Phil Shepherd aka Whikey Preacher, a fellow outlaw preacher, and like a brother I never knew. We have shared some difficult times, and some joyous fun in the last year.
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Although seemingly most-likely-to-become-friends in a packed room, for we both have good looking tattoos, great taste in cigars, even better tastes in sing malt Scotch Whiskey, we both married up, and we both believe that Mark Driscoll is a misogynistic ass. In other ways it’s not like John and I have tons in common – John is a self-proclaimed Christian Anarchist (whatever the fuck that means) and I lean towards a self-sustaining capitalism, which makes John quiver with nausea anytime I mention that to him – so I try to do it as often as I can. John believes that the book of Revelation may be one of the greatest books in all of scripture and I think it should be yanked out of the bible because of the shitty theology, songs, and book series it has inspired. John sometimes acts like Shane Claiborne on crack, calling all to a radical social gospel, which I feel is needed; however, I also feel that the social gospel is incomplete at times, creating margins of a different kind. John is a house church planter, and I am church planter that has no desire to create a house church - although I find the house church a valid and a beautiful part of the greater body of the Resurrected Son; it simply is not my particular calling.
I could spend this entire blog post sifting through the differences that John and I have and though that would be fun (at least for me it would be), I would rather focus on why (despite our differences) we still call each other “brother.”
Over the years I have realized that not everyone is going to agree with me – no matter how much I try to persuade him or her to do so. I’ve also learned whether you are a self-sustaining capitalist pig such as myself, or you subscribe to anarchy with a Christo-centric twist, we as the body of Christ have conditioned ourselves not to listen to one another, but only kill time waiting for our turn to promote our views. Pete Rollins in his book “How (Not) To Speak Of God” articulates this point in a more detailed way and he suggests that we as “Christians” only wait for our turn talk and we have lost the art of conversation. We as “Christians” have bought into the farce of apologetics, thinking that it is still a relevant way to communicate, while closing off ourselves to the richness of diversity of different opinions.
Apologetics encourages us to take the posture of proving a point, rather than creating a dialogue. We get so worked up when someone disagrees with us, taking their views as personal attacks, getting angry or upset. We often then respond like a honey badger stalking its prey, not giving a shit who or what gets damaged by the verbal carnage that we are about to inflict. And for what reason do we do this? To prove that we are right? We’ve limited conversation to attack and counter-attack. The notion of apologetics is right or nothing – harmoniously believing the same thing at the end OR being right/wrong and having no ground to move forward. Apologetics is more about talking AT than talking WITH someone. We simply don’t know how to speak with someone AND agree to disagree.
That is what I love about my friendship with John: we agree to disagree on many things and yet we still call each other brother. He has even invited me to speak to his house church and I would one day love for him to come speak at the mega-church that I work at (note the irony here: The Eucatastrophe is by far *not* a mega-church). We find value in each other despite our differences. We love each other despite our differences.
It’s not that I think John and I have evolved into a version of Christianity that is better than anyone else’s. Hell, if you look at us, you may think we haven’t evolved at all; some say we may look more like the missing link (especially when John grows his Castro beard out). I think we have at least learned to try to listen more, not just wait for our turn to speak, and have agreed-to-disagree when we don’t see eye to eye on an issue (or many issues in our case).
I am not interested in what is right or what is wrong, but what is healthy. And I think healthy is finding value in our differences – as long as both voices are being heard in the conversation. I love John and I love the voice that he brings to the table. And though I don’t always agree, I try to listen to where he is at, truly hear him out and engage with his perspective; I believe he tries to do the same with me….or at least he fakes it well.
John and I are not the end-all-to-be-all on every topic and perspective, even though we both like to believe we are at times. In all honesty, we are only but one example of how we can learn to listen to one another, agree to disagree, and be a part of the greater community of God.
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Phil (aka The Whiskey Preacher) is a Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ) minister who co-founded The Eucatastrophe with his crazy-smart beautiful wife Stephanie in the fall of 07 in downtown Fort Worth. You can find more of Phil’s writing & other musings at www.whiskeypreacher.com