Reflections on the Mahle Lecture in Progressive Christian Thought

I’m pleased to announce that life is grand. Despite how exhausting the last few weeks have been, I feel like it was all worth it. I attended the Mahle Lecture in Progressive Christian Thought last night at Hamline. It was fantastic. The lecturer, Sara Miles, wrote an amazing book about how she suddenly found herself a Christian convert in middle age: as a married, lesbian, left-wing journalist. She talks about how she followed the Christian faith not because of the ritual or the church, but because of the physicality of communion, feeding people and being fed, and responding to the reality that everyone is indeed hungry. She shows the Christian faith in all of its guttural grit, absurdity of physics, and reality that makes it really eye opening for someone who grew up “going through the motions.”I grew up in the church and I “did church.” I was required to do church, and I did it. When I was old enough, I got a job in the church nursery, because I realized that I didn’t like the doctrine and the ritual, but I did enjoy serving the community: forming relationships with the babies and their parents, watching them grow and learn. The rest of it felt very fake to me, but that aspect of community and relationship did not.

One of the things that this woman really stresses in her book and in her lecture was the visceral emotion of Christianity. She is also speaks very potently about the way that the Christian tradition speaks about the life cycle: your god was born from a “humiliated teenage girl”, suffered and died, rose up into new life like a seed, and commanded you to eat him. The Christianity that she experiences is full of raw emotion, and it comes from how hard she works for her Food Pantry. This is her primary ministry, and the reason she has become famous. She runs a food pantry in San Fransisco right off the altar of her church: truly, literally, inviting the poor and the disenfranchised, and sometimes the cheaters, and the drug addicts, and the unbreakable widows, to the table of God, to partake in a feast. She was able to write down and show me, the girl who grew up able to recite the entire service, what this stuff meant–not only what it meant to her, but what it could mean to everyone.

I was really pleased to meet her and I really learned a lot from the whole experience. Now that I have some time opening up in the upcoming weeks, I will actually be able to involve myself in something like this. That’s the scoop from this side of the world for now…

Leave a Reply