Shedding The Baggage, Part 2

IMG_4088“(I)s the Christian view of the world to be optimistic or pessimistic? If it is essentially evil, then creation is to be beaten into submission to the will of God. If it is good, then it is to be worked with and honoured as something sacramental, in which we can see the hand of the one who created it. If a pessimistic view is taken, then the church is an ark into which to drag as many souls as possible so that they may be saved from the final bonfire. If the view taken is optimistic, then the church prays that God’s Kingdom ‘may come on earth as it is in heaven’, and co-operates with nature.” (emphasis added)
—John Finney, in “Recovering The Past – Celtic and Roman Mission.”

It is interesting to me that, though Jesus taught us to pray the Kingdom of God would come, he didn’t explain what that is supposed to look like so that we would recognize it when we see it, or so that we could pray specifically about what exactly should come. This does not sit well with many evangelicals who have mistakenly been taught that 1 Peter 3:15 means that we need to know all the answers – and many Christians act as if they do. In fact, I remember reading a survey asking people what they find most objectionable about Christians. One of the top answers was that Christians tend to be know-it-alls. That would certainly be one of my answers – yes, I find many of my own tribe annoying – and I’ve been guilty of it myself. The evangelical answer to the question of what Jesus meant when he told us to pray “thy kingdom come” is that we should pray for the “second coming”. This is rooted in the evangelical mentality that we need to “get saved”, and get others saved, so that we can, as N.T. Wright puts it, “go to heaven when we die”, as if there’s nothing more going on in between. This mindset misses the point of our creation, our calling as Sons and Daughters, redemption (See Romans 8:20-22), and the whole will and the purposes of God. I look forward to the return of Jesus, but I’m convinced that’s not what he meant when he taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”

There is lots and lots of mystery about God, and about His Kingdom. How could it be otherwise? He is Eternal, and we are less than a speck in a vast universe, itself fully holdable and observable by an omnipresent Creator of All Things. And yet, to some, mystery is uncomfortable. I wrote in my last blog about finding the Imago Dei in all things. One example of the Imago Dei that I see in post-modernism as a world view is the childlike delight many of the “spiritual-not-religious” express toward Mystery. In that, they have some fellowship with their Creator, even if they couldn’t say it that way. They are, I think, many steps ahead of believers who chafe against that same Mystery, and who see nothing redeemable about post-modernism (Side note: Just as a world view such as post-modernism is not all bad, so our current expression of Christianity’s not the best one possible. We are living in a post-Christian age. Rather than bemoan that fact, we ought to rejoice in it and see it as an opportunity to re-examine ourselves and our Christian praxis).

So what are we to know about the Kingdom of God? The subject is bigger than the universe, in fact, it is infinite. But I can give a simple illustration with a typical encounter from my ministry; A woman, not a Jesus follower, comes into the ministry tent, and we find she is being held back from growing spiritually by resentment against her mother. She is not willing to forgive her. Through addressing other, peripheral wounded places in her soul, she finally completely forgives her mother. A piece of the Kingdom has come into her life.

IMG_4122Upon hearing a story like this (I, and others like me, have hundreds of them), a regular church goer will likely ask, “But did you get them to accept Christ?”, only without question intonation – it is meant more as a statement than a question.

In his book, “The Celtic Way Of Evangelism”, George G. Hunter III points out the difference between evangelization by the Roman bishops, and that of the Celtic saints. The Romans considered the Barbarians, which included the Celts, to be “unreachable”; when they did attempt to evangelize them, their efforts involved first getting them “civilized” enough to receive the Gospel. The Celtic saints were very different. Many of them were indigenous with the Celts, or at least had lived among them, as St. Patrick did. Their usual method was to build a monastery in the midst of their neighbors, then simply interact naturally with them. They served them in whatever ways they could. Eventually, their neighbors would find the monks’ way of life to be worthwhile and would become Jesus followers themselves. Sometimes it took a long time, but the Celts were eventually successful in bringing all of Great Britain – Celts, Angles, Saxons, Picts, Jutes, and Britons -to faith in Christ. They had an impact on the mainland as well, apparently all the way to Asia Minor. The Romans, on the other hand, did what is normally recognized as evangelizing to this day – they preached at them, and/or tried to change their culture, which has been a common and regrettable mistake in missions throughout Christian history. They were not nearly as successful, at least not initially, among the “Barbarians”. Also, the Celtic saints really didn’t have much doctrine or have much use for it. Doctrine may be important but you can’t indoctrinate people into faith. In contrast to the Romans, the Celts were a poetic, emotional, passionate people. As pagans, they loved, and probably worshipped, the natural world. Once they became Christians, they continued to place a high value on nature and in their poetry, recognized the hand of their Creator in the creation. Wisely, the saints realized there wasn’t necessarily anything to be gained by scrubbing clean everything about the existing culture.

