The We Church Living in an I World by Craig Howard

I’m sitting in my sister’s kitchen as she is getting breakfast together for my then young nephew. She asks, “Do you want Captain Crunch or Frosted Flakes?” And then, “Do you want toast or English muffins?” I’m in shock. It’s not because of the overdose of carbs for breakfast, but that she is giving my nephew a choice. Growing up, my experience around breakfast was my mom saying, “Here’s your cereal. You’re gonna eat it before it eats you!” Those were my choices! Choice would characterize my nephew’s generation in a way I could not have imagined.

I grew up in the “we” generation. The news came across CBS, NBC, or ABC. WLS was the primary radio station (WVON for African Americans) and there were a few others. But most played the same music. They decided what we would watch or listen to. We all watched and listened to the same thing.

Fast forward to my nephew’s post 1960s generation. He chooses from cable TV what he wants to watch and when. He chooses from satellite radio from hundreds of stations exactly what fits his taste. I’m simplifying a major point. The American culture has shifted from “we do” to “I want.” From a unified way of thinking and believing to an individual way of choosing and being in the world.

In his latest book, Countercultural: Subversive Resistance and the Neighborhood Congregation, Gil Rendle takes a deep dive into the cultural divide of “we” versus “I.” Gil argues that the church is a “we” institution living in an “I” culture, and that the church is challenged to move society in the direction of a healthy “we.” Gil wonders if the church can find spaces where we all can live. “ In the search for a shared story, in which all can live, congregations, at their best, welcome all seekers, and intend to include with them all the differences they bring.”

Is there a story we can all claim and live into as Church? Is there a story that opens pathways to bring us together and not solidify lines of division and separation? Perhaps it is the story Gil recounts Karl Barth saying when asked to sum up his life in one sentence. Barth replied, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What is the unifying story of your faith that connects you the Church?

Rev. Craig Howard