Peter Rollins Is Ironic

I’m in Greenwich, Connecticut for the next few days, speaking at various events at Trinity Church.  Trinity is an exceptional church — emergent by any measure — in an area not exactly known for innovative churches.  I’ve known a couple of Trinity’s staff members, including Sean Witty, associate pastor, and Ian Cron, who founded the church nine years ago, has recently stepped down as lead pastor, and is the author of Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale.

Last night, Sean emceed a private event for the leadership of the church with me and the inimitable Pete Rollins.  Pete is a “working philosopher” (so says his book jacket), the facilitator of Ikon in Belfast, and the author of How (Not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief, two of the best books on faith and the church that I’ve ever read. (My review of the former book here.)

I really have a great deal of affection for Pete.  We’ve only met a handful of times, but we’ve struck up quite a friendship.  He’s off-the-charts brilliant, as well as funny, endearing, and self-deprecating (in a very Irish way).

Last night we spoke about many things as about 30 people looked on.  We pushed hard on some concepts of God and God’s activity in the world, about the real shape and meaning of the biblical narrative, and about theism and a/theism.  Here’s Pete talking about irony from last night:

What I found most interesting was how we were received by the group.  They were a group of well-heeled Greenwichers, many of whom work on Wall Street, and most of whom were probably a decade older than I.  And they loved the conversation.  These are not people who want a conventional Christianity, nor do they want a comfortable church.  They found compelling our descriptions of a faith that, in my words, “disassembles us.”  I’ll reflect more on my time in Greewich over the weekend.

In the meantime, speaking of irony, from his room at the La Quinta Inn to mine, Pete sent me this YouTube video this morning:

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  • Tony, you and Pete should do a weekly podcast–you guys are great.

  • How much coffee did Peter drink before you recorded that video?! He’s gesturing wildly, wow. But good stuff he said. I was just a little distracted by the flailing arm movements πŸ˜‰

  • Peter is great. It seems to me that the dichotomy between hearing and acting has been around as long a humans. But it also seems to me that that dichotomy has become remarkably embedded in our culture. That’s, in part, what Kierkegaard railed against when he took on the state church and the problem that if everyone’s a Christian then no one is a Christian. I see that today, but I also see seeds of change and many reason for hope. Maybe the bridge between hearing and acting is just belief, which is another word for faith. I certainly need to do a better job of closing the gap.
    The second video had me rolling on the floor.

  • Tony Arens

    Interesting! Thanks Tony – Pete is an interesting guy! That second video? Blasphemy! I laughed so hard coffee shot out of my nose.

  • These are not people who want a conventional Christianity, nor do they want a comfortable church.
    that’s the most encouraging thing πŸ™‚

  • faithful follower

    Once again, white boys “talking” about church without any practical application to how we can “be” the church.