Tony Brown wants evangelical Christians to engage in a spiritual strip tease. Brown wants self-proclaimed Christians be naked.
Before what I’m calling the “New Reformation” took root (in the form of Outlaw Preachers like Jay Bakker and against-the-grain mega-church pastors like Rob Bell), evangelical churches were not a very safe place to spiritually and psychologically disrobe. But, to quote timeless, quintessential Dylan, “The times, they are ‘a changing. A groundswell of evangelical Christians disillusioned by legalism, rigidity and us vs. them orientations, is evolving into the Emergent church. To the best of my knowledge, Tony Brown has not officially declared himself to be a part of that movement.
But in his book, Poseranity: Unmasking the Poser Within, it is clear that he has tapped into the sentiment that is fueling the movement. He’s closer to the shores of tradition than some, but he’s clearly drifting towards the undercurrent perceived by a number of highly respected evangelical leaders as a perilous, slippery slope. I commend him for that. There’s no shame in going against the grain. In fact, it may be the only way to stop the games. It may be the only way we can all stay sane, in a world where evangelical Christianity is, to an increasing number of “outsiders,” increasingly irrelevant.
The true story of his motorcycle trip across America is also his metaphor for the often turbulent spiritual journey he’s been on----from the hell-fire-and-brimstone pre-Exodus “Egypt” to the promised land--- where “poseranity” is replaced by authenticity----where fear, guilt and shame are replaced by the unconditional love, aka grace, of a redeeming savior named Jesus.
In terms of his spiritual journey, he runs out of gas, on many occasions, but he finds many places to fill up along the way. Those “fill-up” stations are human beings who have traveled a similar journey, and who have a story of deliverance to share.
A growing number of us are no longer content to rely on scripture verses taken out of context, trite clichés, and a rigid view of how the Christian is to live in the real world. We don’t want to be put on guilt trips, or be instructed to put others on guilt trips. We don’t want to use dogma as cheap wallpaper to cover up burning questions and doubts. We want to be challenged to engage in an open dialogue about those questions and doubts----doubts that are shared by all among us who will dare to “disrobe.” We want to embark on a new, bold journey, and we want God’s grace to be our guide. To us, Tony Brown brings a message of hope. I’ve never been a big motor cycle guy. My motor cycle is my guitar. I always bring my guitar on my journey to make sense of two worlds that should look more like one. Here’s the evidence---the merging of the old hymn, Just as I Am and Nirvana’s Come as You Are.
"Just As I Am/Come as You Are Medley"
Dr BLT’s cover of an old hymn and a classic grunge anthem
But like Bakersfield Sound pioneer, Homer Joy, who provides a wholehearted endorsement beneath the front cover of this bold book, I find myself embarked on the same journey as Tony Brown’s. It can lead to some dark, cold places. It can lead to confusion. But there’s a light that gets brighter when you realize that you’re not alone on that journey. An increasing number of disrobing evangelicals are daring to take the same journey. Our destination can feel more elusive than the pseudo-journey of “posers.” But it’s the real deal, and that’s what matters most. Like the Israelites, we may end up wandering around in the dessert for forty years, but what keeps us going is the manna that seems to keep falling from heaven every time we strip off another layer of spiritual and psychological clothing to reveal what we all share in common-----our humanity.
The notorious 70s fad known as streaking shows few signs of a revivial, but spiritual streaking is much more than a fleeting fad. To reference a 70s song by the Carpenters, "We've Only Just Begun."