We left our discussion in Sunday School this week with a few observations about the "fringe" nature of Mark's Baptism story. John was a preacher on the "fringe" of society, as it doesn't appear there are any biblical scholars arguing that his appearance and dietary habits were an everyday occurrence in first century Palestine. Because Jesus was baptized by John, it highlights the fact that Jesus was, at least by association, on the margins--dare we say, on the fringe of the "official" religious practice of his day. Mark's Baptism story is especially peculiar among the gospels, since it begins with John and Jesus, skipping (for whatever reason) any birth or childhood stories (it's possible the writer of Mark did not even know these stories, assuming Mark was the earliest gospel on the scene, at least in what would eventually become the "officially" endorsed collection of gospels now contained in the New Testament). Christians have been quite good over the years at pointing out everything that was supposedly wrong with the "official" religion of certain first century Jewish leaders, in large part due to the fact Jesus confronts certain religious leaders of his day in the gospels. Yet, we have not been quite as successful when our own critics call for us to look to the "fringe Jesus" as we consider the witness and role of the church in our own day. This month, as we are looking at the question of Christian identity, The After Effect will be considering a few efforts to take a look at Christian faith and practice "from the fringe." I wonder if we will find any weirdos like John the Baptist along the way? We shall see.