Thoughts…

So here’s just a little bit of what I’ve been thinking about/wrestling with today:

  • I truly do feel like a “rat in a cage.” I feel quite trapped, unable any longer to bear the dichotomy between the life I feel called to live and my life as I’m currently living it. This is really an integrity issue for me. The “me” I present to the world each day through my choices, mannerisms, words, and actions is largely inconsistent with the “me” that rages within, yearning to become what it might. I want my life to be burned up in “the holy flame” of which Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks; yet most days that flame quietly flickers within, threatening to be extinguished by the monotony and pressure of middle-class USAmerican mediocrity. I’m tired of having it both ways- paying lip service to a life of radical discipleship through loving service to God and humanity, all the while bemoaning my lack of local partners who might help me live such a life, while at the same time I secretly covet all the technological and other toys that my privileged life affords me. I accumulate books that I want to read, but never quite find the time to, knowing that they mostly serve the purpose of padding my ego, inflating my self-confidence so that I can make a show of caring (at least to be informed) about “the issues;” yet all the while I do little to respond and make change regarding all the challenges those issues represent. The fact is that I’m fully aware that nearly everything about my life- from the food I eat to the house I live in and the stuff that fills it to the “leisure” pursuits I engage in- all of it comes at much too great a cost to my neighbors around the world and to the world itself. My wealth and the energy required to sustain it along with the waste that is its by-product are possible on a finite earth only because most of the people around the world have so little. I get fat while they starve. I worry about my commute, and my retirement fund, and the home repairs I need to make, while they decide which of their children can eat today. I know the problems that caused all of this are much, much bigger than me, and that my efforts alone will do little to change all of this. Yet the fact remains that there is much I can do, much change I could make even in my own little life and that of my family. So every moment that goes by in which I fail to make that change that it is within my power to make, however hard it might be, is a moment stolen from those who suffer because of my refusal to do what I can. I know too that I am both much weaker, and much stronger, than I think I am, and that when I combine my efforts with like-minded fellow revolutionaries the whole of our work together will be much greater than the sum of its parts.
  • I have to admit that I’m tired of trying to be a Christian, and I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’ve long cried out against what passes for “Christianity” in USAmerican culture, and I suppose I’m growing tired even of my own shtick. I’m not ready to give up on Jesus, though, because I’m convinced he hasn’t given up on me or the world yet. I just don’t want to get into another argument about the Bible, or the doctrinal efficacy of substitutionary atonement, or whether or not there is a literal Hell. The world that so many people get up to every day is so very hellish as it is that I yearn to see redemption break forth like the dawn; I long to see reconciliation get loose and run free through the streets. Anyway, I just don’t care anymore who says what about which way Jesus would vote, or whether or not he favors capitalism as the least evil economic system humanity can imagine. I’m not interested in the culture wars, and I’m sick of all the oil wars and other wars waged to preserve our way of life, because I’m sick of our way of life, and I think Jesus is too. If the gospel is true, if Jesus is who he claims to be, then I have to believe that he’s doing what he said he is- reconciling the world to himself and each of us with one another. In this case, it’s also quite true that everything indeed must change- starting with and most especially me. So I yearn to “be” that change- for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the world. If the gospel isn’t true, then none of this shit really matters anyway.
  • As has been well-documented here, I yearn for community. I yearn to be part of something bigger than me, to know my place within a whole and holy community of world-changers. I want to be part of a family that transcends natural bonds, that bridges customary divisions of race, class, etc. I know that if I am to follow Jesus rather than the Mammon-god of USAmerica, I need help, and I’m not afraid to ask for it anymore. I know that in this culture it is only through sharing resources and limiting the needed number of houses, cars, and jobs among a large group of people that time and energy and money can be freed up to love our neighbors and change the world, at least as we find it right in front of us- on our block, around the corner, down the street. I’m ready to be part of such a community, and eager to do what I have to and go where I need to in order to find it.
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4 thoughts on “Thoughts…