IMG_4082Although it’s hard to know exactly the methodology used by the Celtic evangelists, since they resisted writing, it appears that the methods used today by what John Finney calls “the new evangelists”, which include myself and my fellows, resembles that used by them. We like to go to festivals, especially “transformational festivals”. Hunter refers to our post modern culture as turning toward “neo-barbarism”. I confess I rather like that, and I identify as such without abandoning civility completely, I hope. So I’m a natural fit at these festivals. We set up our camp among the others. Our mentality is not that we are the Christians come to “save” the heathen. It is that we are festival people, indigenous with that culture, and as Jesus followers, we are there to serve our neighbors. We hope we can bring something of the Kingdom into the lives of individuals and into the micro-community we find ourselves in as well, and we invariably do so. We hope that our neighbors will see something in us that they want and that they will be influenced by us. We in turn allow ourselves to be influenced by them, by recognizing the Imago Dei that they necessarily possess, and which, maybe, we lack. But if and when any of them ever choose to “convert”, which we are prepared to walk them through, that will be 100% their choice. That is what Honor looks like. God himself honors our choices; free will is, I believe, God’s greatest gift to us, because without that, neither love nor grace is possible. Why would we treat anyone any differently?


The Simple Truth

IMG_2442I’d like to say something today about the nature of Truth. It’s been a source of frustration to me that truth is something that needs to be explained at all. It’s very simple, but it’s debated by great minds even going back to ancient times. Actually, that fact is one of the things that caused me to be disillusioned about philosophy, which, for a brief period in my young life, I really enjoyed. Why the strenuous debate?

Very simply, truth is what is. It is independent of what anyone thinks or believes. I can fully understand strenuous, ongoing debate over what is true, and over our ability and means for discovering truth. But as for the truth itself, nothing could be simpler. The well-worn parable about the blind men and the elephant says nothing about the nature of truth; it only describes the problem with perspective. Despite the various perspectives of the blind men who all encountered the elephant differently, the truth is, there is an elephant.

In order to learn what is true, I need to value the truth more than anything else – more than any preferred conclusions, for example. Today, we have done so much damage to the notion of truth, thanks in part to a corrupt academia that takes strange comfort in materialism and relativism, that very many people don’t know what it is, though they may talk about it all the time. Beliefs and opinions are formed according to the world we prefer rather than what is. This is tragic.

The search for truth often starts with a premise. If the premise is wrong, but I am objective, meaning, I have no agenda but to know “what is”, hopefully I can discover what’s wrong with the premise and change it. If I am committed to the premise, insisting on into matter what, I will no doubt find “facts” to substantiate it. As someone has said, you can proves anything with “facts”. Anything you like.

Naturalism in science is an example of this. Naturalism is defined as “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.” Proponents of naturalism claim that allowing for supernatural causes allows for superstition to be used to account for certain phenomena. There may be some truth to this, though the history of science has demonstrated otherwise. But that’s beside the point. It has never been demonstrated that there are no supernatural causes. If there are such causes, then this is a flawed premise and can’t help but lead to incomplete or even wrong conclusions.

Statements like that always lead to an outcry from materialists and I’m not going to enter into a debate on that subject as I’ve done many times in the past. I offer it as an example. My real motivation for writing this article has to do with far more ridiculous examples from my own tribe. I am a Christian. False premises based on religious legalism and literalism have led to some very bizarre beliefs, held with militaristic fervor, that are actually destructive to the cause of Christ.

I recently had an argument on social media with several Christians who believe in geocentrism – that the sun orbits the earth – that the earth is flat, that the moon produces its own light and that the planets are wandering stars, and NASA is nothing but a huge conspiracy to fool us all (to what end, I don’t know). Presumably (we didn’t get into this, so I am assuming), the universe is a few thousand years old.

