by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.
A former student joined an elective course I taught with Dan Kimball in Santa Crux, CA. And the student made the following insightful analysis of how Dan stays connected with the libertine lifestyles of Santa Cruz. In fact, Santa Cruz is very proud of their oddness and eccentricity (there is a popular bumper sticker they sell in Santa Cruz that states “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”). The student wrote:
Dr. Whitesel, One of the most impacting methods of understanding Santa Cruz that Dan mentioned were the relationships he maintained with the “weird” citizens of Santa Cruz. He mentioned having coffee with a man who vehemently resisted and rejected Dan’s stance online concerning homosexuality. We also met Susan Harding, a unbelieving professor at UCSC who studies churches simply from a sociological perspective.
Dan regularly meets with people who do not hold to the same tenets of reality or religion. In doing so, he is constantly giving himself exposure to different worldviews, to different ways of thinking, to different perspectives and to different cultures. In doing so, he is able to identify that culture’s needs, its language, and its symbols. This enables him to effectively create a church that is unique, maintains its faithfulness to the Gospel, while still communicating in a language and through symbols that reach out to other cultures.
When Dan asked in class, “How many of you regularly meet with non-Christians” I could not raise my hand. It is my goal now to find a few to hang out with! Thanks Dan. Thanks Dr. Whitesel! – Joel L.
Here is how I responded:
Glad to help.
During that course we also had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Susan Harding: http://anthro.ucsc.edu/directory/details.php?id=28 . One of her research foci is “born-again Christianity” (ibid.) and she has penned a book titled “The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics” (Princeton University Press, 2000). It looks at the philosophical outlook and influence of Jerry Falwell. To have a person volunteering with Vintage Faith Church on her faith journey was remarkable (but it shouldn’t be 🙂
What I found equally powerful, was that she said the love and community she found at Vintage Faith Church had changed her perspective of where she was in her own spiritual journey. As a result, she helped others get in touch with their spiritual side by serving at Vintage Faith Church. Thus, while she was not leading persons across the waypoint of conversion, she was leading people further along their spiritual journey (across more waypoints) to connect with their spiritual side. A student in the class made this point, saying “Dr. Harding is actually helping spiritual travelers cross Waypoints 16, 15 and maybe even 14.” This is why looking at the spiritual journey as a series of waypoints is helpful. We can see that many people are helping people move along the journey, and that just because they are not helping people cross the “conversion” waypoint, doesn’t mean they are still not helping people with their spiritual quest. I look at such guides as helpers for a part of the journey. And, I hope that as they travel more on their own personal journey, they will be helped by others further along the trek, to see that the ultimate designation in my view is a return to fellowship with God made possible only by Jesus Christ. Spiritual Waypoints help us visualize better the process the Holy Spirit is using.