Or if you really love stock car racing, but hate being surrounded by drunken rowdies, you can go with a busload of your church friends. I wouldn't say that there are fewer rules in most of these churches. Most of them really expect people to get involved in ways that can have a profound impact on their lives. It's just that there are so many paths into involvement that a smaller church just can't match.
I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of ninety-two, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was "timid and shy" but had "the courage of a lion." They were full of phrases like "radical humility" and "quiet fortitude.
While our managers debated what steps to take to address the sales and cash-flow crisis, I began to lead week-long employee seminars in what we called Philosophies. We'd take a busload at a time to places like Yosemite or the Marin Headlands above San Francisco, camp out, and gather under the trees to talk. The goal was to teach every employee in the company our business and environmental ethics and values.
A farmer friend of mine told me recently about a busload of middle school children who came to his farm for a tour. The first two boys off the bus asked, "Where is the salsa tree?" They thought they could go pick salsa, like apples and peaches. Oh my. What do they put on SAT tests to measure this? Does anybody care? How little can a person know about food and still make educated decisions about it? Is this knowledge going to change before they enter the voting booth? Now that's a scary thought.
Politics deals with externals: borders, wealth, crimes. Authentic forgiveness deals with the evil in a persons heart, something for which politics has no cure. Virulent evil (racism, ethnic hatred) spreads through society like an airborne disease, one cough infects a whole busload. When moments of grace do occur, the world must pause, fall silent, and acknowledge that indeed forgiveness offers a kind of cure. There will be no escape from wars, from hunger, from misery, from rancid discrimination, from denial of human rights, if our hearts aren't changed.