Saturday, May 10, 2014

* Edifice Christianity vs.Ethical Christianity


Fwd: Re: Your article in Reflection​s

Paul Keane 

May 11 (1 day ago)

to Greg, Harry, Craig




Gregory Sterling, Dean
Yale Divinity School

Hi Dean Sterling

You ask [in this issue of  Reflections]: how many (of you) are still practicing Christians?

With all due respect I consider myself a practicing Christian and yet I do not enter an edifice or repeat verbal formulas .

One of the hopeful things to come out of YDS in recent years was your editor's call for "unconventional ministries" . I admit to being surprised when they actually published my blurb about The Anti-Yale as digital heir to Holy Smoke neither of which had/has an edifice or publishes a creed or has ever earned a penny , but both of which are in my opinion radically spiritual.

BTW without your having published that blurb I never would have thought  to call you in the midst of the Tsarnaev burial controversy . The guy must be innovative I thought.

All of my adult life I have used the media for spiritual purposes from Kent State to AIDS at Yale to Tsarnaev and recently on ageism in the Valley News  as a school board member.

Yet YDS has never seen what I do as spiritual even when 60 Minutes came to the YDS campus over the discovery of the heterosexual transmission of AIDS.

I suppose your initial reluctance to be involved last May "because (I) went to the media"  as you said of the Tsarnaev affair is why Christianity has lost its power over the young.

They are creatures of media. Media use seems anathema to the quiet humbleness required to be a churchgoer and therefore anathema to its creatures.

Hence the popularity of Crystal Cathedrals and talk show preachers.

But as you know Christianity has a radical activist component from the Fathers Berrigan  to Wm Sloane Coffin to Mother Teresa. And now even the new Pope has understood the paradox that publicity in the service of spirituality is a form of humility.

In a world full of danger and bureacratic doublespeak
the terrible swift sword of a lightning flash of truth from the media is cathartic and energizing to those who do not wish to sit respectfully in pews.

I suspect that the alleged murderer Paul of Tarsus nor the table turning Palestinian carpenter who flipped off the money changers would particularly want to sit respectfully in pews either.

No. I am not trying to convince YOU that I am a practicing Christian ( I know that I am one and that certainty is enough for me. )  .

Instead I am trying to suggest that you return to your editor's instinct two years ago  when he canvassed alums to "submit unconventional ministries"  to the alummi magazine.

Building on that editor's impulse might broaden the appeal of the emptying churches.  (The New Yorker's brilliant Adam Gopnik has a different view: When the economy goes up steeples come down,  he says of the last 70 years.)

It's not that simple. But certainly those who use the media make the steeples less musty.

My instinct that the guy must be innovative  provoked this response  to your article in Reflections in one sense.

But in a larger sense it was provoked by my pleasant surprise  after having been rejected by you on my initial appeal for help with the Tsarnaev burial proposal , to have you offer to help find a suitable recipient for that tainted gravesite .

After the mayor and two Hamden ministers (one from the church of my confirmation; the other from the church of my YDS internship ) fled from the bad publicity as fast as they could I confess thinking you might too.

But no. Only  you and the former  mayor Craig Henrici --- my childhood friend --- and Dean Adams --- who has stuck with me since 1976 --- chose to associate yourselves with the creator of that controversy  which began almost one year ago today.

It is for that courage that I take the time to respond to your question in Reflections: are you a practicing Christian?

You and Craig and Dean Adams have already answered it in  my opinion: standing shoulder to shoulder with the outsider.

Best wishes,

Paul D. Keane,
M.A., M.Div. '80, M.Ed.

Dean Adams

On May 11, 2014, at 5:49 AM, "Paul Keane"
 In short:  Edifice Christianity  vs. Ethical Christianity. 

From: "Sterling, Greg E"
Date: May 11, 2014 9:42 AM
Subject: Re: Your article in Reflections
To: "Paul Keane

Dear Paul,

Thank you for all that you do for Christianity. My concern is not to lose a sense of community. I do not feel the need to preserve "Edifice" Christianity, but worry that "Ethical" Christianity can not be sustained without communities. We need ethics and an awareness of the divine within communities-at least in my judgment.

Best wishes,


Sent from my iPhone

Dear Dean Sterling,

Thank you for your generosity of spirit which I have learned to expect but which I do not take for granted.
I agree with your concern for community. I think  the new generation is telling us that  it will be found on a screen not in an edifice, although the outlet to charge the screen might.
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