Book-Read/ Discussion Group of Robin Meyer’s The Underground Church
The Congregational Church of Pinehurst, United Church of Christ (UCC) is sponsoring a community read and discussion group on the book, The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus, by Dr. Robin Meyers. Starting February 10, there will be four consecutive Sunday evening sessions from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. with several chapters discussed each session. This conversation is part of an ongoing effort by the church to live up to its motto, “Wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
Robin Meyers is professor of philosophy at Oklahoma City University and full time pastor of 700 member Mayflower Congregational Church, UCC, in Oklahoma City. One of America’s foremost theologians, Meyers is the author of six books, a syndicated columnist, and an award winning commentator for National Public Radio. He is a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of biblical scholars studying the historical authenticity of sayings and events attributed to Jesus, and more recently the history of the early Church. Next fall, he will deliver the Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School, arguably the country’s premier theological lecture series.
His seminal book, Saving Jesus from the Church, was the subject of a well-received community read at Congregational Church last winter. This spring (May 17-19) Meyers will be speaking and giving workshops at co-sponsoring churches, Seven Lakes Chapel in the Pines and Congregational Church.
In The Underground Church, Meyers examines early Christians who met in small groups, usually in houses. Known as “the people of the way,” church members had no creed or doctrines; they were simply committed to following the way of Jesus. Opposed to the, injustices, idolatry and excesses of the Roman Empire, they were a countercultural group who were radical pacifists, forbidden by their faith to join the Roman Army. All this changed dramatically when the Emperor Constantine, trying to keep quarreling factions together, declared Christianity the state religion.
At this point Meyers believes the church’s underground nature was co-opted; it grew hesitant to speak the truth to power. Instead of following Jesus’ subversive and transforming way of love and justice, beliefs about him (doctrines of the trinity, atonement and salvation, etc.) became all important. He feels this situation persists and has grown stronger today. Doctrinal differences have led to various biblical interpretations and further splintering of the church, both theologically and politically.
In urging us to regain the spirit and substance of the early church, Meyers states, “In an age of hyper-partisan politics, the church is also guilty of a kind of spiritual gridlock. Liberals and Conservatives continue to argue over abortion and gay marriage instead of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and joining forces to resist a culture of violence and greed.” The book offers an in depth critique of both contemporary society and church, and is filled with rationale, examples, and strategies for helping us become once again the people of the way. The publisher summarizes, “It is a clarion call for the church to return to its roots as a Beloved Community working across theological differences to heal a broken world. It is a call for followers of Jesus to be subversive again for the cause of love.”
Book read discussions will deal openly and honestly with personal spiritual issues and the sharing of doubts, hopes and experiences. Since each session stands alone, all are invited to attend as many or as few evenings as they wish. Books are available at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines at a discounted price. Participants should read the prologue and first two chapters for the first meeting.
The Congregational Church of Pinehurst, UCC, is located at 895 Linden Road across from Elliot’s restaurant. To register for the book read, call the church office at (910)295-2243.