Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year, Old Rant.

A few months ago, I was asked if "cultural engagement" and "conversational ministry" are really very significant. The question was gently and sincerely put, yet the response I began to write somehow tapped into a deep well of both passion and frustration within me. After typing out a ranting initial response, I opted to send a shorter more moderate answer to the question. My initial response sat dormant and unsent on my computer until this morning. I stumbled upon it again as I prepared to write a chapter for an emerging church book I've been asked to contribute to. It struck me that this "rant" is an appropriate post to charge into the new year behind, so here it is:

I want to go with Paul in to the Aeropagus and say, “that unknown God you’ve commemorated … I think I know Him.”* I want to sit beside Jesus with the woman at the well, and not give a damn about how inappropriate, or culturally stretching, or uncomfortable it is, because she wants to talk about eternal things … and is going to meet Jesus because of it.** The Bible is filled with Christ in these contexts, yet we’ve managed in our Chritianized society to fabricate a tamed, easy, self-help and entertainment-oriented Christianity that looks nothing like the context of the early church. And at the same time our society is looking more and more like the society that infused, and surrounded and was engaged by the early church. Yet our response is to judge, and complain, and rail against the loss of the good ol’ days. We ought to throw out the Bible and start canonizing church bulletins as our new scriptures.

The church is coming out of a comfortable, dormant time in the western world, where we could sit in our comfortable pews, and hang out with our Christian friends, and buy stuff at Christian book stores, and rail against secularism; A time when it was impossible to be the President of the United States without being a Christian. And that time is fading, dying. Good riddance. Dig the grave deeper. We’re fat and lazy and afraid and judgemental and we reek of pharisaism.

“Engaging the culture” and “catalyzing conversation” and “building relationship” are nothing more than buzz words. A lot of comfort-oriented churches are doing the same thing they’ve always done, except that they’ve added a cappuccino machine at the back and movie clips in the sermon and now they say they’re exemplifying these buzz words. But the culture they're engaging is the Christian sub-culture; The conversations and relationships are with other Christians. The church walls are just as high as ever, they've just been painted a nice new colour. At their heart, if these buzz words are going to mean anything at all, then they have to be about loving people, and getting over ourselves, and not attempting to restrain Jesus; which is an illusion anyway, because the Jesus we can keep in a box under our bed is a fabrication of our own neediness; A fabrication that we use rather that follow. The real Jesus is out in the marketplace, in the sanctuaries of other religions, in the brothels, under the bridges, in the alley behind the glass office tower, in the foul-mouthed writers room, and everywhere in between.

I’m not interested in building a sub-culture, I’m interested in following Christ … the Christ who both enters and transcends culture.

* Acts 17:16-34

** John 4:1-29

1 comment:

s. m. d. said...

Testify Brother! Amen! w00t!