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The “School of Thought” Cafeteria

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

My lunch tray is stacked high with all the food I need to give me the energy I need to make it through the rest of my school day. I’ve got a spiritual protein, a theological carb, my mini carton of ministry milk and my Bible brownie on the side.

But now I’m in a conundrum. Where do I sit in the packed “School of Thought” cafeteria? I guess I’ll survey the big, clanky room for a few seconds before I pick which table I fit in the most.

I could sit with the evangelicals again, the jocks of our little school. They love Jesus yes they do, but for some reason many of them choose to eat their meals in four simple steps and, to be honest, it’s getting kind of old. All of the food on their trays seems prepackaged and processed. Don’t get me wrong, their food has got the base amount of nutrients needed to survive, but it feels like it’s missing something more meaty.

To the far right side of the cafeteria is the fundamentalist table or, as I like to call it, the “what are you looking at” table full of big bullies. When I first came to school that’s where I sat. I loved to pick fights with people over what they were eating for lunch. But schoolyard brawls and writing things not to do lists got old after awhile.

Right next to them is the Reformed table. This table is loud with discussion and beautiful to look at. Large vases of TULIPs line the center of their perfectly set table. But this is an invitation only gathering and I guess I wasn’t chosen to sit there. I think that if I was I would probably get my hand slapped for trying to pluck a bud or two off their pretty flowers.

The Emergent table is a possiblity but it is all the way over on the left side of the cafeteria and that is a far walk from where I stand. It used to be the table for all the pocket protecting nerds (i.e. “the smart kids”) but not anymore. Anyone with a soulpatch and a blog is welcome to sit there now. Some of them seem angry too, kind of like the bullies over at the fundamentalist table, but with a bigger vocabulary.

Scattered throughout this large cafeteria there are all kinds of denominational tables. There are Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans and all sorts of Baptists from regular (as if there are irregular ones) to Southern Baptists to American Baptists and more. As a matter of fact there are too many denominational tables for me to list.

There is one table that I’m looking at though that looks like it has plenty of room. It is in the distant corner of the cafeteria, the corner where all the outcasts sit. But for some reason there’s only one loser there today. I can’t quite make out his face but for some reason he looks strangely familiar. And as I take a few steps closer I can see that he is wiping tears from his piercing, poignant eyes.

I wonder why he is crying. I wonder if he, whoever he is, is upset by the division that we all feel in this great big room. I once heard that years ago we used to all get along, that our school Spirit was unrivaled. I heard that we all worked together from the same creed for the same cause. But that was a long, long time ago.

I just realized who He is. I just dropped my tray and screamed “Jesus!” Everyone looked up.

There may be hope for this school just yet.

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