Written by Lewis on the occasion of his election to serve as a Deacon beginning in August 2011
My faith journey has been a story full of religionists – folks who speak on behalf of religion, and disciples – in my experience usually people in the church, who are just trying to follow Jesus, to be the “body of Christ”. Some examples –
Growing up in Texas in the 40’s and 50’s meant growing up with racism, and it was often the religionists who made the case for continued segregation, constructing elaborate arguments to justify the status quo . . . and I bought into that. I mean, how could I not? I was just a little kid, and all my authority figures – at home, at church, at school – were defending the culture of racism. There were, however, a few disciples who initiated dialogue with the African-American and Hispanic communities, catching a lot of heat because of it, and began the long, slow process of working together for human rights. Those disciples taught me that following Jesus might mean working for justice.
I also witnessed attacks on science in general, and the theory of evolution in particular, by religionists. As a teenager I read a book by a prominent religionist “defending” the Bible against scientific claims, and I took it to heart. I mean, how could I not? Not many voices around me were speaking out for thoughtful and prayerful study. So when the youth minister in my church – an influential disciple in my life – spoke out for honest inquiry, I knew I should correct him. I quoted a passage from the book I’d read: “To say humans evolved from apes is like saying the First National Bank tower evolved from a doghouse.” He thought about that for a moment before speaking, and said, “Well, of course it did!” Whoa! That disciple taught me that following Jesus could mean receiving instruction.
Years later, as a (nominal) adult, I had a spectacular bicycle accident and busted myself up thoroughly. In the hospital, recovering from scary surgery, a religionist friend visited me. When he stood up to leave, he said, “Well, I guess I should pray now, and perform my religious schtick.” I had my doubts about the effectiveness of that prayer. I mean, how could I not? I was lying there, recovering in a hospital bed, and he was not at all passionate or engaged by what he was saying and doing. Days later, recovering at home, a close friend and favorite disciple – who knew my own carelessness had caused the accident – came to visit. When I made my way to the living room to greet him, he threw his arms open wide to hug me, and with tears in his eyes said, “You big, dumb son-of-a-___!” That was just the interjection of honesty I needed.
And so here I am now at Highland – a church full of disciples, who have asked me to be a deacon here – to help care for this place and the people in it, who maybe like me are hearing God’s call in new ways and to new opportunities . . . and also for people outside the church, who may just be looking for some justice, or instruction, or honesty. After all I have received . . . I mean, how could I not?