Monday, January 29, 2007

Why do I serve God?
Fear was my initial motivation. Forgiveness. . .
That was a long time ago.
What holds me, now?
I've certainly no desire or temptation of desire to forsake my Christianity.
Why is that? It may seem an odd question, but it is begotten from my distrust of human nature in general, and my own nature in particular.
I believe that I am a child of God. I also recognize my insufferable humanity.
I observe that I am impressed by Christianity.
I read books by C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and G.K. Chesterton and am gratified by the philosophical and intellectual royalty that raises Christianity to its throne as king of religions.
I was born of Christian parents, neither of whom have ever given me the slightest reason to disrepect the heritage they have given me.
I am the grandchild of exemplary Christians, people known for their testimony.
I married a Christian woman who delights in the law of the Lord.
My sister and brother-in-law serve God.
My in-laws, uncles, aunts, cousins serve God.
What troubles me in unguarded moments is this: I have no reason to be anything other than a Christian.
Have you ever wondered how much of your experience is positive peer pressure?
Surely you have noticed how much easier it is to hunger and thirst after righteousness when righteousness is the food and drink of choice of your companions.
Surely you have noticed how much you desire humility when you observe it in others and wish I would that others could see that in me.
Surely you have noticed that prayer acquires much more fervor and reality in the presence of a saint, and how difficult it is in the presence of a sinner.
Surely you have noticed how incredulity tempers your boldness.
Falderal, whippersnapper, you may say. What of it? Count your blessings.
I don't wish to strain at gnats, but in quickly dismissing this question I sometimes feel as if I'm making a molehill out of a mountain.
Thank God for your Christian heritage, you say. Thank God for your upbringing. I truly am.
Be thankful for your Christian companion. I am too grateful for words.
Deepen your knowledge of apologetics, then, and fortify your faith with the words and writings of wiser men. Populate your world with saints and follow their example.
I intend to.
But whence cometh my motivation to serve God? From all these?
I have made my Christianity something to be enjoyed. An easy yoke it is, and yet I sometimes feel as if I've unkowingly shrugged off the yoke and trot on down the road, empty harness flapping behind me.
How positive is positive peer pressure if it props up your salvation?
What would I do if there no Lewis, no Zacharias, no Focus on the Family, no Steven Curtis Chapman, no Frank Peretti, no parents, no grandparents, no Devan?
Stripped of all the decorations I have draped over my Christianity, would it look like our artificial Christmas tree on New Years Day; miserable, naked, drab, ready to be dismembered and packed away for another year?
How deep do the roots go?
How solid is the foundation?
What would a good stiff wind leave behind?
I cannot know this. I can only prepare.
Study to show thyself approved

