Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Faith in God is NOT a massage: Almost Christian Review Part 2

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism makes no pretense at changing lives, it is a low commitment, compartmentalized set of attitudes aimed at 'meeting my needs' and 'making me happy' rather than bending my life into a pattern of love and obedience to God. (30)

Which reminds me of a song recorded by a folk trio called Cry, Cry, Cry featuring Dar Williams called Lord I Have Made You A Place in My Heart by Greg Brown

Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart
Among the rags and the bones and the dirt.
There's piles of lies, the love gone from her eyes,
And old moving boxes full of hurt.
Pull up a chair by the trouble and care.
I got whiskey, you're welcome to some.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart,
But I don't reckon you're gonna come.

I've tried to fix up the place, I know it's a disgrace,
You get used to it after a while -
With the flood and the drought and old pals hanging out
With their IOU's and their smiles.
Bare naked women keep coming in
And they dance like you wouldn't believe.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart,
So take a good look - and then leave.

Oh Lord, why does the Fall get colder each year?
Lord, why can't I learn to love?
Lord, if you made me, it's easy to see
That you all make mistakes up above.
But if I open the door, you will know I'm poor
And my secrets are all that I own.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart
And I hope that you leave it alone.

I believe Almost Christian to be a dangerous book, not just for youth ministers, but for churches. It suggests that many of us who would call ourselves 'disciples' are more interested in 'feeling better' than in allowing our lives to be bent, which means we aren't really disciples at all. At best we are like Peter, hanging around for the reward and running when the following Christ costs us something. Or, as the song suggests, we will make a little guest room for Christ, but want him to leave it alone. What Christ wants to do is Extreme Home Makeover, not hanging new curtains.

In The Peaceable Kingdom, Stanley Hauerwas comments that one of central duties of the church is to teach us that we are sinners.

Almost Christian causes me to wonder if the mainline church in an effort to remain 'relevant' or at least 'successful' or well, open, has lowered significantly the bar of discipleship. There are easier and less costly ways for folks to feel better about themselves, the shelves are full of self-help books and Oprah is incredibly popular. Talking about sin and suggesting that folks are twisted out of the shape God intended for them, and that church is about bending them back into the image of God, that is dangerous. People might not come if that is what they will hear.

Almost Christian suggests to me that we aren't being the disciples Christ calls us to be and that the church has lost is mission and focus, serving the god 'feel better' instead of the living God who burns away the chaff.

I found a quote from Walter Brueggemann
'Israel (the church) under threat is never an easy 'therapeutic' community, and faith in Yahweh is not a massage. It is the embrace and practice of a destiny that make costly demands in the name of Yahweh.

(Essay: Always in the Shadow of Empire. Book: The Church as Counterculture)

What do you think

No comments: