Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dr. Happy

I've got to tell you, this is one of those scratch my head til it bleeds moments. So, I'm a Christian, right?  [ TANGENT ALERT!] Actually, I prefer "follower of Jesus Christ" mostly because of what has presented itself as Christianity in recent years, imo. I've even taken to asking some people what they mean when they ask me if I'm a Christian. Do you mean a practitioner of a religion called Christianity? Or, do you mean someone who simply follows Christ? A longer subject for another time, but suffice to say that I am not ashamed of believing in Jesus. He is the one who has saved me and continues to save me from my brokenness, which the Christian Bible accurately calls sin. BEFORE you stop reading, hear me out, please!

People in the the culture today don't like it when Christ followers talk about sin. It's judgmental to them, an indictment, a holier-than-thou kind of thing. And, honestly, I understand that. Judgmentalism is a major face of Christianity in the world. That stinks. That is one of the dynamics that propelled me out of Churchianity. Not that I was being judged, nor do I condemn or look down upon those who choose to become part of a traditional religious congregation. What I've seen projected onto the culture today though in great measure is quite "ugly" if you will, even though there are certainly exceptions. I just didn't want to be a part of that particular scene for the very reason I call myself a CHRIST follower and because I felt there was something different for me to do. So many groups of Christians reek of contempt and judgmentalism, and the media plays it up really big when some really wacky and quacky "Christian" group shows its ugly head. That said, Jesus didn't show contempt to hurting people, those trapped in their doubt, selfishness, fear, and soul-breaking bondages. Check out the story about the woman Jesus met drawing water from a well near the Middle Eastern town of Sychar. It's a fascinating read and great example of how he treated people. (I blogged about it a few weeks ago.

I think that if people are brutally honest with themselves they will admit in their most quiet of moments that something is wrong, wrong with the world, wrong inside of them. And I don't mean the imperfections that we all carry about through life. There is a fundamental brokenness, a fracturing in the soul of each one of us. An aching. A longing to be whole, free from the selfish desires which drive us. Free to have goodness poured into us. Free to have a new heart. Even more so, it's a hunger to to know the God who made us, who loves us with great passionate affection. I very much like what Dallas Willard says about this God: "So we must understand that God does not 'love' us without liking us -- through gritted teeth ... Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core -- which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word *love*" (The Divine Conspiracy). We have a God who is absolutely, head-over-heels in love with us. He doesn't like everything we do, dislikes the hurt we inflict upon one another as well as ourselves, and even promises there is a reckoning to come, a time when he will sort everything out his way. But, he loved and loves us so much that he paid a great price to buy us back, to woo us into a relationship.

You see that's what Jesus was all about. He came as a rescuer, God-in-Flesh, to show us this Father who longs to know us and for us to know him, to show us the way back. I also like how Brennan Manning describes Jesus' heart for us: "The heart of Jesus loves us as we are and not as we should be, beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity & infidelity; He who loves us in the morning sun and the evening rain without caution, regret, boundary, limit, or breaking point" (The Signature of Jesus). This God longs for us to allow him to love us, to love us out of all the places we've gotten stuck. He longs to be the healer, the restorer, the lover, maybe a Father you've never known. There is more that can be said, but that's the gist. If you've not been presented with that view of God, then I think I may understand why some Christians and Christianity turn you off.  I will assure of this: You have a Father who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will, and has love powerful enough to do something about your broken places. That is very Good news! The religion, the structures, conformity-based obligations, not so much.

Got that off my chest. A tad off my topic, nonetheless important. And, if you fit the above description, I hope you'll rethink Jesus.

Back to my bleeding head ... I was flipping through Facebook and stumbled upon some friends of friends of friends of friends, and came upon two sites that made me want to take my son's anti nausea medicine. One person, a pastor by trade, hailed himself as DR so and so. Every reference to himself had the Doc title. He had two of these, one earned and the other I suspect an honorary bestowment. I have not a thing against degrees. I've earned a couple myself. I have a good friend for whom I have much respect who has two earned doctorates who is an amazing teacher, writer, and researcher. The troubling thing to me is that Christians and Christian leaders insist upon making a point about their position and status. Why not just first and last name? What's so important about making a public statement about your level? It's one thing to list in your About/Bio section your employment and education, etc. It's quite another to make a point about it and title yourself by your status. I won't give more detail because it might give away who this is - not my intent. My point is that this site was rife with a viewpoint that I've come to expect from Churchianity, one that says that people can be above other people, that a person can be given worship veiled in the guise of "respect" and "honor." Sad. I can't say anymore.

The other friend of a friend of a friend of a friend was advertised as The First Lady and she looked nothing like Michelle Obama. She was the wife of a pastor, The First Man, I suppose, although I couldn't find that reference on the site. First Lady?! Really?! I missed that one in the Bible. Where has there ever been a scriptural notion that Anyone is preeminent over any one else in this thing Christians refer to as the Body of Christ? In fact, one of Jesus early followers who wrote a piece of the New Testament had a bit of a fit over a leader who "loved preeminence." As far as I can tell Jesus offered vehement criticism of two things: religious structures and their leaders, especially those who abused the helpless, poor and disenfranchised. He said that certain people love to get themselves called by certain titles and manipulate minds to the point that people willingly call their leaders by auspicious monikers ... that'd be things like Senior This, Bishop That, even Pastor So and So, or Dr. Didandoalot. "Honor" they call it. Oh my Lord, help us! If the Bible caught a cold I'm afraid many of us would never catch it. "It will not be that way among you," said that Jesus we're so fond of us talking about. Where did Christianity find itself in a place where it justified title happiness and leader worship?

I want to tell you stories, but I suspect it will only get me unfriended. I like staying in touch with what's going on in people's lives, friends, acquaintances old and new. Some might even recognize the stories.

Ok, so if you've read some recent blogs that end up pounding on the leadership drum, I suppose it looks like I'm spinning on the broken record. Sorry 'bout that. I really do like to talk more about this awesome God I'm learning to know. It's just that I see this stuff everywhere and can't seem to help myself. I guess it's because I'm just broken and my record also gets that way every so often. Maybe I should find a title to get myself called by. Got any ideas?

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