Why do they believe this? Because, in their minds, that’s what the Bible says, and to not believe everything it says 100% literally means you are without faith and are offending God. Actually, they are more than literal; they are extra-literal. You see, Pharisaism never went away. The Pharisees were so intent on keeping the Mosaic law that they invented their own laws which went beyond the Mosaic law. For instance, their law forbade cooking a young animal in its mother’s milk. In order to avoid breaking that law unintentionally, they would not allow dairy of any form to be placed in any utensil in which meat was used. One rationale for geocentrism that I was confronted with was the story in the Book of Joshua in which Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still, which God did. How could the sun be made to stand still unless the sun revolves around the earth?

Have you ever had someone completely misspeak something they were trying to say, but you didn’t correct them because you knew exactly what they were saying? Is there a single praying person in the world that hasn’t seen that God often does not answer our prayers exactly as we asked? These are not stupid people I’m talking about. What leads to such nonsense? It can be nothing but fanaticism, with maybe some elitism grown in the same culture.

I’ve spoken many times about the fact that, as an evangelist, one of my biggest obstacles is the bad behavior of other Christians. Non-Christians see that and say, “Nope, I don’t want any part of that god”. And I don’t either. I haven’t brought it up much, but stupid beliefs like these, and more, by people who are not stupid is another obstacle. As a Christian, it’s extremely embarrassing.

Toward a More Respectful Evangelism

IMG_2442Consider the following two scenarios. The first one is completely true. The second is typical of countless, undoubtedly numbering in the billions, of encounters that have occurred throughout the history of Christendom.

Scenario 1: Na’aman (not his real name) came into our ministry tent at a festival in the UK. Na’aman was an atheist who was deeply troubled and hoped we could help. We told Na’aman that we would be calling on our Creator for wisdom so that we could help him. Though he was an atheist, he was ok with that. We did not suggest to him that he needed to acknowledge the Creator. He got some serious and very visible healing for some very painful emotional wounds. Over the course of the remainder of the festival, it was obvious he was experiencing a peace that he had not possessed previously.

Months later, I was at the Burning Man festival in the U.S. On a brilliant, hot morning, I was shocked and delighted to see Na’aman walking across the playa in my direction. He had found me! No easy feat at a festival of 70,000! We talked for a long time about a lot of things. Na’aman’s life had changed. His relationships with others had changed. He was at peace. I talked to him briefly about my Creator. I didn’t preach at him or push him to do anything. We had a big hug, and he went his way, promising to stay in touch.

Scenario two: A man is approached on the street by two others. Pleasant conversation occurs, but the man wonders what these two men want. Soon, the two begin talking about Jesus. The first man is polite, but on guard, because he knows from experience what is coming. Sure enough, the two men begin to press for some sort of acknowledgment about the things they are telling him. The first man politely thanks the two, says he will keep their suggestions in mind, extracts himself from the encounter, and goes his way. Or, in a variation of this scenario, the two become belligerent and the first man becomes angry.

In one of these scenarios, a seed was planted. In the other, a wall was built.

In his book, “The Celtic Way Of Evangelism”, George G. Hunter III writes: “Bluntly stated, the Roman model for reaching people…is this: (1) present the Christian message; (2) invite them to decide to believe in Christ and become Christians; (3) if they decide positively, welcome them into the church and its fellowship. The Roman model seems very logical to us because most American Christians are scripted by it! We explain the gospel, they accept Christ, and we welcome them into the church. Presentation, decision, assimilation —what could be more logical than that?”

Hunter goes on to contrast this with what he calls “the Celtic model”, which he attributes to the early Celtic saints beginning with St. Patrick: “(T)he…Celtic model for reaching people: (1) establish community with people or bring them into the fellowship of your community of faith; (2) within fellowship, engage in conversation, ministry, and worship; and (3) in time, as they discover that they now believe, invite them to commit.”

I personally prefer and even more light handed approach than Hunter seems to describe. I try follow as closely as I know how the example set by Jesus himself, who was seemingly aloof and hands off (by Roman and evangelical standards – in other words, by those of Christendom), always leaving the choice to the individual. Operating under this model, it’s not unusual to see people doing Kingdom work alongside believers before they actually come forward to state that they, too, believe. I don’t ever want to be accused of “selling” Christianity, or of pushing anyone into making a decision. I just want to do the best I can, poor as that attempt may be, to be Jesus to others.

