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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What's Become of our "World" View?

I'm just about finished with my first reading of Steve Brown's book Three Free Sins. I say first reading because I fully intend to finish it, flip it over, and read it a second time.

He's old. He's bold. He's tired of hypocrisy. He's realized the fallacy of being a pastor and thinking his job is to restrain others' sin so that the church "looks good" from the outside. He's telling it like it is, like it really is, and making some people mad in the process, or so he says. I have yet to meet anyone who's read his book and come away mad. Rather, it seems to me, every one of us comes away with at least a few scabby scales having fallen off our eyes.

I'm near the end now and have come to a passage which, though he says it more coarsely than I have considered, sums up an undercurrent of thought I've been doing the tango with for a couple of years:

"When Christians get to the point where they read only Christian books, go only to Christian movies, hang out only with other Christians, eat only Christian cookies, and wear only Christian underwear, it's time for a reality check. That's sick, and it's a sickness unto death.

"Once we are set free from the need to defend, protect, and hide, we have the freedom to show up in places where proper Christians don't go for fear of getting dirty. And it is in our showing up that the authenticity of who we are [the extremely needy, terribly sinful, and really weak] becomes the 'flavor' that attracts others to the ice cream maker.

"So go do something that isn't religious. Just show up."

Taken out of the context of the whole book, this might seem a little odd--particularly because of the way he chooses to illustrate his points. But even in his hyperbole, I think we can get what he's saying. We Christiany people Christianize everything, and miss the whole big-picture thing of this world and life view we were almost on the track of grasping back in the 1980s to about the early 2000s. But where did it go?

Where did we lose our confidence that Christ is pre-eminent? That our righteousness comes from him, and can not be tainted by outside forces? Where did we lose our focus that redemption was an overarching, effective thing, and not a fragile, limited, must-be-hidden-behind-the-fortresses-of-our-homes kind of thing? Where did we jettison the truth that he came into the world not to condemn it but to save it--the WORLD, this place, this culture, these people and the products of our existence?

On March 1, it will be 20 years since I took a job working with an organization that existed to promote Christian world and life view. Twenty years. A whole generation has grown up in that time. And yet, with only a few exceptions, I don't see the impact of that mission reaching very far into the culture. And even as I was promoting and working and teaching and writing with that in mind for others, my own life was shrinking further and further into a bubble of Christianese. It happens so easily.

And salt loses its saltiness sitting on a shelf. And talents buried in the ground amount to nothing but a pathetic sort of security in the same old, same old. Like seedless fruit--good only for one-time consumption, or rotting in the crisper drawer.

Is it in the fact that we taught ourselves to say, "I live FOR Jesus" instead of "I live WITH Jesus," and by that little change of preposition, we changed our whole relationship to a set of practices we defined ourselves as "godly" and "holy" and "set apart" and "above reproach" and forgot how very present in the real world he was?

I worked briefly with a college student, a young woman with some potential, for a time. But she could not see how to apply her gifts or develop them in this world. "I just want to marry a pastor and let that be it," she said. All she could see of her ability to live FOR Jesus in this world today, educated and intelligent as she was, was to set up housekeeping for someone else who would be doing the most typically "religious" job we can think of. And my heart sank, because somewhere along the way, we've missed the power and the creativity and the breadth of the calling of being a member of Christ's body in this day and age.

When Francis Schaeffer asked, "How shall we then live?" it wasn't a rhetorical question. It was meant to call us out of just our own minds and into action--living, moving, effective action.

A dinner-table discussion two or three weeks before Christmas in our own home grew out of a poem my second grader had to memorize. "'No room for him,' cry men today as through the world they plod. 'My life is crowded, don't you see? I have no room for God.'"

When I asked my own girls HOW we make "room for God" in our lives, and how we are called to "follow now his star," I got theoretical, detached, generic, and intellectual answers. "Think about good things." "Read the Bible." "Pray more." And my heart began to sink again. The one thing I wanted them to see and know was a living, active, relational faith. And what had we become? Stuck in our own heads.

We have minds. We have bodies. Hands with opposable thumbs! Arms to reach and grasp and draw in close. We have emotions. We have words to use and ideas to bring to materialization (which means to put into material--physical form!), things to create, heart bonds and actual bridges to build. And God has an opinion about every single aspect of it, and every single part of our lives should be in this tension of doing WITH him as we do WHAT we are called to do, WHERE we are called to do it.

What has become of our "worldview" if it never pushes us out into the world? Can one even have a "worldview" if we retract from the world and all the opportunities it affords?

I cannot help but think today that more than anything else this Christmas, I am wanting him to come, not again as a baby, though I am so thankful for that. But I want him to come as a fire. Under me. Return me to what I once knew to be true: a raw, real, enthusiastic, all-encompassing passion to be for him in this very world, this time, whatever place he puts me, with an open mind and an open heart and open doors and a willingness to go where he sends me, and for that to be seen by my children and known by them and by me that it is the power of God and the power of redemption and the power of resurrection that makes it possible, overcoming fears of failure and reputation, overcoming fears of discomfort, even fears of loss, fears that I can't defend God well enough--as if it's up to me to be Protector of his Existence. But all of it with him.

In Philippians, Paul called the religious people--among whom he had once counted himself--the "dogs." And he referred to all his religious righteousness in their eyes as "rubbish," which literally translated "dog food." All his works righteousness was nothing but food for the movement he was warning his beloved believers, "his joy and his crown," to beware of. Whenever we sacrifice a true, outward-looking world and life view and replace it with a Christianized version of a passing of our days meeting what we've come to think of as a certain brand of religious identity in our lives (usually characterized by what we DON'T do, rather that what we are freed TO DO), are we not feeding the dogs ourselves?

I'm tired of dog food. In the words of my friend Brad, who I believe was paraphrasing Tim Keller, I want the steak dinner. The real deal. "Taste and see that the Lord is good." The Lord, who is making all things new. Who came to the teeming, twitching, squirming, pining world--and stood in contrast to the empty, polished religiosity of those who had "an appearance of godliness" about them, but "denying its power."

And so, like Isaiah, I stand and I say, "Here I am Lord. Send me."

What's next?


Anonymous said...

Very nice post. Your writing has depth, and life, and passion, and meaning. It is refreshing to see your heart poured out onto the page for others to see, " and feel".

Fellow Survivor

--Rebecca said...

Thank you, Fellow Survivor. It's good to hear from you.