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Q&A with Ross Clifford – Part 3

Ross CliffordThe Rev. Dr. Ross Clifford will be the keynote speaker at this year’s BGAV Annual Meeting. Ross is currently the Past-President of the Baptist Union of Australia. He serves as Principal of the Morling College in Macquarie Park, New South Wales, Australia.

A noted theologian and prolific writer, we are thrilled that he will join us this November in Fredericksburg.

We posed a series of questions to Ross as a way for us to get to know him a little bit in the coming months. Below are the next two:

1. What cultural expression (vampires, zombies, superheroes, etc.) do you believe to be the most fertile meeting ground on which followers of Jesus can have conversation with those who don’t yet know the Lord?

Harry Potter is the best selling book series outside of the Bible. Harry’s birth was predicted, a group of disciples followed him and, in an epic climax of biblical proportions, he dies in order to defeat the lord of evil, Voldemort – together with his serpent. He is believed to have perished but then comes the explanation: “He is alive”.

The “resurrected” Harry triumphs over evil and his nemesis. Sound familiar?

Harry is a Christ-type figure who plays into our universal journey and yearnings. We could go on and mention other “resurrection heroes” such as The Matrix, Superman, Dr Who, anime – the list is endless. Such imperfect symbols of hope, redemption and transformation are a most fertile ground for conversations about Jesus who is truly God with us.

And of course, as J.K. Rowlings acknowledges, much of this links back to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Gandalf’s “rising again” or Lewis’ Alsan the Lion. Lewis and Tolkien understood that such mythologies and “fairytales” have their climax in the historical Christ event.

The reality that such myths were a pointer to Jesus led Lewis to faith when Tolkien challenged him with it. It was a process for Lewis, as it is for many today, from agnosticism to theism to Christianity to the deity of Jesus. It is a path to Jesus via imagination.

As well Vampire spirituality (the undead) has become a new folk religion in America and the West. In particular many vampire tales convey a moral lesson; that seeking immortality/resurrection outside of grace is fraught with danger.

Yet a series like Twilight (author Stephanie Meyers is a Mormon) is more than a modern day “Mills and Boon meets Dracula” as they speak of redemption, true love and acceptance. I have found speaking with teenagers and young women today about the themes of Twilight and the like create incredible opportunities to speak of the wholeness and hope in Jesus.

There are so many cultural expressions today that provide fertile meeting spaces (Acts 17: 27-28).

2. How does an ordinary Baptist walk into a Starbucks with an eye toward having a meaningful faith conversation with someone?

A key is to pray daily for such opportunities. Secondly don’t force it. If we understand our culture by being linked to media outlets, the movies and books of those around about us, the conversations may happen naturally.

For example I was sitting at the ‘bar’ in a café in Asheville, NC, when my organic eggs arrived before the order of the two women, a mother and daughter, sitting next to me. They were surprised my order arrived first. We had some fun about that and then the conversation turned to Asheville as a New Spirituality town.

I explained my work with New Spirituality and the tarot, and the daughter exclaimed to the mother, who was a Baptist, that this was great as I was spiritually interested in people like her. The conversation took off from there.

It’s just about being ourselves, seeing opportunities and praying about them. It’s about understanding we are only one stepping stone in the process of faith.

And if all else fails, drink your coffee whilst reading Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, or Richard Dawkins and watch the conversations flow!

As a friend of mine says, spot the mission dieu – where God is at work – and start there. Often it is a modest start and conversation.

Click here to view all posts from Ross Clifford’s Q&A.