  1. I think what you yearn for, simply put, is heaven itself. Nothing wrong with that, except that your angst reminds of people in search of the “perfect church”…honey, it doesn’t exist. At least not until Jesus returns..
    In the meantime, yeah, do what you can down here, but could you maybe do it without all the putdowns of the USA? If life here is truly that dismal to you, prove it. Give it all up – go live and work in another nation where you can at least feel justified for taking up space. In the meantime, you avail yourself of many of the blessings this nation has to offer while beating yourself up for it, and judging/criticizing your countrymen also.
    I mean think about it. You want everyone else in the world to have access to clean water, adequate shelter, healthy food, etc…all the things that have been carved out for the American people by the American people. We’ve pretty much attained it here for the most part. If every nation attained the same thing, then what? Do you really think poverty would completely cease? Do you think all people would just automatically choose good, not fight, and live together in harmony? You know better.
    Another thing, whether a person complains because they don’t have enough, or they have too much, or complain from somewhere in the middle, in the end, it’s ALL still grumbling and complaining…and frankly, it’s annoying.
    You want to be Christlike? Show some joy and unconditional love, and start ditching the self condemnation and all the America-bashing. It’s old, and it isn’t helping anybody. It’s dragging you down which in turn causes you to see everything filtered through sludge. Everyone sees it on you, but you. You are loved, man, but you reject it as if you don’t deserve it or as if you don’t believe it, maybe a combination of the two. Shake it off Robert, it’s a choice, and when you do, look out because the results will be nothing short of marvelous.

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  2. Evette,

    Having been party to too many online debates with you in the past, I was reluctant to approve and then respond to this comment. I do so now warily, and with the intention of briefly responding to your comment and then moving on.

    You said: “I think what you yearn for, simply put, is heaven itself. Nothing wrong with that, except that your angst reminds of people in search of the ‘perfect church’…honey, it doesn’t exist. At least not until Jesus returns..”

    My response: “Those who know me well now are well aware that I often repeat the saying, ‘There is no perfect congregation, and if there were, it would cease to be so the minute I became a part of it.’ I’m keenly aware that we live ‘between the times;’ that is, I’m aware that God’s kingdom has been fully inaugurated with the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but is not yet finally realized as all creation yet groans in anticipation of its redemption. Hence, we who would follow Jesus are charged with joining him in his ministry of reconciliation. We have the sacred task of making that kingdom which is now upon us present to all. We must literally embody God’s love, grace, and reconciliation to the world- in Jesus’ name.”

    You said: “In the meantime, yeah, do what you can down here,”

    My response: “Indeed, this is our job as Christ-followers who live ‘between the times.’ We live as if the kingdom is ‘upon us’ despite all the evidence to the contrary around us. This is where that ‘angst’ you mentioned above comes into play. Even when we look around us and see all the hurt, pain, disease, and desolation that constantly fill the headlines, as Christ-followers we know that ‘another life is possible.’ Because of Jesus, we know that it’s possible to love our enemies, to prefer others over ourselves, to beat swords into ploughshares, and break down barriers of race, class, nation, and denomination so that we can truly BE the church. Yet our efforts to bring all this about so often fall short and are frustrated, and unfortunately in my experience some of the most virulent opponents to all of this kingdom work are would-be Christians who seem to think that being a Christian is all about what happens after you die, in ‘heaven.’ In so doing they utterly miss the point of the gospel and force me to ask, ‘Did Jesus have to die for this? Really?’ While life everlasting is clearly an important component of life in Christ, Jesus spent far too much time talking about money, and the poor, and how we are to live as his followers right now for me to think that the only thing he really cared about was the Eschaton.”

    You said: “…but could you maybe do it without all the putdowns of the USA? If life here is truly that dismal to you, prove it. Give it all up – go live and work in another nation where you can at least feel justified for taking up space. In the meantime, you avail yourself of many of the blessings this nation has to offer while beating yourself up for it, and judging/criticizing your countrymen also.”

    My response: “You make an excellent point and I suppose if I was a person who had more integrity I would avail myself of your advice. Having said that, those who actually listen to everything I say and know me well now know that I don’t just ‘putdown’ the USA because it’s easy sport, like ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’ I would like to think instead that I speak prophetically (in the best sense of prophecy and in keeping with what it’s really for/about, that is ‘truth-telling’) about this nation, my nation, because despite the undisputed good it has done in the world it (that is, we) have also done much that is very, very bad (that is, evil). This evil often gets ignored or is unrecognized, and again unfortunately some of the worst offenders here too are would-be Christians who think God and country are nearly one and the same, ‘as American as apple pie.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. For the Christian, our primary and only allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom. We are merely sojourners here in the USA. As sojourners, we are obligated to obey the laws (to the extent that they are just and concordant with God’s law, which takes precedent) and do our part for the common good, but as Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve two masters’. ”

    You said: “I mean think about it. You want everyone else in the world to have access to clean water, adequate shelter, healthy food, etc…all the things that have been carved out for the American people by the American people. We’ve pretty much attained it here for the most part.”

