Thinking Out Loud

January 16, 2011

John Shore Launches The ThruWay Christians

You stop watching your favorite television program — play along, you do remember television, right — for a few weeks only to tune back in and discover there’s been a major plot twist, there are two new characters and a key character is off the show. Your reaction is, “Hey guys, I only stepped out of the room for a minute…”

In this case, I got out of the routine of reading Christian author John Shore’s blog over the holidays returning to discover I’d missed all the excitement —  he’s launched a major movement.  Okay, major in the sense that while it only has 300 members as of Saturday, it has the potential to shake things up a bit. Or a lot.

He had me at the opening sentence on the December 16th blog post that launched it all:

We are Christians who find conservative/right-wing Christianity too oppressive and exclusionary, and progressive/liberal Christianity too theologically tenuous. We embrace both the conservative Christian’s belief in and fidelity to the core message of the Gospels, and the liberal Christian’s dedication to inclusiveness and social justice.

Rather than continuing to choose between these two roads, we hereby establish the following, which we recognize and affirm as a thruway running between them.

There then follows a 16-part statement which touches on some current issues dividing the two camps, a manifesto that really comes alive in a 16-part “teen” edition also presented.

“The ThruWay Christians” may sound like an excellent title for a B-movie. Several decades ago, some people we knew despaired over the lack of crossover potential in the term ‘Contemporary Christian Music,’ and sought an alternative to describe music that causes you to reflect on the greater issues of life, coming up with… “Reflecto Music.” Seriously.

That was my reaction here. “They’re mean, they’re tough, they’re worshiping under a bridge near you — The Thruway Christians. Starts Friday. Rated PG-13.”  (Sorry, John, I couldn’t resist.)

Okay; having got that out my system, let me state some reasons why I think there is some need for some middle ground; reasons why I think John and company may be on to something.

A couple of the recent blog posts at JohnShore.com have happened because of correspondence from Christians who are also identify as LGBT.  (The short form for “L or G or B or T,” in case you’re wondering.)  Now I know for some, the idea of LGBT Christians is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp,” or “honest politician.” But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover people whose desire to follow Jesus is real while at the same time, their sexual identity is different from yours. Or mine. That’s not the point here, and I’m not going to go down the comment trail on that issue.

What is the point is that some individuals’ felt needs are not being met by the church (local) or The Church (universal). Which, I will admit, probably suits some people just fine. That’s because Christianity in the U.S., where John Shore lives, is becoming like politics in the U.S.: extremely polarized.  Issues that are black-and-white. Attitudes that are us-versus-them. Faith without mystery.

It doesn’t suit me. I’m not sure how obtainable the goal of inclusiveness is in the light of scripture that seems to speak strongly to certain issues, but I am impressed with the idea I took away from reading the W. P. Campbell book I reviewed here on Thursday; the idea that the “extremes” currently visible can be best expressed as “Grace with compromised truth” and “Truth with compromised grace.” There is a need for middle ground.  A need for a highway (as we Canucks call it), a dual-carriageway (as the Brits say) or a thruway (as the Yanks say) running through the middle.

(Can’t help but be reminded of Isaiah 40:3 at this stage: A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”)

And so, first John had the ThruWay Christians Facebook Group.

And then due to a glitch, because Facebook is completely unwieldy, we now have the ThruWay Christians Fan Page.  (Which is why both of the above “links” actually take you to the second one; it’s not a mistake; you can still find the other ! one if you wish.)

And lastly, we have the ThruWay Christians Website. If the idea of looking for something where you feel you identify resonates, check out what’s going on here and follow the developments as they happen.  Right now there are too many people falling through the cracks; there are always going to be, perhaps; but this is about making the cracks a little smaller. (Be sure to click on the forums and visit the “welcome” section where over 300 people have signed in.)

In a weekend post, John says he knows he’s going to take a lot of abuse for this. (I’ll probably get some, too for helping publicize it. )

Publishing the document for ThruWay Christians threatened me. It was not to my personal advantage to do that. It wasn’t ambitious of me. It was the exact opposite. That was me nearly committing career suicide.

…I do encourage you to bookmark or follow or whatever it is you do; the early days of this venture. Is it a tempest in a teapot? Okay, perhaps. But I can’t help but thinking that somebody had to be the first guy in line to use the term “missional.” Or the term “emergent.”

I think there’s something of value here.

I think we should all be listening.

– Blog posts by others about ThruWay Christians:

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5 Comments »

  1. Thanks so much for linking me to John Shore and this new thing he’s doing. I would be one coming from the angle of one ‘tired of modern liberal theology but not seeing anything in conservative Christianity’

    I’m going to take time to lurk and think (and do some prayer) on the manner of my involvement there.

    Comment by John Anngeister — January 16, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    • Correction – when I said ‘not seeing anything in conservative Christianity’ I only meant ‘I can’t go there myself.’

      But I certainly do see and appreciate what I can recognize as honest faith in spirit over letter among many there.

      Comment by John Anngeister — January 16, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  2. You cannot reach an exhaustive conclusion defining your terms::Conservative Righ Wing Christianity//Progressive Liberal(Left Wing)Christianty. see Ezra Taft Benson’s “The Proper Role of Government” AND “Shorter Course in Civil Government” by Calvin TownsendJL

    Comment by Joe Lambert — January 16, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  3. Hey, Paul. You know, I’ve seen your stuff on my work before, and have yet to thank you for it. So. THANK YOU! This is a lovely look at what we’re doing with TWC. I appreciate it. God bless.

    Comment by John Shore — January 16, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    • Well greetings, John, and I am initially excited about what you are up to but have some doubts about whether it’s designed for folks approaching from the ‘liberal’ side of the fence.

      Maybe we could hash it out a little here on the neutral ground of Paul’s blog before I get my feet wet.

      I am a liberal in politics as well as in religion – but I am not very comfortable with the intersection of politics and religion from either side of the fence. I don’t think the church should be taking over social programs for the govt. (for example).

      Is TWC in your view simply a collective of conservative theological hearts and minds who need more room to express their broadening enlightment on social issues?

      I do enjoy people whose degree of faith in Jesus is similar in intensity to mine and who know what I’m talking about when I cite scripture – this often makes ‘conservatives’ OK with me and preferrable certainly to Unitarians and pagans (I’m neither).

      But I’m worried that a critical view of scripture will never be acceptable to most conservatives and I don’t relish getting over-commented with quotes from Al Mohler or the like – or simply stonewalled.

      I guess I’m saying that I don’t want to be the ‘first liberal’ in the group and maybe TWC needs time to ripen before it can accept theological liberals who are neither Unitarian nor pagan nor gay nor abortionists nor anti-Christmas, etc.

      Comment by John Anngeister — January 16, 2011 @ 10:39 pm


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