It’s frustrating and extremely difficult to explain to traditional church people that, by far, the biggest obstacle to people coming to Jesus is the way the church has behaved toward those on the outside, and this includes the way the Gospel, or Good News, is communicated, which seldom sounds like good news at all. I once had a witch tell me that, though the group I was part of (which was ministering in Salem, MA – witch city USA) was cool, we were not the church. He then pointed to a street preacher with a bullhorn about a block away who was yelling at people, and said, “THAT is the church!” It’s heartbreaking to have to try to overcome a lifetime of negative experiences in the heart of a non-Christian when you represent such a tiny minority of believers.

We are living in a post-Christian society, for a lot of reasons, perhaps, but one reason is that Christendom has made itself irrelevant. It’s troubling and embarrassing to me that for most of its history, the Church has not behaved like Jesus did. I used to think just like the Church I am now finding fault with, and I remember being troubled that Jesus was terrible at “closing the deal”; Why didn’t Jesus ever lead anyone to Christ?? He was a terrible evangelist! That is how I thought, because that is how I was taught. Hunter attributes this mindset to Western logical thinking.

It’s refreshing today to see so many believers moving toward a more Jesus-like approach to Kingdom living. Within the institutional hierarchy of the church, though some leaders are recognizing the rightness of this, most of them are finding it very hard to make the switch completely. That is because hierarchy, as we understand it, is contrary to any genuine expression of the Kingdom. But that’s a subject for another blog post.

I welcome all comments, especially those who may take issue with my remarks.


Shame, shame

131292193_11nMan, this election! Like a lot of people, I’ve gotten into some intense conversations and Facebook threads about it. My comments have mostly been toward Trump, but not because I think he’s worse than Clinton. These candidates are each SO bad that talking about one being worse than the other seems ridiculous. They’re bad! REALLY bad! On any reasonable scale for rating candidates’ qualification, both of these would be WAY into negative numbers.

Actually, my focus on Trump doesn’t have much to do with concern about who our next president is going to be. Both candidates are prone to be despots, and I don’t have a preference as to what KIND of despot I come under. I despise any kind. Our wonderful experiment in self-governance has wrecked on the rocks while we were busy not paying attention. Sad as that is, it has not been where my hope lies since becoming a Christian. My focus on Trump comes from my deep concern for the Church, primarily Evangelical Christianity, because that is my tribe.

I’ve been hearing “prophecies” declaring Trump to be God’s choice to save the nation. I’ve heard the bizarre justification for supporting this clown (Hmm. I wonder if the current clown sightings is prophetic?) that God can use Pharaoh or Cyrus, or a donkey (let’s not confuse a donkey with an ass).

First of all, if and when God uses a seriously flawed man or woman to rule over a people, that is not a good thing. It means something evil needs to be exposed, and not in the ruler but in the people who are ruled. It should be a time of mourning, not rejoicing, unless you’re rejoicing over your own exposure and consequent acknowledgment of sin and repentance.

Second, as a prophet myself – a reluctant one, I’d like to add – I don’t have much respect for what passes as prophecy in this country. To reframe an old joke, if you were to lay all our so-called prophets end to end, they would still all point in different directio. Heck, I not even very sure of my own prophetic inclinations. But I’m really sure about something I’ve known since my conversion in 1979; tyranny is coming to this nation. I don’t know that this is the time that this will happen, but it kind of looks inevitable (to those Christians praying for God’s mercy on the United States, pray neither of these turkeys becomes president).

I am also pretty sure about this: If there is a purpose in this infuriating insistence Evangelicals have to support Donald Trump, it’s to expose something very ugly and unChristlike in that camp. I have written a little about this before, as have lots of other folks. Maybe I’ll write more. I don’r know. But frankly, a lot of you folks are a big embarrassment.

The Street Preachers Strike Again

Recently, someone commented on one of my blog posts. Here is the comment. The part in sub quotes, which I’ve emboldened, was taken from the blog post in question, in other words, I wrote it:

RuebenIsDisappointed“This is what you live out? Really?

