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Blog Deep Thoughts

Facing the Risk of Sunsets

Yesterday, I had to go out around sunset to pick my oldest daughter up from an activity. I was backing out of the driveway and realized that I had left my sunglasses in the house. With very light-colored eyes, it’s incredibly hard to see outside, especially when the sun is low.

Not wanting to be late, I kept backing out of the drive and decided to brave the sunlight unprotected by a pair of polarized lens.

Just a few minutes later, I was happy with this decision, and in fact, I quietly prayed, thanking God that I had forgotten by my sunglasses.

Why? Because the landscape I was driving through was beautiful, and I know it would haven’t have struck me in the same way or to the same degree if I was wearing my sunglasses. (The photo below was taken fairly safely from the side of the road.)

Sometimes, we miss the beauty of life because we are so concerned with our protection or comfort, but real life, abundant and luxuriant life, is going to require us to accept a certain amount of risk and will challenge us to put down our guard and just live.

Originally posted on Facebook on Jun 12, 2024.

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Blog Church Ideas Deep Thoughts

Deconstruction Permits

My wife and I were having a discussion, and, if I’m honest, I was a bit of a jerk when the topic of deconstruction came up.

After I apologized, I had to ask myself why I had such strong feelings about this topic, and I think I figured it out.

I’m angry. I’m literally furious about this, but not at the deconstruction crew.

I’m furious at the leaders and scholars who have buried Christianity in so many layers of cultural garbage. I’m in the second stage of grieving for a Church who has responded to the deconstruction movement with shame upon those asking questions and expressing doubt.

Of course, I have some frustrations with the deconstructors, too, but most of those frustrations would have been mitigated at the very beginning of this movement had the Church responded better. Rather than attack people with questions, we should have humbly listened, not just so we can answer but so we can hear the heart and hurt behind the questions and validate the person and their pain they feel.

So, I’m not sure how far I’m going to take this, but maybe I need to walk you through my own deconstruction that I went through about ten years ago.

That’s right. Like a true OG hipster millennial, I deconstructed before it was cool, before it even had a name. (If you read Blue Like Jazz or Velvet Elvis, you know what I’m talking about.)

Let me repeat that louder for the folks in the back: I deconstructed, aaaaaaand I am STILL a Christian.

Because deconstruction can be a good, natural, and life-giving process. Because deconstruction doesn’t have to be about tearing up the foundation of faith that is Jesus Christ.

In most of the deconstruction stories I have heard and in my own experience, the process didn’t begin as an attack on faith but a growing discomfort with and then removal of the cultural elements many have conflated with our faith.

I wrote about this a few months ago, but it bears repeating: culture is everything.

I don’t mean that our faith is merely cultural—i.e. a social construct without transcendent value—rather, much of what we think of as our faith is actually a cultural, man-made affectation. To be fair, just because these elements are man-made doesn’t make them bad, but at the same time, just because they are attached to our faith doesn’t make them biblical. For example:

  • Going to church to hear one person speak is cultural
  • Every song we sing at church—singing songs, even!—is cultural, as is having instruments
  • Altar calls are cultural, having only been around since the 1800s, which isn’t that long for an ancient faith like Christianity
  • Reading the Bible on our own at home and in English is cultural and also recent additions to the faith

Those aren’t bad things, but we blindly accept them as biblical. There are other examples of culture that have become part of the Church that are cultural affections, such as democracy, capitalism, patriarchy, commercialism, etc. Not all of these are inherently bad, but to some degree, they have all been accepted and given near biblical adherence.

So, if all of that is cultural, man-made additions upon the foundation laid by God, what’s left?

So much!

God is and loves everyone.
God died and rose again.
God lives, and I live because He lives and loves me.

These are the universal truths of God that should be the focus of our faith.

Yet, for centuries, we have been adding to our faith with so much cultural bunk that it is no wonder people are desperate to tear down the artifice so that they can find the actual truth of God.

Church, let’s be honest: the work of men has been too long held as the work of God, while the work of God has been minimized.

This is why, when people have begun to deconstruct, they cannot find where the cultural constructions of American Christianity ends and the truth of God begins.

Thus, they tear it all up and are left with nothing.

Tragically, had the Church, at the outset, been willing to hear their complaints and answer their questions, had the Church itself gone to the altar so that God could reveal where we had all lost our way in the morass of culture, then maybe we would have seen more true deconstruction, instead of this recent wave of demolitions.

