Sunday, November 30, 2008

A liberal in a conservative state

Monday, December 1, 2008

It occurred to me recently that I grew up a liberal in a conservative state.

I grew up in southern Missouri. The town where I was raised was burned during the Civil War. Those folks held much more conservative sentiments than I might have realized.

To me, it's no accident that Barack Obama didn't carry Missouri. The miracle is that he kept the race so close. That he did shows how much the population of Missouri has changed.

I spent my whole ministry in small towns. I did that intentionally because small town churches struggle to find ordained ministers. It was a way of serving instead of trying to get ahead.

That might not be so important now since most small town Disciple churches are served by licensed lay ministers. They don't need ordained ministers at all. But in any case, those towns were conservative places. And I was a liberal person. I was raised in a family which taught me to be inclusive, and I was raised in a place that by its very nature taught me that outcasts could be among God's most valuable people.

One thing I looked forward to in retirement was the opportunity to be totally myself. As a minister, you often just watch quietly, not so much out of self-defense, but more because the people you are dealing with are faithful people. They have come to their conclusions due to their upbringing just as you did. So you just minister to them as best you can without trying to change the ingrained things about them. It's not that you don't stand for what you believe. It is just that you don't try to impose your less important ideas on other people.

But there is a price to pay for that. I understand that now. To me it is a blessing to just say what I think and write what I believe.

To everything there is a season, I guess. For me, this is the season of just being Joe.

If you would like to respond to this post, please leave a comment or go to my web site where there is an email address. Thanks.


Erica Orloff said...

Hi Joe:
I'm a liberal in a conservative state now, but grew up a liberal in a liberal state. I had an eccentric father, so I never tried to be anything but me. He is also an atheist, so I never even SPOKE to a minister until I was in my 20s, I guess. Now I have a good friend who is a minister and I watch that whole dynamic and do not envy him.


Joe Barone said...

What a neat comment. It is a hard dynamic. I felt like I accomplished a lot as a minister, but I don't miss that part of it. --Joe.