Thursday, June 28, 2007

Anemic, Imitative, Impoverished

Perhaps it is due to the new smell of fatherhood that now permeates me or the fact that I am now what I considered at twenty-three to be "old" (30), but I have become thoroughly grouchy in regards to popular culture lately. Need I say more than faux hawk, Paris in and out of jail, and now the Spice Girls might, just might, rejoin for a world tour. And all of this made major headlines on "Yahoo."

Yet that is not what bothers me the most. Several years ago I stopped going to a major Christian bookstore because it was filled not with books about Christ-centered theology or developing one's faith, but was frothfully filled with holy trinkets: necklaces, "Christian picture frames," items here and there that were intellectually and artistically anemic. There was no John Owens, Calvin, Luther, and really nothing dating back beyond the last 20 years, except the NIV Bibles for sale. I agree with whoever said it first, "Christian culture doesn't battle pop culture; it is pop culture." Mindless and soulless. And I also agree with historian Mark Noll, "the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is so little of the evangelical mind." It is a parallel sub-culture that is almost entirely imitative.

I do not consider myself a sociologist of any sort but over the last several years I've noticed this talk of "transforming culture" and yet I am becoming more convinced that today's superficial Christianity is incapable of producing a rich, thriving, transformative, deep culture. And the question I have is how do we plant a church in Midtown Memphis that is intellectually, artistically, relationally, and spiritually sound? That produces more than spiritual consumers who want to shop the "spiritual mall" of what passes for church these days? That produces followers of Jesus who discern the world they are in and who don't seek to disassociate from it? I mean, isn't it true that when Christians cocoon themselves from culture, they actually violate the example and teaching of Jesus and limit his ability to work through them to produce a rich, intoxicating, vibrant and deep culture?

And then there is this squishy kind of spiritual stuff going on in churches where if one is definite on a theological topic--that is, if one has a conviction borne out of facts and not feelings--one is seen as intolerant or judgmental or close-minded. We want a God who doesn't demand anything of us and that is quintessentially narcissistic. C.S. Lewis said it pointedly when he said, "We don't want God to be Father, we want him to be Grandfather." Dick Staub writes that Christian teens and, I'd say, other age groups, "believe in an uninvolved, undemanding God who is watching everything from above and is drawn into their lives rarely and only if necessary. In such a world, religion is inclusive yet peripheral, beliefs are held inarticulately and loosely, and each individual is the arbiter of what is true for them; there is no right answer. 'Who am I to judge?' they might ask."

Is it true that the rich presence of God will only be found by those who seek with the aim of finding? Is it true that today most of what is called spiritual searching is in fact a sham and a vain exercise? Do we seek and not find because we seek a God who will improve our life and make us happy without making us uncomfortable by making demands on us?

I read last night in Culturally Savvy Christian, "Each of us must decide whether we will embrace a real existence by undertaking a rigorous pilgrimage toward wellness or settle into a pseudo-existence by being satisfied with the shallowness and spiritual impoverishment of the typical life."

Anyone ever had these thoughts?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hoping for the Best 4 Hours of My Life

This Wednesday is a momentous day for the Elder family here on Felix Avenue. That is the day we board an airplane and fly toward the Pacific and introduce Violet to California for the first time. We are there for Shawn and Loren's wedding and will making a lot of effort to see our other friends.

Everything has worked out: credit card miles providing us with 1.5 free tickets, a home to stay
in not far from the wedding venue, free transportation and the honor of speaking at Hillside Church on Sunday morning. Now we are hoping the luck continues with Violet and the flight, a direct flight totaling 4 hours. We are, like the title says, hoping and praying for the best 4 hours of our lives (8 hours if we include the return). And if we have the best 4 hours then those seated around us will have a good 4 hours, which when you add 4 hours per person around us that totals close to 70 good hours. You see, we're not selfish with our prayers. We are praying that God would bless us and through us bless others 4, 16, 32, yea, 72 hours-fold.

Here's a pic of Violet and my Mom from our visit a few weeks back.