From the “cognitive dissonance” file:
I had breakfast today with one of my closest friends in the entire world, and as is customary, the conversation moved quickly out of the shallows. The question was, as it has been for months – can it be a year already? – since Hillside Christian Church became too inhospitable: where among the local congregations of Jesus’ disciples will our families land?
Our family recently found a small, earthy community of believers where socioeconomic diversity is remarkably apparent, though not self-consciously so. It simply is what it is.
My inner qb grins with approval when all of the sensory associations are that guy that greeted me at the door looks like a flannel-shirted Leon Russell, and the lady on guitar and vocals sounds exactly like Janis Joplin, and is that dude on 12-string David Crosby, or just a clone?, and wow, if you put a Hamer electric in the hands of that tall, balding guy with the baseball cap, you’ve got Rick Nielsen in the flesh…
But the overall impression is that of a community that lives and loves Jesus, together, without pretense or a superiority complex. The guy behind the pulpit – wait, no, there isn’t a pulpit, just a little laptop stand for his tablet PC, and a bar stool, and a bottle of Sam’s drinking water – obviously has some Emergent leanings, but don’t his politics lean too far to the right for that? The music is credible, unpolished folk-rock, not scripted, manipulative K-LOVE tunes, all in the same key. That guy with his back to me on the front row, in the jeans and sweatshirt, must not have a terribly lucrat…hold it, isn’t he the ob/gyn that delivered all three of our boys with a lip full of Copenhagen? And when the Word is preached, it’s 10-15 verses at a time – exposition and application, not a man’s topical, social agenda served with a token verse or two to make it go down better. Maybe you get the picture.
So my friend this morning, who visited the same church a couple of weeks ago, challenged me this morning with this: how are you tracking with that church since they have women elders?
A few years ago, that would have been an immediate DQ for me. It still is for him. And he wants to know why, and how I square my blase equanimity with the “plain sense of I Timothy and Titus.” I’m caught flat-footed. I knew the question was coming, but I’m still caught flat-footed. I have no answer, except an answer that sounds strangely like a posteriori rationalization rather than a well conceived rationale.
But he moves right away to confront his own demons, his own cognitive dissonance, his own hypocrisy sensor. Why, he asks, do he and his wife immediately DQ a congregation where there are women elders, and yet he gladly and eagerly sits under the marvelous teaching of a godly 67-year-old woman at one of the Baptist churches downtown?
The conversation was incredible and rich, but the fog remains for both of us. We both know that a high regard for Scripture is essential to our evangelical postures, but we’re also haunted by the self-evident fact that we’re not being entirely consistent in our ecclesiology.
There you have it.