I was thinking more about the burden of listening to those outside our own tradition while shopping for some literature to use as a sermon illustration this evening when I came across Ann Powers book, “Weird Like Us: my bohemian america“. Toward the end of Powers book she describes a time in life when she had to make a decision she dreaded. She could choose to either stay in Oakland, California and continue laboring in PhD studies at Berkley or join up with The New York Times and become one of their pop critic writers leaving everything/one she knew and loved behind. Powers biggest fears were leaving the world of metaphors and cultural history she had comed to love, and in that possibly lossing her ability to be a big fish in a little pond only to find herself becoming a mino in an ocean that is New York City. Listen to Powers describe this transition;

“And so I came to confront the eternal bohemian predicament. Would I trespass beyond the little world I’d so eagerly homesteaded? If so, what elements of it could I carry with me, and would they die when exposed to foreign air? Would I be susceptible to the virus of conformity? If it infected me, would I ever be allowed to comeback home?”

To apply Powers language to feelings each of us wrestles with as we converse with traditions outside our own in a manner that is indicative of ‘hermeneutical sensitivity’ takes little to no effort at all. I found the way she described her story to be analogous to the way I’ve thought of my own. Each of us wonders whether or not we will fall prey to accomodation of the ‘other’ if we sensibly and vulnerably examine them in charitable terms. Each of us wonders whether or not we can even appreciate the perspectives and values of other theological traditions than our own, and remain able to breath in the air of our inherited or adopted prior theological prolegomena. To put the matter pointedly, “Will we be susceptible to the virus of conformity? If it infected us, would we ever be allowed to comeback home? Or for that matter would we be able to remain at home?” For many these questions already involve to much risk, but I fear that many of us will never be broadened in our ecclesiology and theological prolegomena unless we take the risk, pack up our futon’s and ikea lamps and move out to that strange, overpowering global community that is the Body of Christ and join in the discussion about the Christian Story in a world that seems to care less about a prophet at the edges of a deceased empire.

Will we take the red-eye across our known lands in order to explore this new global community which may actually only be down the street from our places of corporate worship? Or will infection scare us into our traditions domicils? Can the deep and gracious fellowship we’ve experienced in our traditions empower us to believe that our homes are tabranacles? I pray that it is the latter…both for myself, my denomination (PCA), and the visible body of Christ…