I took an opportunity to visit with Denver’s ‘Jazz Theologian.’ His blog is
and he has a book coming out in February of 2009. What follows is our discussion.
Neo: What is your passion?
JT: Discovering and being the Body of Christ.
Neo: What is unique about the Body of Christ?
JT: We are the only people with the potential to honor but not allow distinctions of race, class and denomination to keep us from being ‘one’ as Jesus describes in John 17.
Neo: What does that look like?
JT: A jazz ensemble. Distinct instruments, playing the same song with room for improv. Call and response; playing in concert with and for each other.
Neo: I see Obama calling for Americans to move away from our polarization to embrace our unity, to look at what unites rather than divides us. Is this a realistic goal?
JT: ‘E pluribus Unim,’ from the one, many. This is the fundamental challenge of our country–how do we make the many one? It seems to be an elusive goal. I believe the church, however, can be the vehicle that brings it about. The Spirit can bring it about. Look at Pentecost…unity without uniformity. Obama is echoing what many desire–what Dr. King desired–but Obama hasn’t necessarily pointed to the answer.
Neo: What is your opinion of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?
JT: One’s response to Rev. Wright reflects your awareness of the prophet he is named after-Jeremiah. If you have read Jeremiah from the Old Testament, then Rev. Wright is no big deal. Rev. Wright got himself in trouble when he called America to be damned when, as Christians, we should be calling for mercy. We must have room in our ensemble for people to improvise with solos we do not necessarily like. Don’t forget what Billy Graham said, ‘If God does not judge America, then he will have to personally apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’ That’s tough stuff.
Neo: The Immigration debate is often characterized by more heat than light. How does the Body of Christ respond?
JT: The question of national security, borders and immigration are public policy issues that I do not have any easy answers to. What I do know, is that whenever God allows mass movements of people, he seems to be up to something. Whether it is the Israelites migrating from Egypt and then in the wilderness for 40 years, or the massive number of people who had to migrate in Herod’s time for a census. It is clear that God is willing to move massive amounts of people, just to have one baby born in the right city!