Tony Jones is the author of “Did God Kill Jesus?” and the host of the “Reverend Hunter” podcast, found on ReverendHunter.com.
In an odd bit of 21st century archaeology, we unearth archives of the deceased on our phones. For a year after my father died, I kept two voicemails from him, neither of which I could bring myself to play.
So it was that when Darrin Patrick died on May 7, just two weeks after I’d recorded a podcast conversation with him, I scrolled through a string of text messages between us that stretched back over a decade.
Among our sporadic communication was this message, dated Sept. 7, 2014: “Brother, i would love to talk. I need to apologize for some stuff Darrin Patrick.”
Darrin and I had crossed paths over the years, particularly in the early aughts, when we were both part of a group of young Gen X pastors who were trying to fix evangelical Christianity. But our paths diverged. The faction of which he was a part took a more conservative tack, while my posse followed a more progressive one and, sadly, we became rivals.
On our call in 2014 he said he was sorry that we’d let theological disagreements get in the way of friendship, and I said the same. We began to make plans to work together, even to co-host conferences. But mostly I marveled that he would reach out to me and ask for reconciliation.
Just four months later, however, my life was upended. Everything I’d worked on over two decades evaporated over a couple weeks based on some allegations posted on the internet. And I received another text from Darrin: “Bro, I just read your statement. This is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine you having to carry all of this for many years. Please let me know if I can help in anyway.”
When a lot of Christian leaders were publicly distancing themselves from me, Darrin pulled closer, offered grace, showed love.
A year after that, I had a chance to return the favor. Darrin had his own “implosion,” as he called it, fired from the St. Louis church he’d founded, for inappropriate conduct. I texted him when the news hit, trying to offer some words of support. He responded by apologizing for the hurt his sin was causing. I reminded him that we all sin.
We each spent the next half-decade rebuilding our lives. Darrin went through a lengthy and painful restoration process and returned to ministry as a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church in South Carolina. I ultimately left church ministry and began to consider ways that I could find God outside the walls of the church.
When Darrin saw that I’d started a podcast about outdoors spirituality, he pinged me on social media and offered to come on the show. We booked a date and then canceled it because of COVID. I figured I’d interview Darrin down the road, once I could get back into the studio.
And then he texted me again. “Bro, we going to do this podcast or not? … Really interested in telling my story about how the woods speak to me and my story of abuse from my dad which almost makes me a pantheist.”
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Source: Religion News Service