The saying “Why is it that the choice among churches always seems to be the choice between intelligence on ice and ignorance on fire?” is attributed in Diana Butler Bass’ book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening to an unnamed Facebook poster.
I think that this sense that one must choose between these two tendencies is one that has confronted many of us at some point. But I also think it is one that many of us are starting to feel we are over, or are ready to be over. Perhaps I should begin by sharing my own experience.
I’ve been wanting to publicly (i.e. on the blog!) thank Rev. Tom Bartley, the pastor of my church, Crooked Creek Baptist Church, for some time. He has provided me the opportunity to relate my academic exploration of the Bible and Christianity, undertaken professionally in a secular manner and context, to my own personal faith and the life of our Christian community, by teaching Sunday school, but also in other ways. And he’s not merely provided me with the opportunity to play the piano and keyboard in church as part of our worship team, but even to sing on a couple of occasions. I can tell you that, had he not simply told me to do it, I almost certainly would not have! Singing was something that I so long assumed I couldn’t and thus shouldn’t do, that I never worked at trying to improve. And so, while my singing voice is not great, I have been able to be part of the combination of voices leading the congregation in song.
For me, this marks an important moment in my own faith journey. There are necessary periods of questioning and silence. But eventually, it is to be hoped that the journey in silence eventually reaches a place where one does not merely leave behind older ways of speaking and singing, but find new ones. It is not that I’ve started writing songs because I feel like I’ve reached that point, but rather that I feel that I’ve reached that point because I’ve started writing songs again.
I am looking forward to sharing some of my attempts to bring the two together in musical expression, to have “Intelligence on Fire.” Maybe that should be a title for a song, or an album? At some point in the not too distant future, you can expect my own music to be added to the mix of things I share here.
I think that there are many progressive and liberal Christians, and others who’ve felt torn between intellectual seriousness and spiritual fervor, for whom the moment has arrived for us to bring the two together, with a passion that leads to practical actions, and to song.