‘My definition of evangelism looks something like this: To love my neighbors in truth – to get to know them, to listen to them, to truly “see” them. To be available to them, and to not give up on them – ever. That is, after all, how God treats me.’

“That’s not how he treats his own … His actions speak falsely … He judges and castes away those who have a differing opinion. He takes pride in yelling and arguing with those who stand on the street and share their point of view with others . He will condem you without seeking to understand. After all, he is right…there’s no room for any other perspective.
“If your actions are a reflection of who God is and If God treated you the way you truly treat others , I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with your God.
Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

Anytime someone comments on my blog, I get an e-mail and am given the choice to approve the comment or not. An e-mail address for the commenter is provided. This commenter’s name was given only as “Jo”. I don’t know who it is, but I am sure that he or she is connected with the bullhorn street preachers we regularly encounter here in Salem.

So I sent “Jo” an e-mail. This is what it said: “Have I wronged you in some way? I’m assuming you are one of the street preachers who preaches on the streets of Salem. Is this right?”

Having the misfortune of many years of dealing with these types, I know how they operate. I decided I would not approve the comment unless the commenter was willing to engage in something resembling a dialogue with me. I was sure he/she wouldn’t. But I had to provide the opportunity, and that’s why I sent the e-mail.

They didn’t respond.

So I sent a second e-mail a few days ago. This is what that one said: “I’m pretty convinced of your affiliation to the bullhorn street preachers, and your failure to answer my previous e-mail is very typical. You people are scared to death of having dialogue with those you come to slander. You are present day Pharisees, whitewashed tombs, wind without rain; you have nothing to offer the non-believers you judge and slander. 
“Had you chosen to engage, I would have approved your comment on my blog and a conversation could have taken place there. I am considering writing another blog post using your comment as the basis to show how devoid of anything resembling Christ-likeness you bullhorn cowards actually are. Thanks for that opportunity.”

Yes, I know that’s pretty harsh.

So why am I writing this blog? Because I find these people and their actions so reprehensible as to be akin to murder. That’s not much of a stretch, based on Jesus’ own definition of murder; it’s actually consistent with that definition. I feel this kind of hateful behavior needs to be exposed.

These people come, spewing insults and accusations toward people they not only don’t know, they refuse to know them. They absolutely refuse to engage in conversation, choosing instead to hide behind their bullhorns. I have heard the refer to people they do not know, some of them believers, as “sluts”, “homos”, “devil worshippers”, etc.

So let me take the commenter’s points one at a time:

“That’s not how he treats his own”

You would not believe the lengths I have gone through to get some of these would-be evangelists to admit that I am their brother in Christ. Yes, I believe they are Christians. Badly mistaken ones, but Christians nonetheless. Only once have I succeeded, and that was probably because I was making him really nervous. I can be intimidating sometimes.

If I am one of their own, why do they announce to the crowd that I am a heretic? and doing the devil’s work?

“He judges and casts away those who have a differing opinion”

This one is laughable and when my fellow ministers read this, they’re liable to choke on their soup. I should probably warn them before I post this. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. These people have NO tolerance for any opinion other than their own very narrow and mean one. ‘Nuff said.

“He takes pride in yelling and arguing with those who stand on the street…”

Well, I don’t take pride in it, but other than that, guilty as charged.

“…and share their point of view with others”

They don’t “share” anything. They come uninvited and spew murder and hate. They come empty handed and are good only at really making people angry.

“After all, he is right…there’s no room for any other perspective”

One of their complaints against me is that I have TOO MUCH room for other perspectives. They themselves have none. Again, the pot calling the kettle black.

“I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with your God”

I know. My God is a God of mercy and grace. Yours is a harsh judge who hates people. They actually tell people this: “God hates you”. Yes, they do.

Many times, while these people are spewing hate from their bullhorns, I have shouted out to the crowd, “Who wants the god they’re preaching?”. They universally respond in the negative.

I can’t communicate how difficult these street preachers make it for those of us who are just trying to love people the way we see Jesus loving them. The older I get, the more sure I am that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the legalists and “false apostles” who followed him around and made life difficult for them. It is frustrating beyond words. I fully understand why Paul and even Jesus used such harsh language in speaking to them and speaking about them. I know they are not going away. Sometimes, they make what we have to offer even more attractive. But their works are the most grievous thing we have to deal with, more difficult than lack of funds or fatigue. They are my thorn in the flesh.

