Padraig, it's nice to hear from you after a brief hiatus. Thanks for your essay. *grin* I wrote a lengthy one of my own and then my Mac ran out of juice before I could submit. This is probably all for the best so that I can focus on one point you made.
The growth experience of working on SOF is actually realizing and acknowledging that many personal truths coexist in the world -- that they should live together, even in tension with one another. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that they peacefully coexist or that one doesn't trump the other in certain political or theological hierarchies. In my immediate circle of friends who are non-religious and secular for the most part, the same could be said for "applying" their foundational texts of NPR or the NYT or Marx's manifesto. People sometimes wield this knowledge as a weapon, an instrument intent on blunting the conversation and winning rather than informing and serving as an entry point to dialogue about religion and politics and arts and so on. Simply put, we don't get to know and understand one another better.
I don't come from an evangelically driven world, but I do want to know more about why these types of programs seem to be so effective and attract many good people. I'm learning that sometimes good theology is not enough and is not what stirs people to action. Perhaps there is a certain elegance in the simplicity of a message and a singular purpose, whether it's to share one's conversion experience or lead people to a happier life through God or education or work. I acknowledge that I don't entirely understand the motivating factors (and I probably will never fully comprehend them); I just hope that exceptionalism doesn't creep in so that others may not be open to the religious, cultural, and personal wisdom of others. That's what I'm trying to do in this blog post, and in my life.
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