Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking Hills From Different Angles

Differences and differences. Recently a friend of mine decided to move out of his established circle of professional influence and into another. As I sat down with him and we debriefed it he said something interesting and I want to summarize our discussion.

Basically, we have two choices in whatever we do:

To affect change where we are.
We become a part of the system we are in, emerge ourselves, and bring about the change we want through slow, meticulous process. This train of thought and action has the strength of safety, of shepherding, and of gentleness. Those who choose this path are the unsung heroes who preserve unity and affect slow, safe change. It is not good nor bad, it is simply a track that some choose to follow.

To move outside the system to affect change.
Author Clive Cussler tells in his autobiography about how he became an author of pure adventure/action novels: he wanted to do it and no one else was doing it. Herein lies the more dangerous path. This is the path that leads only to the “penthouse or the outhouse”- these people will either see wild success (my friend Micah Kephart) or crash and burn like a dying star (thereby becoming cautionary tales like Mickey Rourke).

Now, summarized we see the choices before us. Both will bring change, one fast yet unsure, one slow and steady but (to some degree) certain.

This is not an attempt to paint heroes and cowards but rather to encourage the reader to consider both their current position and desired path. The church and world desperately need both types of people, desperately needs them to partner and appreciate each other. The processors must see the prophets and iconoclasts as necessary to push and pull organizations faster than they are comfortable with because all organizations trend towards bureaucracy…. And the movers and shakers must- at times- move a little slower than they would like in order to get the processors to come with them so that they are (as John Maxwell once said) “leading and not taking a walk”.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Life in Oz

In the 1800's the Methodist church took a stand against tobacco but the FDA had nothing to do with it. They took the stand because it was in protest to the use of African-American slave labor that collected the leaf. This is akin to followers of Christ who today buy TOMS shoes or do not buy products from China.

Many of the "legalistic" rules of yesteryear have interesting and wonderful roots. The problem with answers to solutions is that they become answers for so long no one bothers to ask the question anymore. So while it may behoove us to abstain from tobacco still it is now a question of health- not of not supporting slave labor.

I bring all of that to say that living in the midst of theses answers-to-yesteryear-questions can be a good thing (e.g. not smoking at one point protested slavery and now allows you to be healthier) but can also fool us into thinking that this is an axiomatic response or lifestyle thereby causing close-mindedness, tunnel vision, or- as I have recently dubbed it- living in Oz.

Life in Oz looks a lot of ways but as followers of the Rabbi it can be particularly lethal since we are called to tell an intrinsically broken world it is broken but that there is a Hope.

Now, you may be asking: do I live in Oz? Here is a quick (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek quiz), just answer "true" or "false" to the following:

1. Most people really want or need a list of rules and regulations to live by. T F
2. Most people (by and large) obey the rules they are given. T F
3. I cannot tell you the reasons behind my own life code beyond "it's what so-and-so said". T F
4. The Gaither family is some contemporary music. T F
5. The litmus test for being a follower of Christ is becoming a better person. T F

If most of your answers are "T" you may be living in Oz. It's not for sure but you show symptoms lacking cultural awareness or being in touch with reality. Please note that I am not showing a distinction between between "secular" and "Christian" realities. For too long we have expected major cultural differences between these two worlds and that is not realistic nor biblical.

The church is made up of the same people the world is- the only difference is that we are admitting we are dead in on our own. We draw distinctions in action when the distinction should be in our authenticity level. Confession should be a way of life for us. Love should be our language for everyone.

Robert Capon puts it this way:
"Congruence with grace- and please note what a contradiction in terms that is: congruence with the ultimate incongruity- becomes the condition sine qua non of its bestowal. And so our [resident moralistic] theologian comes to his inevitable emendation of Romans 5:8: 'But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,... [begin addition] on the condition that after a reasonable length of time we would be the kind of people no one would ever have had to die for in the first place. Otherwise, the whole deal is off.'

'The gentleman (the resident moralist) in your head, you see, is a menace."

Recently I have noted (in my ongoing observations of faith communities) this strong, pulsing, insatiable desire among certain types of followers of Jesus (and even from many who are far from God) for something that is REAL. That these people, in the midst of facebooks, Twitter, texting, sexting, celebrity gossip rags, casual sex relationships, pornography, and other endless caterers to self want- no- they NEED real. They cannot stand or choke down for one more minute a glossy, nicely painted exterior, that has no depth, and at the end of the day is just a "bot" anyway. They want to KNOW their group, their family, their ohana.

And this is the thirst the church was founded on, that we are called to this highly offensive grace that forgives anyone who would believe... even if they never become a better citizen or church member (much to many-a-preacher's frustration).

Let me know what you think of Oz. The on-line tour looks nice.