Thursday, February 17, 2005

I'm A Cherry Ghost

They don’t know nothing
About my soul
About my soul

Twice in the last week I have been greeted by these words as I’ve driven onto the seminary campus, listening to my new favorite station 89.3 “The Current” (MPR’s new music station). It’s the opening stanza from “Theologians” off Wilco’s most recent CD A Ghost Is Born. I’ve listened to my own copy of the CD many times, but for some reason this song stuck out to me more when I heard on the radio.

The first time I was going to do research on the Atonement. I was specifically researching ideas (John Calvin’s mostly) of Christ’s descent into hell, as mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. Not exactly dinner conversation. The second time I was on my way to my Systematic Theology class.

So, as a young theology student I suppose I should be insulted by the claim I know nothing about Jeff Tweedy’s soul. Theology is after all a serious endeavor. It’s humanity’s attempt to make sense of God and our relationship to him (and ultimately our relationship to others, the world and ourselves).

The problem is that I think Jeff Tweedy is right. Theologians don’t seem to know anything about his soul or anyone else’s for that matter. Academic theology has created this world where questions are asked that don’t really apply to most people’s life. And the theologians seem to like it that way.

Let’s be honest, do most people care about the concept of Christ’s descent into hell? No, they may be curious when they read it in the Apostles’ Creed, but it isn’t going to change their life.

Practical theology isn’t any better. You go to most churches in America, and the sermons are basically sanitized morality lessons. There is nothing inherently wrong or heretical with them; they’re just shallow. And the congregation seems to like it that way.

How do you raise the level of spiritual and theological reflection in American churches, and how do you get theologians to address real issues in ways that meet people where they’re at?

Is it too much to ask for deep thinking theology that impacts my life, my world, my reality?