    My response: “The hard work, ingenuity, and can-do attitude you allude to is all well and good. However, it bears noting that the abundant natural resources which make much of the above you mentioned possible were stolen by the U.S. government and the USAmerican people through the genocide of the Native American people who were here so very long before we were. Of course, ‘we’ not only plundered and decimated the native population of this land to get those resources, but we exploited those resources to build our technology and infrastructure and our very way of life by subjugating and enslaving another people group from another continent. Whatever moral high ground we can claim especially in WWII, I’m just not sure our record is all that balanced on the side of good.”

    You said: “If every nation attained the same thing, then what? Do you really think poverty would completely cease? Do you think all people would just automatically choose good, not fight, and live together in harmony? You know better.”

    My response: “Again, those who listen to all I say and know me well NOW know that I do not believe every nation can attain our standard of living and way of life, and if they could, God help us all. The world simply cannot sustain nearly 7 billion people consuming all the resources and creating all the waste that we do. It’s impossible. On the contrary, much of the world’s population is desperately poor and must attain an improved standard of living, but for this to be possible, grossly rich nations like the USA must give up much of what we’ve worked so hard for and stolen, plundered, and exploited in order to attain. For those poorest of the poor, clean water, adequate shelter, and healthy food would be a wonderful start. For we rich USAmericans, those things may suffice for us too after all. At least we all wouldn’t be so morbidly obese.”

    You said: “Another thing, whether a person complains because they don’t have enough, or they have too much, or complain from somewhere in the middle, in the end, it’s ALL still grumbling and complaining…and frankly, it’s annoying.”

    My response: “I only hope that more would-be Christians get annoyed enough to provoke some real change. Clearly, something must be done to arouse our hearts and spirits and propel us to join Jesus in the street with the rest of poor and the outcasts.”

    You said: “You want to be Christlike? Show some joy and unconditional love, and start ditching the self condemnation and all the America-bashing.”

    My response: “You wouldn’t know this of course just as you’re unable to know many things about my life now, but my face lights up with joy every morning when I sing my made-up ‘Good morning, son’ song to Samuel, and every evening when I sing him the equally contrived ‘I love you’ song, and at many points in between. Having said that, I’m working on the self-condemnation part and have the therapy bill to prove it. Still, like Gandhi said, ‘I must be the change I want to see’ in you and others, and that change starts with realizing the need for it, that is realizing that I’ve fallen short not only of the glory of God but of who God calls me to be in this world.”

    You said: “…It’s old, and it isn’t helping anybody.”

    My response: “Old as it may be, how do you know it isn’t helping anybody? Do you talk to my friends or see all of my interactions on social networking sites? Were you there for our recent ‘freesale’ where we opted out of the usual capitalist consumption system and just gave a bunch of our stuff away instead? Did you hear the response of the families that were helped? Just wondering…”

    You said: “It’s dragging you down which in turn causes you to see everything filtered through sludge. Everyone sees it on you, but you.”

    My response: “Again, I can’t help but wonder how you could in any way know this. By ‘everyone,’ you just mean you, right? ‘Cause I know who most of the people I know are, and most of them haven’t a clue who you are and would have no opportunity to interact with you, which would necessarily preclude you and they coming to any sort of agreement on the sludge you suppose I’m covered in. ”

    You said: “You are loved, man, but you reject it as if you don’t deserve it or as if you don’t believe it, maybe a combination of the two.”

    My response: “The fact of the matter is that I don’t deserve it, and neither do you. ‘All have fallen short….,’ remember. I know of course that all are loved anyway, that’s the gospel I hope to embody and proclaim, but believing it everyday not just in my head but in my heart is admittedly a challenge.”

    You said: “Shake it off Robert, it’s a choice, and when you do, look out because the results will be nothing short of marvelous.”

    My response: “You’re right, though, it is a choice, and I resolved some time ago that I could do nothing better in the Christian life than to plumb the depths of God’s great love for me. Unfortunately, that’s a choice I had to make in no small part due to not only my abusive upbringing to which you were a sometime witness but also in response to the evils of what I call ‘fundagelicalism,’ which I suspect you to very much still be immersed in.”

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  3. R: We must spend more and more time in prayer brother. Action in prayer and in ministry opportunities can resolve most of our “inner debates”.
    In Christ – A

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  4. Robert,
    In reading your prose I have come to realize that you do something that I have always encouraged in my own children. Know what you believe and why you believe it. Don’t follow a man or a church but your own love for God and what he wants you to do with your life. I think, in reading what you are saying that you are finding your own path.. it may not be what others would think is correct, but who is to say that God isn’t leading you. Thanks for being your own person with your own voice!

    Carla

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