

  10. I am not as educated or as well informed as to theological matters as most of your commenters. I would consider myself an average pew sitterI have been a regular attendaner most of my 63 years and have served on boards I do find your ideas thought-provoking and enjoy reading most of your post.

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