Without order nothing can exist-without chaos nothing can evolve. Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde
It is a hard thing to grasp when one comes to the threshold of an unknown road. Do we panic? Do we push back? What do we grab on to when experiencing this unfamiliar and turbulent route? I don’t know for sure, but it does seem like the more we experience the chaos, the more we scramble for answers. Maybe instead of demanding answers, we start asking questions that are more relevant with the path in front of us? Specifically, within the American Christian landscape, we cannot deny that we are at a critical crossroad. Are we going to listen to the petitions that are being proposed or are we just going to seek the more familiar and accessible remedies?
The “answers” might seem finite and foundational–but in the end–the order we want will end up being of no value. This “abyss” seems unpleasant (maybe unbearable at times), but what if we can learn to abide through it, to better heal and liberate as a community? What are the questions and answers I am referring to? Well, if I had all the prevalent questions with the damaging responses in this blog, it would be a million-page novel. But I did come up with four main ideas which seem to shed some light regarding the current church vs the world problem we are experiencing. Look, the “church” is supposed to be leading in example on how healthy community is done. Unfortunately, it seems to be doing the opposite. I believe these ideas play a huge role in why this is the case.
1. Culture Irrelevance
Wait, hold the phones?! As Jesus-followers, aren’t we supposed to be the called-out ones that are “not of this world”? How can I say culture irrelevance is part of the problem of the current state of American Christianity? Easy. Throughout the Abrahamic faiths and Jesus tradition, all the players who had a role in bringing this movement into fruition, worked and lived within their own cultural context. You cannot have the prophetically justice stance of Moses without having a dictator like the slave-driving Pharaoh. Or the “rags-to-riches” story in the journey of Ruth through the perils of a patriarchal society. Its relative for all these characters when they engaged in the culture of their day. From politics, earth-care, education, traditions, and entertainment, all these cultural aspects play a role when shaping and forming one’s Jesus community. To place the church “outside” of the culture of the day, is to put it in a stale and unproductive state. This does nothing in bringing about the earth as it is in heaven admonition from Jesus. It only brings about an escapism which never produces good fruit.
2. Consumer-Oriented Platforms
We want it all, we want it with ease, and we want it NOW! This is the modern era of consumer Christianity. The bigger, stronger, and faster consumer minded motif we find ourselves in is becoming more of a game than a gift. Our easy access to goods is bringing about those lovely seven deadly sins we all enjoy so much (tongue and cheek, hehe). Instant gratification is so nice, isn’t it though? I love having access to so many goods from just the tip of my fingertips and the scroll of my smart phone. Our technology driven society is helping the insta (haha get it?)cause for sure (plug in and stay tuned). Yes, technology has done some great things for human civilization. But we cannot deny the negative side of it as well. I get that we all enjoy some type of “retreat” from the woes of this world so we can encounter God. This is all well and good. You want rock stages, fog machines, Starbucks coffee and strobe lights, knock yourself out. I am not trying to say to stop doing these types of practices. The problem I am seeing is, instead of getting disciples, we might be getting fans. Hey, but fans are the ones that keep this consumer machine rolling…we need fans, right? Economies based on exchange will need some admirers if we are going to keep this merry-go-round operational. Entertainment can be intoxicating along with being detrimental when it comes to participating in the Jesus Way. Look, we all are going to be within the non-dualistic tension of being consumers and lovers (1 Cor 13:4-8). Its what we do with this tension that matters.
3. Exclusionary Campaigning
Factionalism has been the new trend within the American church today. Looks like we are joining the American polarized political divide. Yes, we are supposed to act within our current cultural issues, but what is to be our tactics? It cannot be one that causes divisions and strife (Gal. 5:20) but one that produces LOVE, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is what we are called to participate in. This is what produces the fruit that Jesus spoke of. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a crazy time to be alive in the USA. Tensions are high (so much so people are throwing out possible civil war). We are going through extreme social unrest from pandemics, racial injustices, economic disparity, and political strife. The divide is obvious and deep at the moment. But no matter what, the church is to be the example of love above all else (i.e., Shalom). This love may look like a “dividing sword” (Mat. 10:34) to “others” who maybe just haven’t had the vision of a justice (love in public) rolling down like a river through our American streets. Regardless, we are here to love our enemies (which means we have no enemies) and be a people of inclusion, hospitality, and generosity.
4. Doctrine Certitudes
Jesus was about the Gospel, not doctrine. This Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.It is not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within one’s culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But it’s really just simply good news, which everyone needs nowadays.
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Well, what do you think? Again, if we are looking to bring about the cross-like, forgiving love that Jesus brought, what do we do in the chaos and order? WE ABIDE (uh oh, I just gave you an answer haha)! We breathe. We seek. And maybe, just fucking maybe, we will find…
Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love!