Not too long ago, the Horror Writer’s Association revamped some of their membership requirements. They basically have a two-tiered membership structure, active members and affiliate members. I’m simplifying things for the sake of brevity, but it used to be that just about anyone could be an affiliate members while active status was reserved for those members with professional credentials. So all manner of wanna-be writers and fans were running around as affiliates. In a step toward acknowledging that being a professional writer is difficult, the membership requirements were tightened. To achieve active status, the qualifying markets were narrowed, by how much they paid. And writers had to “achieve” affiliate status. Actives were grandfathered in and those who were already affiliates but hadn’t earned full affiliate status, were given a “p-” (provisional) designation in front of their AF status. They were given a year or so to get to full affiliate status or else be purged from the membership rolls. Thus, they move toward the goal of being open to all, realizing that it’s not for everyone, but wanting its members to treat it seriously.

I can’t imagine the fun of setting this course correction in motion. Glad I missed it, but I think we can learn a lot from it.

I believe that the church could use a good purging. It’s my contention that we have many Christ fans, not enough Christ followers, and thus I’m proposing a new status: provisional Christians [Before you start sending me another round of pissy e-mails, NOTE: “Hello Mr. Tongue. I’m Mr. Cheek. Please insert yourself here.”].

I wish some people would quit calling themselves Christians.

For some, Christianity is a mental assent to a set of facts, saying “the sinners prayer” and they’re in the club (“remember to vote Republican!”). Not enough people count the cost of choosing Christianity. That is so doing, you are choosing to share in Christ’s mission to be a blessing to the world. That you are choosing to follow a living savior for the glory of God and the sake of the world. Not just to insure that your butt makes it into (your idea of) heaven. Maybe our understanding of the Gospel message will change over time. If the Gospel message is that “the kingdom is at hand” (starting now, in the present, not some pie in the sky future), then choosing to follow would demand an immediate response. It might challenge you and the way you live. It would demand a missional (a community minded testimony) mindset over self-focused ideas of personal salvation.

So then, I’m left trying to figure out what it would take for people to lose their “p-” status.

A lot of people simply want a religion that provides a code of conduct. That may be fine for a professional organization such as the HWA, but religion has a different raison d’etre. Morality is not the point. Morality doesn’t redeem, nor, despite the claims on the right, does religion have a monopoly on morality.

The chief characteristic of a Christian has to be love.

Love for God and love for each other. It defines us. It provides the reason for morality. It points us to a person, Christ, whom we seek to emulate. Otherwise, we’re stuck in “who’s morality” land. Heck, I try to be moral, but my morality doesn’t get me very far. In fact, I can’t even live up to my own little moral code half the time. Morality should move you toward people, working with them and for them. Think of morality as relational, connected to a person. Missing the point of morality leads us to declaring war on the immoral people trying to take over our country and culture rather than loving them.

I guess that’s it. Once you’ve been defined by how well you love, how others minded you become (and, when all is said and done, life’s all about “becoming”), the “p-” would drop off. If the “p-” doesn’t fall off, in my hypothetical purging, you would have to re-think what you call yourself. I’m sure the HWA, like the church, is finding out that there is a fine line between being relevant to the (horror) culture and community and being captive to it. As they undergo the soul searching that they need to do, it helps to remember their mission, and as an institution, coming back and re-discovering its missional message.