In May 2018, my wife, Annie, and I drove 6,750 miles from Irvine to Arkansas to the East Coast to New Hampshire to Chicago and then back home to California. I was on tour talking about my newest book, Cramming for the Finals, and the power of Progressive Christianity. Along the way, we visited family and friends and slept in fifteen different beds at eight different stops.
We spent long days driving. My record was a fourteen-hour stretch, but the time passed quickly thanks to a good book on tape.
All that driving gave me plenty of time to think. Here are some of my observations:
- This was my sixth cross-country drive (my first was in 1955 when I reported to Camp Pendleton), and I still marveled at how big our country is, how diverse its people and scenery are, and what a wonderful network of roads we have. (We took I-40 on the way east and I-80 and I-70 on the way back.)
- My persistent thought was that we Americans must be good stewards of our land and prevent people from raping it for selfish interests and the almighty dollar.
- I also saw that our infrastructure is getting old and that those in Washington, DC, could provide work for many people by upgrading that infrastructure. Couldn’t we borrow a couple trillion dollars from our Defense Department to make that happen?
- In most of the conversations I had, people said that our nation is heading in the wrong direction. I never heard a word about our Defense Department needing more money, but I did hear a great deal about the need for universal health care, eliminating poverty, defusing racism, turning our “unjust system” into a justice system for all, developing intelligent immigration policies, maintaining the total separation of church and state, and making our prison system one of rehabilitation for the mentally challenged, the addicted, and the un- and undereducated. The great divide between the poor and the rich needs to be resolved.
- Naturally, one of my main interests was the role of the church in different parts of the country. About three-quarters of the people we visited were still involved with the church. The majority had grey or white hair. Most of their children and grandchildren were not involved with the church, primarily because they don’t see the relevance of the institutional church in the twenty-first century. The institutional church needs to wake up!
- The only remedy for this issue that I can see is another reformation. The church seems to have one about every five hundred years—this one is overdue! The whole nature of the institutional church needs to change, but that won’t happen without closing hundreds, if not thousands, of churches that are unwilling to go through the pain of change.
- I believe the church can make these radical changes without diminishing the primary message of Jesus—agape. Removing all the outdated dogma and doctrine of the church can only make it stronger. For the past ten years, I’ve lived without those antiquated teachings, and my life has never been so fulfilling and meaningful. Progressive Christianity is all about agape—loving all humanity unconditionally, accepting people as they are, forgiving myself and others ASAP (or sooner), and caring for the hurting world in so many different ways.
I have not missed the creeds or the dogma for a nanosecond. How about you?