Before you delete me from your facebook feed; know that I’m not suggesting that we become patrons who broker in the buying and selling of the dignity of women, rather that we should become friends with people in the broken places of the world.
It occurred to me after several years of post-doctoral education, a myriad of multi colored, matted degrees framed on my wall, after producing dozens of syllabi and grading an untold number of theses and exegetical projects, it became clear that something was missing. I needed to get outside the ivy colored walls and I needed to do this on a regular and ritual basis.
For me it began with preaching on rotation at the local jail, singing and sharing sacred texts with women weeping in their orange jumpsuits, photos of their children hanging round their necks the night before Christmas. Today I lead a group of women who serve and share light and love with dancers in local strip clubs.
It seems imperative for those of us who have given ourselves over to the pursuit of God through academic preparation, for those who have committed to honor God with our minds believing study is the highest form of worship; it seems necessary that we take our theological constructs out into the world where they can be challenged, tried and made known.
We, who write theology and pen insights for biblical commentary, those of us who read the ancient languages and preach and exposit texts must also be found where real life happens, in the dark hovels of strip clubs and in the game rooms of the community centers, under the bridges in the tent cities. We must be found among real people, the ones who feel forgotten, unloved and condemned by this God we study, pursue and proclaim.
Every once in a while we should come to class smelling like stale beer and cheap perfume, giving away our sanitized selves to really be with people not so that we help them transform into upstanding suburbanites who tithe but because Jesus said he was in them, because part of what we need to know we can only learn from the least of these.
We need to get out and walk among the desperate, the lonely, the addicted and infirm, we need to explore whether what we’ve learned really holds up under the devastation of poverty and loss and crystal meth.
This is, after all what Jesus did, the incarnate One walked and talked and dined with the harlots, the sick and the poor. It is good for us then, for those of us who have decided to follow him into years of graduate education and sleepless nights with our coffee soaked souls and ever mounting debt into the meager salaries of a life spent in vocational ministry, for us to be found doing what Jesus did so we strip away what is excess, all that is not needful and we find what is true, what is lasting, what remains, so that we remember why we starting studying in the first place.