ERB: If we could return for a moment to the earlier question about images that you use to represent the church, one of the images that really stood out for me in the book was the image of death and resurrection. You say in the book that “a little death and resurrection might be just what the church needs right now.” Can you tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that?
RHE: That quote comes in the context of reflecting on the common sentiment that the church is dying in America, and that there’s going to be no Christianity left. So many people are fretting over the statistics and the numbers, but I’m inclined to think that maybe it’s okay for Christianity to lose just a little of its complete dominance over American culture. Maybe our empire-building days are over, or are at least coming toward an end. That doesn’t mean that we are being persecuted, and I think that it might even be a good thing because it means that we are going to have to learn to measure our impact as Christians and as churches in something other than power, something other than this struggle to win the culture wars. It seems like that might be a good kind of death to have, as it would mean dying to the old ways of dominance and control, and rising again in the way of the cross. We don’t have to be afraid of death. I say in the book, “death is something that empires worry about, not something that resurrection people worry about.” Our God is in the business of making all things new. We don’t have to be afraid when we see those [declining] numbers and statistics. As Chesterton said, “we know a God who knows the way out of the grave.” I hope that this passage is an encouragement to people to not worry so much.
ERB: It’s fascinating to me that one of the recurring images of Israel in the Old Testament is the description that “none shall make them afraid,” and similar language is used in the New Testament in passages like “perfect love casts out fear.” I think that you’re spot on in describing the many ways that cultural or consumer Christianity is bound by that fear of death or oblivion.
Thanks for taking the time today to talk about your new book!
RHE: Thanks for thinking of me. I’m such a fan of The Englewood Review and always appreciate what you all share as far as books and interviews. It’s always good stuff, and it’s an honor to be asked.
ERB: Thank you.