As it is, unless the leaders of the Church in America are willing to be honest about what they and their predecessors have done in building with culture instead of Christ, then we’re going to see even more Christians declare the whole building condemned.

Background of featured image by Dakota Roos on Unsplash

Categories
Blog Showing My Work

Buried Hope

Down from the cross
Laid in the grave
Jesus buried behind a stone
Hearts filled with loss
And emptied of joy
His sheep left all alone

Buried hope, silenced songs
God is laid in the tomb
Friday ends in darkness
All creation steeped in gloom

His body lay still
For the second day
Dead, inside the earth
He obeyed the Father’s will
So we can have a second birth

Buried hope, silenced songs
God is in the tomb
Yet, like a buried seed
We await the bloom

Categories
Blog Showing My Work

A Christ Original

Jesus was a carpenter, 
What did He build? 
Imagine visiting a home, 
To hear the owner say, 
“This chair is a Christ original.” 

A hammer 
The tool of His trade 
With nails and beams 
My debts were paid 

Jesus was a carpenter, 
But His single greatest work, 
Was not to build, 
But be destroyed. 
So I could be remade. 

I am a Christ original. 

A hammer 
The tool of His trade 
With nails and beams 
My debts were paid 

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Blog Deep Thoughts Showing My Work

Boredom

Boredom is a blank sheet of paper. A wide open world with so many possibilities that we cannot choose one to engage with. It is literally having too much to do, as opposed to nothing.

Boredom isn’t about options: it’s about desire and decision-making.

Boredom is a result of your mind-spirit saying, “Enough of this. We want something different.” But then, providing no clues as to what different thing would be best.

It’s like being hungry but for nothing in particular, starving with a panty full of unappealing though totally acceptable food.

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Blog Deep Thoughts

The Voice of God

There is a long-standing argument among thinkers, scholars, and know-it-alls online about whether or not the US was founded as a republic or a democracy. I go back and forth, and I think the best answer is that it was neither. It’s always been its own thing, a mutt government crafted from diverse and sometimes incongruous sources.

But all of that aside, the founders were clear in at least one aspect of this new government: the rejection of monarchy. The internecine system of checks and balances they created was intended to protect against the accumulation of power in one position, person, or party. (Sadly, they could not have foreseen the combined assault of increased partisanship and a diminished sense of personal shame.) Having left a society that was dominated by a distant legislature and a detached monarch, they wanted to build a government that was stable yet responsive to the people, impervious to mob-aucracy and autocracy.

We were free of kings, and we were supposed to remain that way, with a government made up of three co-equal branches of government. And yet, there is something in human nature that desires a singular authority, someone to look to for leadership and reassurance in a crisis, along with someone to blame when that crisis gets worse. When you combine that aspect of our nature with the history of the past century of major crises—world war, depression, war, nuclear power, etc.—it is no wonder that the presidency has been transformed and expanded, becoming “imperial” in the estimation of many.

Both sides of the political divide have contributed to this shift and benefited from it, so this isn’t about bad guys and good guys, your team or my team. This is about examining a growing problem in our system of governance, in which we continue to give more power and authority—governmental and moral—to a single person, returning ourselves to a time of monarchs and a potential loss of freedom for all citizens.

Which is why I am distressed by how we have turned politics into a cult of personality and elections into apocalyptic popularity contests. We campaign for our candidate with such ferocity and conviction, as if we actually believe that one single person can fix everything.

We’ve had forty-six presidents since we’ve started: if one of them was going to save us, we’d have been saved by now.

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Psalm 146:3-5

Politics is all about promises; governance is all about solutions. I really mean that. I don’t get too worked up about the potential of a politician to come through on their campaign promises—though I do worry about campaign threats—but I still do expect the government to at least attempt to solve real problems. And yet, I don’t put my faith in either princes or presidents. Our world is broken, and no person can put it back together. Sure, one or the other might make things worse, but none of them can save us.

So why do we act as if they will? Why do we so quickly turn to worship leaders who are just as frail and mortal as we are?

19 Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.

21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
Acts 12:19-23

I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but that passage in Acts sounds like too many political rallies I’ve watched over the past two decades. I don’t blame people for getting swept up in the excitement of the moment and feeling excited about a charismatic leader, but I do worry about a trend in which we treat the selection of a national leader as a popularity contest, as a rock concert, as if a god were walking among us.