I have exactly one internet-birthed friend that I “met” some years ago. I came across Tim Brown‘s profile when I searched “progressive Christians” on MySpace and was instantly drawn to his style, intelligence, and wit. We share a lot in common, as well – our musical tastes matched pretty well, his thoughts concerning theology commonly matched mine, our politics are similar, and his disregard for toeing any line at all attracted me. We became MySpace friends (yeah, yeah – I know it sounds weird) and over the last few years I’ve gotten to know him decently well. Mind you, I’ve never met the guy, but we know enough about each other to cross the “acquaintance” line. Professionally, Tim is a mental health counselor. His days are riddled with the concerns of others. This alone deserves some reward. It’s not often that a regular Joe is recognized for the impact they have on society as a whole and I feel that Tim deserves such notice not only for his professional life, but for his personal life as well. He is a man than tempers his life with his faith, even when faith seems like the most impossible aspect to maintain.

Thanks go out to Tim for his willingness to participate in answering my questions – even when the his struggle between faith and agnosticism was raging one of its more destructive battles.

Tim Brown1. As a mental health counselor, how do you make a distinction between your work and life outside of work? Is it difficult? To me it seems that what you encounter during a day’s time wouldn’t necessarily disappear at clock-out.

Tim Brown: It can be difficult to separate the two, the job being very stressful at times and also something that can have either a very positive or negative affect on your own psyche. Of course, having my assistant director living upstairs also causes me to “bring the job home” a bit more than normal, too! I would say that there are plenty of times when I feel very worn-out and just want to lay on the couch for the rest of the evening, but typically I am able to get out of “work mode” once I leave the parking lot. Though, one thing that I do take with me is a “clinical view” of people I know and meet. I’ve got my ex diagnosed to a T!

2. How did you end up in your profession? Did you actively seek it out or is your job one of those instances where you sort of fell into it somehow and now you’re living it?

Tim: Well, having a basically useless degree in Comparative Religion didn’t lead to many employment opportunities! I basically fell into the field. When I returned from Ireland in 2002 at the age of 22, I applied for and got a job working as an Ed Tech at a residential school with at-risk youth. I did that for about a year, and a few years later in 2005 my friend Susie recommended me to the agency she works with (which I currently do, as well) as an overnight awake staff, and from there I moved up to daytime staff and then after a year got promoted and moved down here to Rhode Island, as a Mental Health Counselor. It was not a field that I ever thought about working in, but I suppose has been better than making deliveries or working at a call center.

3. Your Christian faith is deep and is philosophically progressive. How does this inform your daily actions in your work? And does it also guide your life outside of work?

Tim: I guess my faith and my particular interpretation of it makes me a more caring individual, and therefore I’m able to deal with various circumstances at work that might make someone else run like hell for the door. I think of the example of Christ’s daily life, along with his teachings, and how he chose willingly to associate and be friends with the outcasts and to heal and to help people who were likely mentally ill, but in that time and place were viewed as being “demon possessed”. And, my life outside of work is impacted the same way. I think the heart of the Christian faith should be exactly what Christ said it should be, and that is “to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself”. I obviously think God is much more concerned with how you treat other people instead of all the stupid rules & regulations various forms of Christianity (or Churchianity) have thrust upon the personal lives of it’s adherents.

4. Basically coming from the same counter-cultural roots that I do, which often nods more to agnosticism or atheism, how do you reconcile your strong faith in lieu of your roots? Or was your faith existent before the punk/hardcore invasion into your life? How did this all come about and how do you manage it?

Tim: My mother is what I call a “kind hearted fundamentalist”. She raised me to know that there was this guy with a beard and sandals who loved me unconditionally and who lived in my heart, and that had a huge impact on me, and still does. Her various views on other things, which are highly conservative, I completely disagree with, but she did show me the love of Christ, and she lived it, and that made all the difference. I got into punk in high school, after being a hip hop kid for a few years, and then in college I discovered hardcore, and the “spirit filled hardcore” bands like Strongarm and XdiscipleX A.D. that totally changed my life and gave me a lot of strength and really motivated my faith. I personally don’t find any contradiction between my faith and my “place in society”, but everyone else seems to, unfortunately. Like I’ve said, I’m not religious enough for religious people and too religious for non-religious people. I am the talentless version of Johnny Cash.

5. I look to you as a John the Baptist of post-modernity. Has anyone other than me ever said that to you or am I just insane?

Tim: I have never heard anything like that! But it sounds cool :) I’m not so much into the camel hair wardrobe and locust diet, but I certainly take that as a “wicked pissah” compliment!