What was it like to grow up in a family of priests? With so many strong voices around you, how did you find your own voice?
I have not given this question a thought until it was asked. Growing up in a priest’s household was normal, in the sense that it was all I knew. Later I realized that my friend who grew up in the home of an English professor found it normal to discuss literature at the dinner table. Our dinner conversations were more likely to focus on morality and ethical issues with everyone comfortable looking at these issue form a theological perspective. So in truth, I never had to “establish a voice.” It was expected that I would have a voice.
Who have been the important role models in your life? How have they shaped you?
Not surprisingly, my greatest role model in the ministry has been my father, particularly when learning the craft of preaching. Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who I heard speak several times while I was in seminary – is another. His sense of love and charity towards his nay-sayers and even his oppressors is so remarkable that it can only be a spiritual gift given by God.
Of all the biblical figures you have studied, with whom would you wish to spend a day, and what would you hope to learn?
The obvious answer is Jesus, but it is also the terrifying answer. To speak with Jesus would allow me to hear the word of God directly from the source. But Jesus was not known for sugar-coating the truth when he shared it with seekers.I want Jesus to look at my life and affirm me in the things that I have done right and well. But if I am honest, I will admit that I can probably make a list (albeit a short one) of most of the things I have done right and well. So, in truth, what I probably would need from Jesus, in that conversation is a course correction and some honest coaching.Those thing are hard to take, even from God…maybe especially from God.
What books have most shaped your thinking? What are you reading now?
Should War Be Eliminated? Philosophical and Theological Investigations (1984) Stanley Hauerwas
The Battle for God - Karen Armstrong
I am currently reading Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson; Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much and Proof of Heaven
What in your view is the greatest challenge facing people of faith today?
First, I will limit my answer to the people of my own community -- meaning that I will narrow my reflection to American Christians, the group with which I am most knowledgeable.The greatest challenge to Christians in our society is that we want a faith without challenge. Life has become so hard. We are terrified that our children will not be competitive. So we push them. We push them at school. We push them in sports. We push them into music. We push them to get involved in extracurricular activities -- but only ones that will help them be competitive in life.Then we turn to the church and say, make my child believe, but whatever you do, don’t push them. We live in a world in which we don’t value things that have come too easily, and yet we want a faith without demands. It is a tough conundrum.