The other day a friend sent me a rock ‘n roll quiz. I got most of them right, but the big surprise was discovering a song called “Speedo,” by The Cadillacs. (“Now they often call me ‘Speedo,’ but my name is Mr. Earl.”)

I couldn’t place it. So I looked it up on YouTube and found some videos, then looked it up in Wikipedia and read about Earl “Speedo” Carroll, who formed The Cadillacs and went on to sing with The Coasters. I consulted my in-house rock ‘n roll expert, my 19-year-old son.

Now I can’t get the doo-wop song out of my head.

Would it be irreverent to say that this is often how faith occurs? Someone asks a question, you listen, you read, you talk, something clicks, and soon you can’t get God out of your head.


Q: Do you think religion as expressed by the mainline church is primarily a cultural institution with its goal being survival or a seeker of universal truth wherever it might lead? Or, is the religion of the mainline church something else?

A: I think faith is very confusing. In faith, we respond to a God we cannot see and yet deeply seek to know. We confront yearnings that take our breath away. In God’s presence we feel a wide range of powerful emotions, from joy to sadness, exultation to shame, confidence to fear.

Religion exists to help us deal with those confusions, mainly (at its best moments) bringing us together with others and sharing a powerful and perplexing journey.

At its worst, religion and its organized forms claim to be the very answer we seek, the perfect personification of the God we yearn to know. Religion mistakes its words for ultimate truth and its expressions in doctrine and liturgy to be all that we ever need to do.

In those worst moments, religion loses humility, rides hard over people, demands a loyalty it doesn’t deserve, and wages wars to justify its claims.

Faith takes many forms, speaks in many tongues. Religion sometimes finds that diversity threatening. Sometimes faith needs leaders, ans sometimes it doesn’t. Faith isn’t about power and control. Religion often finds that threatening, too.

This is true of religion in general, not just mainline religion.

Photo: Lamppost in Washington Square Park, by Will Ehrich