Conceived in Tombstone. Raised in the Church.

Although my mother wouldn’t have disclosed this information in a million years, my dad often told me that:

  1. I was conceived in Tombstone, AZ (where my parents lived at the time)
  2. And they only had 5 cents the day they learned they were expecting me.

(Yes I’ve mentioned this to my therapist.)

Although I’ve never been to Arizona except in utero, I look forward to visiting sometime.  (FYI: The White Privilege Conference is in Mesa, AZ April 1-4, 2020.)

Some of my uncles blamed Fort Huachuca’s nuclear testing activities for my parents’ early deaths – each from cancer.  Mom often told me that she could see mushroom clouds from her office window.  She work on post for one of the generals.

After reading this article in The New Yorker about Tombstone, I wonder if – even in utero – geography shaped me.

  • Once it was true that Fort Huachuca/Tombstone was settled to guard the Mexican border against Apache Indians.  (Fun fact: The Apache were indigenous to the area from which they were being blocked.)
  • Once it was true that Tombstone was the home of Doc Holliday and the Earp Brothers: Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt who protected the locals from bad cowboys.
  • Now it is true that a group called Arizona Border Recon is taking the law into their own hands and “protecting the border.” Today their enemies are “illegal immigrants” rather than “savage Indians.”  Today there are still bad cowboys only now they consider themselves to be patriots.

And now – because the mines are long gone – Tombstone survives by reenacting gunfights between good and evil.  The shoot-outs performed by actors bring tourists.  Tombstone – like many places – has had to transform itself.  (Sound familiar?)

This statement from The New Yorker article is striking:

Frontier towns . . .  had to choose between extinction and transforming themselves into caricatures of their glory days for public consumption.  

I tend to think that there’s a third choice, but more about that later.

Some wonder if the Church as we’ve known it is destined to become extinct.  Or have we transformed into caricatures of our glory days?

Extinction of “the way Church was” or “the way we imagined Church was” is already happening.  But this is not bad news.

I started my fetal life in a place that calls itself “The Town Too Tough to Die” and I now live in a world where lots of institutions are dying and we have choices to make:

  • We can hang on for as long as possible unconcerned with our legacy and our higher purpose until there’s no more money to pay the light bill.
  • We can exhaust ourselves trying to reenact what Church once was: wringing our hands in hopes of returning to huge Vacation Bible School weeks, Women’s Groups that every woman wants to join, preaching without politics, and well-behaved children.
  • We can choose to allow old ways of being the Church to die so that God would connect us in new ways in a 21st Century Culture.

I hope to visit Tombstone one day to imagine what it was like for my parents and to ponder further what it’s like to be a town that’s died in some ways, although even their motto says that they can’t.

We who love the Church know that the Church won’t die (because: Jesus) and yet the way we’ve been the Church most certainly has and will.  To God be the Glory.  Things are changing and resurrection is our future.

Image is a 60+ year old postcard from Tombstone, Arizona – The Town Too Tough to Die.  My parents found both history and romance there.

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