An upcoming religious retreat at St. Simons Island proclaims that the main presenter is a three-fold threat, being a singer, a humorist and a folk theologian. That was a new one on me.
Singers and humorists, of course, are a dime a dozen. But a folk theologian? There’s a new gig.
Or perhaps it’s an old gig with a new title. I mean there’ve always been jack-leg preachers long on what they hold to be divine inspiration and short on study – formal or otherwise. And most folks have at least some half-rendered opinion on religious topics. Some are well-intentioned.
But the very concept of folk theology set me wondering and looking around. The term, as near as I can determine, was popularized by a United Methodist seminary professor (and diplomaed theologian) named Albert Outler. Dr. Outler was a Georgia native, educated at Yale who taught at Duke and Southern Methodist universities. He described a folk theologian as one who can simplify great or controversial issues on behalf of common people.
Well, there’s a guy we could all stand to hear more from.
Then, as so often happens when you ponder an issue with an open heart, clarification came from an unexpected source. I found myself stuck behind a line of slow traffic on a two-lane blacktop. Directly in front of me was a folk theologian working as a dump truck driver.
Beneath the rust and grime of his battered steel tailgate, he’d painted a distilled, simplified, venue-specific, yet universally understandable statement of faith: “Jesus Won’t Dump U.”