A 'Relevant' Conspiracy | Sojourners

A 'Relevant' Conspiracy

A few years ago, the “postmodern memoir” or “autobiographic novel” was all the rage among critics anxious to define new literary genres. In these books, writers mingle personal experiences with flamboyant experimentation in form; the results are edgy, funny, and confusing.

This trend is one starting point for Russell Rathbun’s Post-Rapture Radio, in which a narrator, also named Russell Rathbun, edits the sermons and extensive rants of Rev. Richard Lamblove. Within this odd framework, Rathbun thoughtfully explores the relationship between the church and mainstream culture, the implications of the great commission, and the nature of pastoral leadership.

Rathbun the character—a pastor, like his namesake—comes across a box of Lamblove’s papers and immerses himself in the intriguing sermons, journal entries, and notes of a man he enthusiastically classifies as an “unknown-crazy-preacher.” Lamblove’s actual title is “Vice President for Preaching and Biblical Study”—he’s an associate pastor at a church obsessed with being culturally relevant.

From his first staff meeting (the church calls it “NextLeader: A Gathering”), Lamblove finds others’ interest in his sermons to be nominal and steadily waning. He sees this as a sign of the church’s dilution of the gospel, its ongoing assimilation of a worldly culture of consumption, celebrity, and easy answers. He responds by withdrawing from church life. Lamblove avoids conversations with colleagues and churchgoers. He declines to participate in an “Emergent: See Gathering,” explaining that he feels he “can no longer emerge.” Convinced of a “Contemporary Christian Culture Conspiracy,” he comes to view himself as a dangerous, exegesis-wielding revolutionary. Eventually, he loses his job.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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