The Invasion of the “Dones”

IMG_1332Have you heard of the “Dones”? They are those who are “done” with church. They still love Jesus, but find church to be frustrating, or disappointing, or heartbreaking, or simply a waste of time. Some of the articles I’ve seen written about the “Dones” state that the “Dones” have left and will not be coming back.

Well, I am a “Done”, have been since 2004, and no, I won’t be going back to what I left. My perspective about the church and what troubles me about it are similar, but also different from nearly all the comments made by other “Dones” who responded to some of those articles, as well as those made by others who I have talked to personally. I find the problems of the church to be deeper and more fundamental than most of them. But I digress.

I had gone back to a church maybe a year ago. It is a good one. But I went back with few expectations; one, actually. I just wanted to be in community with other believers. That’s all. And even at that, my expectations were low, because I know what institutional church does to people (I have since moved out of state to be part of a community that actually works very well).

I have a problem with the “Dones”, even though I sympathize with them. I’ve spoken and written a lot about the shortcomings of the institutional church (though not on this blog so much). I believe the condition of the I.C. (institutional church) to be dismal, contrary to scripture, contrary to the model the apostles provided, a waste of time at best, producing stunted infants at worst. Harsh criticisms, I know, and it brings me no pleasure to say it; quite the opposite.

Some of the complaints of the “Dones” have to do with never being provided an opportunity to do the Kingdom stuff. Ministry, in other words. That is the stunting effect I mentioned; that the I.C. has succeeded in convincing its members that they can do nothing without its leaders – professional leaders, I might add.

Isn’t there a scripture that says something like, “I can do all things…” Yes, I know, context, but still…

The “Dones” have to take their own responsibility for this. Aren’t we each responsible to examine what we’re taught for ourselves? Here’s an example: One of the primary teachings that keeps us in our pews facing forward quietly is the one about “covering”. No matter what one might endeavor to do, someone will ask, “Who’s your covering?” You can’t go to Bible college without “covering”. You can’t go out in the street and do much of anything if you haven’t been released by the man who is your covering.

My question is, where is that in the bible?

Here are some scriptures that ARE in the bible: “Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you.” (Mt 20:25) “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” (Lk 12:14). “Not that we have lordship over your faith” (2 Cor. 1:24). “Then comes the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule, and all authority and power, for he must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15:24-25). Note that rule, authority and power are among his enemies. Also see Matt 28:18.

Now someone will undoubtedly take me to Hebrews 13:17 (someone always does), which says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them”. Trouble is, the words translated “obey” and “rule” in my bible don’t carry the sense of the original. I believe it was Frank Viola who suggested that a better translation might be “Allow yourselves to be persuaded by your leaders”. In other words, whether you choose to be persuaded by your leaders is between you and God, and none of the leader’s business. You are also responsible for what you submit to. The leader is just a man. Or a woman. They are not God.

A church I know of found itself without a place to meet. It split into several groups, but that process of forming the groups took awhile. During that process, I heard one person complain that they never got to fellowship with their church family anymore. My response was, “What is stopping you from spending time with your church family?” Yes, it’s harder when all these things aren’t done for you by someone else. But this is exactly the attitude that makes and keeps us weak and stunted.

Here’s my advice for the “Dones”: go back*. For the community. If you see something vital to healthy Body life that needs doing, then do it. Is someone hurting? Take him or her out for coffee, and listen to them, THEN pray for them. Do you want to minister on the street? Do it. Do you want to pray for the sick? Go to Wal-mart, find a sick person and pray. BE who you are. And don’t wait for anyone to tell you you’re ready. Go make mistakes and learn, and be humble and loving about it. If everyone did this – wisely, humbly and lovingly – we’d have revival.

So go make your own miniature revival.

*My exhortation to “go back” is rhetorical. The point I want to make is consistent with Paul’s admonition to learn to be content in whatever state we find ourselves. But we do have liberty. It is not necessary to leave; only to adjust our expectations. Likewise, it is not necessary to stay. What is necessary is community, and that possibly can take a variety of forms. I stress this as someone who is very much a loner for whom the idea of a hermitage is very appealing.