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February 16, 2016

Midlife Crisis

"I mean no disrespect
I am simply very perplexed
by your ways.

Why would you let us
use your name?"

Save The Children commercials aired regularly when I was a child. Sally Struthers may as well have been talking about aliens on another planet. Being made aware of the hopeless children with flies in their eyes moved me to... ...


Why was this my response? I did not want to deal with the conviction discomfort of seeing it. I didn't want to have to give -my- money and time away. I didn't want to consider the facts, thousands of innocent starving children on the other side of the planet, and what this may say about God.

"God, why is there Africa? Please don't ever make me go to Africa."

- - - - - - - -

The Lord values honesty?

I have a growing discontent with Christianity. It's a chip on my shoulder. For a short while I may have taken pride in this. But now I definitely do not. Let me be clear - the problem is me. No, really. I truly do believe that I'm the one who has work to do.

But here goes...

I have difficulty hearing anything that's couched in churchy talk. The books. The songs. The lectures and sermons. It goes through me. Sometimes I will intentionally read different translations of the same verse in the Bible as a reminder that the original words probably weren't spoken or written in formulaic modern churchy vernacular.

Speaking of the Bible. I have a hard time with seeing the Bible as an object of perfection to be worshipped and defended. With seeing the Bible as a science and history book. With the idea that we can search the various versus from sixty six different books that make up the Bible, and come out with a systematic theology. I had a hunch that systematic theology is a massive and costly undertaking in barking up the wrong tree.

I'm tired of the anti-science stance of many people in the church. Some of their views on medical care and general health and wellness reveal, to me, a serious lack of critical thinking skills. I often feel that people on both sides of the "culture wars" are incapable of playing (debating, arguing, etc) fair intellectually.

I'm tired of the tribalism. The many/mostly segregated church communities. The mindset that we have found THE correct way to live and relate to God. The process whereby we choose a church where we fit in, then prop our views and ways up as something for Jesus himself to behold.

There is plenty of evidence that the Christian subculture exists and benefits...those who are in the club. Sure, there is plenty of legitimate reaching out to the poor and widows and the homeless. But I shudder to think how this compares to the amount of time and resources used to prop up the church.

I don't like the business of church. I don't like hearing about church mortgages and the parking lot fund and the sound system and how many members need to give an average number of dollars to keep it afloat. I'm uncertain how honest and prophetic a pastor may truly be when his salary depends on the preferences of his audience.

Let's imagine that a pastor DID hear from God. And God told him something that he should change his mind about, or it's something the church would not like? How does that typically go?

I'm irritated with the Patriotic Christianity that assumes our ways are the right ways. That we hold THE moral high ground and God is always on our side. I don't think we're doing a service to Jesus by combining the bald eagle and the cross into one kick-ass logo.

There. I'm done.

Yet again, I know where the real problem is here. I've contributed to much of the above as much as anyone. My Christian friends are people seeking God. They recognize his grace in their lives and genuinely give glory to God for any goodness within them. My pastors have done nothing wrong. They are honest and intelligent men dealing with an organization of people in modern times. This is not easy.

And in the end, I still see something beautiful and wonderful and TRUE about Jesus. I pray to him. I assume he will have grace on me in my pride and blunders and errors in faith and belief. I believe he will have grace on my Christian friends, and on our enemies as well.

It is likely that I will continue to struggle with this until God shakes me up a bit. Lord why do some of us have to learn the hard way? I realize that the need is great in my home and in my neighborhood. The WAY of Jesus begins right here. But I also imagine, and sometimes long for a season of life where I plant my feet on (someplace like) African soil and experience the poverty and joy in the Lord face to face.

"God, maybe I need to go to Africa."

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