Q & R: Finding fellow thinkers, strugglers

Here’s the Q:

I appreciate the work that you and others in the emergent movement are doing. You’re helping to fill a hole that has been present in the church for a long time. I often wonder if my faith would still stand if not for you and others who are willing to struggle with the hard questions, showing me that it’s OK to have them.
My problem is that I live in the Bible belt, and I’m finding that as I become more open in my theology, I feel more alienated from my faith community. I have a wonderful small group that for the most part shows love, but anytime I hint at questioning some traditional Scriptural interpretations, multiple people seem to jump in to play defense. I’ve experienced this with some of my pastors as well — they want to provide easy answers rather than being present with me in my struggle. I feel alone and need someone to come alongside me as I wrestle with my questions. I am usually one to encourage others to find a community where they fit in, but I’m at a loss to know where to find this for myself this time. I am also a professional in the area, and I’m afraid to advertise some of my more “liberal” theology, knowing that it would be likely to hurt my business. Any thoughts on how to find people to partner with me in my journey?

Here’s the R:
Thanks for your note. Your words remind me of Parker Palmer’s term “divided no more,” which you can read about here.
In movement theory, groups that gather to ask, struggle, and think freely are called “critical communities.” They are critical in both sense of the word!
When such circles don’t exist, I think people like you can form them. It really just takes two or three … a convener and a friend or two. I would hope my books and others like them could provide a good framework for needed conversation. I offer some “guidelines for learning circles” in my new book which are available for free download here.
I hope you will create for others what you need for yourself … In doing so, I think you’ll discover it’s even more blessed to give than receive!