By Tom Ehrich

ENID, OK -- I came to the Texas Panhandle town of Canadian, named for the Canadian River, and decided it would be a wonderful place to stop for the night.

I drove up and down Canadian's charming main street. I pictured myself taking a walk there before dinner. Maybe barbecue at what was once a grand hotel.

While I was imagining, the one hotel in town sold their last room.

So back on the road. The next town big enough to have a motel would be Enid, some 208 miles away. Long day of driving.

Anyway, here I am in Enid, ninth largest city in Oklahoma with a population of nearly 50,000. It is the "Wheat Capital of America" and has the third largest grain storage capacity in the world. And a downtown that I am told is worth exploring.

I think I will spend a second night here. I am behind on my writing, and, in ways I am sensing more than seeing, behind on my thinking. I am on the edge of something but too road-weary to proceed into it.

I am asking myself why I have reacted so strongly to the issue of white privilege and racism. I think it's worth caring about, and I stand by my sense that this is the issue underlying other issues.

But why this, why now? I think my faith has been more shallow than I thought. Or maybe more conventional. I was formed in church life and became an expert on church life. I am also a good enough writer that I can probe the stories of life and sound deep, even when I am staying close to the surface.

I think my reflections on white-power insurgency have blown my cover. I care deeply about these matters. I see my nation being corrupted. I see danger and violence ahead. I see the rich exploiting these divisions, as they exploit whatever will bring them wealth.

I see churches choosing death over life. It baffles me how self-destructive mainline churches are. They deliberately choose behaviors that will sink their ship. They resist the efforts of younger, fresher and less conventional leaders.

I see Christianity in America being co-opted by the intolerant. The voice Jesus allegedly speaks in 2015 is an angry, hateful, racist and sexist voice, demanding a return to some imagined "family values" and cultural certainties, cloaked in a narrow patriotism and calling for holy war against all outside their bubble.

That voice couldn't be farther from the Jesus who lived and the God who walks with humanity today. That intolerance and hubris are a perversion, crafted by fearful people and sold by the smug.

I worry, therefore, about what Christianity will do to my nation. Less and less are we a force for good. More and more we are drawing inside our progressive and conservative bubbles. At a time when so many are suffering, both at home and abroad, how can we remain in comfort and like-minded thinking?

I have long cared about the politics and economics of all this. Now I struggle to grasp the faith of it. Not the religion, for religion tends to be a maker of bubbles, but the faith. How does God feel about what we are doing in God's name? What does God want us to do? What does God want me to do?

I have had "pedal to the metal" most of this trip so far. I tell myself it's because I have been crossing desert and thinly inhabited plains, where towns are scarce and motels hard to find. But as I ended this long day of driving, I wondered if maybe I have been avoiding something.

If I don't stop to explore even dull towns, if I don't pull over to read historical markers, if I don't sit alongside a railroad and just watch mighty trains go by, maybe I won't need to climb the mountain to hear what God is truly saying.

Even the diligent pilgrim can get lost in self-delusion. Time to slow down.

1 Comment