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Greg Kintzi

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WHERE GOODNESS STILL GROWS

Reclaiming Virtue in an Age of Hypocrisy

“When the world ends, it’s a chance to build a new one.”
-Amy Peterson

           The word “virtue” isn’t a word that you hear much used these days. In the turbulent and apocalyptic times in which we live, the term seems to belong to a bygone era. According to Amy Peterson, “The word “virtue” comes from the Latin Vir, for man. It’s etymology is symbolic of much that is wrong with our current understanding of morality. For centuries goodness has been defined by those at the top of our historical hierarchies. They haven’t always been wrong; but they have missed so much, and as a result, we live with – at best – an anemic understanding of virtue, an understanding of virtue that has gotten all tangled up with a political agenda, a set of “American values” that aren’t Christian, sentimental ideas about the good old days, and a tendency to believe some voices more than others. In some cases, we live with a weaponized version of virtue that exists primarily to uphold the existing hierarchy.”

            One result of this sorry state of affairs has been a great exodus out of Christian institutions. Millennials are leaving the church, citing hypocrisy, partisanship, and unkindness as reasons they can’t stay. As someone who has watched this phenomena first hand, Amy Peterson laments the corruption and blind spots of the evangelical church and the departure of so many from the faith. But she refuses to give up hope.

            In her new book, Where Goodness Still Grows, Amy dissects the moral code of American evangelicalism and puts it back together in a new way. Amy writes as someone intimately familiar with, fond of, and also deeply critical of the world of conservative evangelism. She writes as a woman and a mother, as someone invested in the future of humanity, and as someone who needs to know how to teach her kids what it means to be good. She imagines virtue as a tool, not a weapon; as wild, not tame; as embodied, not written. Reimagining specific virtues, such as kindness, purity, modesty, hospitality, and hope, Amy finds that if we listen harder and farther, we will find the places where goodness still grows.

            During the summer months I would like to discuss Amy’s book with whoever is interested. Instead of meeting in person I would like to try meeting on zoom. If you would like an invitation to the zoom meeting and book, please email me or call me. The books are $20.00 each. The schedule for our discussion is as follows:

Sunday, July 5, 2020 - Intro and Chapter 1 “Lament”

Sunday, July 12, 2020 - “Hospitality”

Sunday, July 19, 2020 - “Purity”

Sunday, July 26, 2020 - “Modesty”

Sunday, August 2, 2020 - “Authenticity”

Sunday, August 16, 2020 - “Love”

Sunday, August 23, 2020 - “Discernment”

Sunday, August 30, 2020 - “Hope”

As Amy confesses in the concluding paragraphs of the books introduction: “In (this book) I grieve, and I get mad. I grieve the growing distance between me and my childhood communities of faith. I get angry at the ways some have used virtue-talk to try to control women and keep us in our place. I lament my pride and blindness, and I work to disentangle fear, certainty, patriarchy, consumerism, capitalism, and individualism from my understanding of virtue.

            “But the grief, the anger, and the lament have led me to a richer, more verdant faith, watered by voices I had never heard before and fed by perspectives I deeply needed; that’s also part of this book. Reimagining virtue while listening to these new voices has restored my hope in the continued goodness of God in our fractured world…

            “This isn’t a book of final, definitive answers about virtue. It may not help ‘anchor our children and ourselves in our culture, our history, and our traditions’ – in fact, I hope it may unmoor us from some of those traditions, and from a partial, whitewashed version of history, and leave us thrashing about in the deep for a while as we seek to find our footing again. And maybe we won’t find our footing again. Maybe, instead, we will learn to swim.”

            I hope you are as intrigued and curious about Amy’s book as I am. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions to what she has to say to us in this apocalyptic moment we are all living together.

Your Fellow Pilgrim on the Journey,
Pastor Greg Kintzi

 




 
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