Today has been enjoyable. This morning we had a thunderstorm pass through De Soto, and I sat outside in my garage and watched the rain for a while. The storm developed slowly–progressively graying skies, increasing winds, and shorter intervals between thunder and lightning fed the senses of sight, sound, touch, and smell.
On another note, this past week I read Adam Hamilton’s Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. Rev. Hamilton is senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, with their central campus located in Leawood, KS. He is an excellent orator, an author, blogger, visionary, and important voice in mainline Christianity. He is passionate about evangelism, leadership development, and the Methodist denomination.
In Seeing Gray, Hamilton casts vision for a Christianity that is able to undertake civil discourse in the public and the private square. Along with many other leading Christian voices today Hamilton is disturbed by the venomous manner in which discourse takes place between secular and religious persons, conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and mainliners, Democrats and Republicans. Rev. Hamilton believes that Christianity possesses within its tradition the resources by which persons may avoid the polarities of black and white and meet in the middle, or at the “radical center,” embracing ”gray” as a possible way forward. After constructing a theology of “gray,” Hamilton explores how this paradigm might be applied to such hot-button issues as Abortion, Homosexuality, War, and how we elect persons to public office.
For the sake of brevity, here is my take on this book. It is satisfying at times, unsatisfying at others. Here are a few brief notes and reactions:
- Hamilton begins his book with the question, “Are Jerry Falwell and John Shelby Spong our Only Options?” As a Christian who has been swimming in an American Christianity plagued by the culture wars, I can answer firsthand that the answer to that question is “no.” Having grown up in a world where those seem to be the only choices, I am one among a number of young people who has sought out something all together different.
- Throughout his book, Hamilton adopts categories of “liberal vs. conservative,” “fundamentalists vs. modernists,” ”progressives vs. traditionalists,” “social gospel vs. evangelical gospel,” and most fully “black vs. white.” Throughout his work I found that I could not accept these categories. Because I cannot accept “black vs. white,” I cannot accept “gray.” I would rather opt for “true,” which may result in holding a conservative or liberal position on a particular issue while maintaining civility with persons who disagree. Rather than a mix between positions of “white” and “black” which result in “gray,” I’m looking for something with a bit more color.
- For attempting to forge a middle way Hamilton should be commended. This book is highly pastoral–his heart is for the church, particularly the church found in the United States. In my opinion his description of ”gray” on some issues is more successful than in other areas. If you are a United Methodist, this book may inspire you to create a type of church environment where persons of divergent viewpoints may maintain unity despite their differences. This book may also encourage you to think more deeply about your own convictions and how they relate to those who hold different perspectives, challenging you to interact with your verbal sparring partners in a more Christ-like manner. Lastly, Hamilton will challenge you to remain humble, as he points his readers to the ancient wisdom that tells us we now ”see though a glass, darkly.” (1 Cor. 13:12) I eagerly await that day “shall I know as also I am known.” (KJV)
May we hear Hamilton’s call to be persons of Christ-like love, even when we disagree.