I’ll say.

A friend expressed her frustration with the easy “unfriend” button on facebook, which sometimes seems a metaphor for our disposable friendships.  In the chorus of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” Billy Joel sings “say a word out of line, you’ll find that the friends you had are gone forever,” and I’ve been pondering relationships lately.

More specifically, I’ve been pondering clarity, truth and conviction, and the toll they can take on relationships. But I believe clarity, truth and conviction are important. I walk a line. It matters to me to tell the truth; it also matters to be in community.

Which truth? Which community?

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, a man I hadn’t seen in a dozen years, but whom I’ve known for 30 years now. Our paths have been oddly similar, and we talked about the joy and cost of being truth-tellers, the people we’ve lost, the ones we’ve gained. Another friend has indicated his political views on his facebook profile thusly: “I’d rather not say.”

Both men are pastors, as am I. All of us vowing at our ordination to be truth-tellers, to speak a word of grace and a word of summons to a higher vision. A pastor I worked with long ago dedicated himself to staying in his current congregation until his youngest child finished high school 6 years away. Another pastor never took a public stand on anything at all, and was eventually elected bishop, based on a “clean” reputation and record.

I’m not like that, and will never be elected bishop. Or much of anything, I guess.

But I’m in the call process right now, fully aware that congregation search committees are checking me out in this forum and others. Do I clean it all up? Remove any contentious postings? (especially that thing about repealing the second amendment?) Would I, or a congregation, be happier if I just kept my mouth shut? Or kept it shut until they hired me?

I think about the way we vet Supreme Court justices, parsing their records, speeches, papers, lectures, opinions. Doing our damnedest to make sure they’ve never taken an unpopular stand, held an out-of-the-mainstream view. We do the same thing with potential jurors (if Law and Order is to be believed), although one could argue the stakes are lower. (I don’t imagine they seem lower to the one on trial.)

We do it to political candidates, as well, even going so far as to mock or discount them when their ideas have changed over time, as if somehow changing your mind is a sign of weakness or instability.

Would we rather folks live out principles we didn’t know they held? Can we feel any personal integrity by always keeping our mouths shut?

A Jesus who always kept his opinions to himself might have made a kindly octogenarian, but Jesus the truth-teller changed the world. Sometimes one can be both (Nelson Mandela is nearing age 95), but there are costs along the way.

So, what truth do we claim, and how deeply do we hold it?

I’m not always right, but I try my best to be clear and to be open to transformative conversation. I do believe the second amendment should go, and I believe poverty can be ended, and rich people and corporations should pay more, and socialism is a decent system with biblical roots. You may say I’m a dreamer or something less flattering, but I’m not the only one.

If you’re one, feel free to say so.


About Deb Conrad
I’m Deb Conrad, pastor, teacher, photographer, writer, antique-lover, cat-mom, wine-drinker and old-house-seeker. I have a bike by Burley and knees by Stryker. I play guitar marginally, bowl when I can. I live in Flint, Michigan, with previous lives in SC, NJ, PA, MD, Washington DC, TX, CA and KY. I founded and still help run UrbanSpirit, a poverty education center in Louisville (link below), where I meet interesting people and try to do what I can to change the world. I'm pastor of Woodside Church in Flint, a groovy place if ever there was one.

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