A story from a reader ...
A reader writes ...
I am a first time reader of your books. Just finished A GENEROUS ORTHODOXY, and A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIANITY. Thought I would take a chance with you since I saw you are going to be on the Board of Trustees at Claremont School of Theology. As a graduate I was once the President of the Alumni Association and as such on the Board of Trustees. I am now retired.
Your journey is an interesting one, that in many ways is similar to mine. I am from an evangelical background, raised with the Greco-Roman world view. I worried about all the things you mentioned, re: second coming etc. This is my story: During the summer of 1966, a friend of mine and I hitch-hiked the continent. We had been given a letter of introduction to Rudolf Bultmann, and an interview with him in his home at Marburg, Germany. He was then in his 80's and writing his commentary on the Gospel of John. Being from the background I was, I was fearful that I was on enemy territory, visiting a man whose treatment of the New Testament was questionable, if not heretical. I was very much in a theological turmoil, in the years prior to going to Claremont for theological reorientation. We found Mr. and Mrs. Bultmann to be warm and gracious, (which threw us off right at the beginning!) I posed a question to Bultmann, thinking I would stump him. I asked, "Dr. Bultmann what do you believe about life after death?" His answer: I believe that the God who meets me day by day will meet me when I must die." It was such a gentle and authentic answer, that I felt I was on holy ground. He didn't need to spell out what it would look like, he said "that is fantastic."
A few years ago I shared this story with Marcus Borg after a lecture series. He said that was his view as well. This incident I recalled after reading your chapter "The Future Question."
I thought I would be more mellow at this point of my journey, have all the answers, basking in some spiritual bliss! Not so. I continue to struggle and am grateful that you, among others, are here to keep the questions alive.
Thanks so much for writing. Many of us are taught in our religious communities to fear "the other" - the liberals, the conservatives, the Muslims, the Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Jews, the whatever. Then, we actually meet them and - lo and behold! - "they" are human beings, nice folks, bearers of God's image just like "us." (That's an important theme of my upcoming fall release ... I hope you'll enjoy it too!) This is a big part of what Paul is getting at, I think, in 2 Corinthians 5:16 ... "in Christ," we no longer recognize others "according to the flesh." Even Rudolf Bultmann or Jerry Falwell or anyone in between. Thanks again for sharing this story.