Published by Jon Krakauer in 1996 Into the Wild is the biographical account of a young man from Fairfax County, VA who hitchhiked to interior Alaska. Brashly assuming the moniker Alexander Supertramp he strode into the bush with little more than a sleeping bag, a few books, and a bag of rice, anxious to shed the trappings of capitalism and modern society. Predictably Christopher McCandless, his given name signed to a final and desperate plea for rescue, was found starved to death several months later. Many consider his exploits foolish, but to some Chris McCandless is a hero of sorts. Either way his is an intriguing story to which I can relate.
If we are not careful “professional” ministry has a strange way of sequestering those of us who are called to and engaged in it. Perhaps not unlike living in northern Virginia, the local church can become all-consuming and insular. Bear in mind I write as one who loves the local church and is committed to preserving and fighting for her. Maybe soon I’ll even be an ordained minister. But in pursuit of those objectives it has occurred to me how easily one forgets that there is a wider world out there; a world where religion is suspect, preaching is what our parents did when we came home after curfew, election is purely a political endeavor, and “TULIP” is not a theological treatise. It’s just a flower.
Given these circumstances the call of the wild beckons, but in stark contrast to that of Alexander Supertramp it is not a call to further isolation from or abandonment of society. While I’d love to visit the Alaskan backcountry, for say ten days max and certainly with more than a bag of rice, these days my wild is better represented by a vast and growing segment of American society known as “post-Christian.” These are people who might ask what I do for a living only to find they have no category in which to put my reply. Post-Christians don’t have the slightest pang of guilt co-habiting with their steadies because Christian values, if they even know what those are, have no bearing on their decision making.
At least that’s what I think of when I see “post-Christian.” I’m not really sure because, quite frankly, I don’t get out much. When I do get out the wildlife tends to scatter, smelling the likes of me a mile away. That is why, with the blessing of my patient and gracious, present-Christian, local church elders I am embarking on a research project over this next year. I’ve got five questions, two ears, and an unlimited amount of digital storage with which to begin my own hitch-hiking adventure into the spiritual wilderness.
I have no idea where this will lead. Honest. I am confident that it won’t result in death by starvation, spiritually or otherwise. I’m joining a group of research residents around the country in conjunction with an outfit named Evangelize Today. We’re leaving lots of breadcrumbs on our trails and taking great care to note when and where we cross various rivers. Just to prove it, I’d like to take you along on the journey with me. All you need to do is read and pray. Pray and read. And keep an open mind towards adventure. I’ll post a report kind of like this every month or so, recounting any adventures or the lack thereof and you can feel free to share any thoughts you may have along the way. I’d be happy to hear from you. It would feel like letters from home…back when mail, like Christianity, was the thing.