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Genius of Satan

As fascinated as I am by the sheer number of interpretations of religion, philosophy, and Jesus Christ, I can't help looking for the root of it all.
Searching for motives behind the formation of people's worldviews will, I'm convinced, show a common thread, more, a common foundation; "anything but God", I'll call it.
I think it is entirely fair to say most people have put no thought into their worldview. It is formed by the combination of one's likes and dislikes, needs (wants) and passing fancies and is come upon quite accidentally.
If you were to ask the first person you met in Wal-Mart, "What is the meaning of life?", you would most likely be either stunned, confused or extremely amused depending on your appreciation for cynicism.
(I daresay America is no doubt the most diverse in this area, continually melting as we are, into one sticky, insoluble mass, recognizable only as goolash, in our large culture pot.)
We are an amalgam of every book, magazine, movie, album and person we have ever known. Having begun with no blueprint, the collection of values and philosophies that have rained down on us throughout our existence lay strewn about, useless, rusting, settling into disrepair; a junkyard. But it's our junkyard, and we know where everything is, so don't come through trying to organize things. First thing you know, you'll be trying to put things in the closet or spraying disinfectant everywhere and that stuff makes it hard to breathe.
All this observation boils down to one point, I realize, and a less curious person would be content to state the bottom line, it is all breathed into existence by the Father of Lies. [simplistic and very true. After all, it may sound unseemly to say that Buddhism,for example, is Satanic, but none the less true, Buddhism being yet another manifestation of the "anything but God" thread, which is, at its root, self-based and self-centered or didn't you know that Buddha left his wife and children in search of truth and thereby embarked on one of the longest wild goose chases in history.]
But the devil is still in the details and I think it is profitable to examine the junkyard. A pattern will emerge, one of chaos, organized.
In the modern religious manual, orthodoxy is condemned. Orthodoxy is rigid, unyielding, stubborn and arrogant.
Creativity is praised. We are philosophical bohemians, running around like abstract artists flinging paint and mud and dung and ideas at a canvas, waiting for some three dimensional masterpiece to emerge so we can collect our funding.
And when I say orthodoxy, I don't just refer to orthodox Christianity, I refer to orthodox anything. Single-mindedness of purpose is admired nowhere, not in Athens, not in New York, not in San Francisco. You may be a gay transgender transvestite earth-worshipping artistic vegan living with your partner you married in Vermont and your adopted kid and that's great, just don't be dogmatic about it.
And that is the hellish genius of it. That is, if we don't approve of forcefulness or proselytizing from anyone, we can continue to feel infinitely open-minded, and continue to ignore the one snide little question, is your mind open to being closed?
And in large part, we as Christians have hamstrung ourselves.
I think an excellent example of this is the way Christians and sympathetic social conservatives used the other edge of the civil liberties sword to strike back, quite effectively, at the celebration of Christmas sans Christ. It was pointed out that it was hypocritical of civil liberties activists to restrict the religious expression of Christians celebrating Christmas. As a trend, they are coming around, Merry Christmas is acceptable once again, and Christ is allowed back in the pantheon.
And we've done ourselves no favor. The best thing we could've done is give the libertarian zeal free reign and let it rush down the slope to choke in the sea.
More later.
Much later.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Vodoo Christianity

A black hole cannot be directly observed. The size and gravitational pull is proven by what disappears into the event horizon.
A black hole is American spiritual culture.
I read (scanned) with horrified fascination a book on American vodoo, not to be confused with its darker, simpler, purer sibling Haitian vodoo.
American vodoo has become inextricably fused with charismatic Christianity, fueling my belief that the only reason Satanic Christianity has not yet made its debut is because no one has thought of it. Maybe I shouldn't bring it up.
Worship involves waiting on the Lord, waiting for a word to be shared with all the brethren. There's healing, reliant on the availability of sacrificial chickens.
We've Americanized Africa.
Pluralism does not begin to describe the convoluted maelstrom of religion that has become our state religion.
Jesus Christ isn't quite villified, just tolerated, as long as He recognizes his place in our spiritual paradigm.
The Lion of Judah is our circus animal, jumping through hoops, tamed, by us.
Don't get out of your corner.
Christianity has become festooned with dried garlic cloves and smells of incense.
It is a world populated with wandering spirit guides and departed loved ones, beckoning us upward to higher planes.
We are very spiritual, much to our detriment.
Good old fashioned materialistic atheism was baked desert soil, webbed with deep cracks that drank in hard rain. We've traded it for life underneath a flat rock, crawling like worms and centipedes through the mud and flattened, albino grass.
Plenty of moisture and no bright lights.
I don't know that we've become more sinful than previous generations, just more creative, and paradoxical.
. . . white lies, insanity pleas, no-fault divorces, mercy killings, lesser evils . . .
Guilt is something in which we indulge, rather than suffer.
I was listening to a song by Jars of Clay about the bumbling efforts of Western Christianity to try to help our Third World brothers and sisters and couldn't decide if I agreed with the message or was violently opposed to it. (This is why listening to alternative music is so entertaing. You can put a different meaning to it each time you listen to it. It is the musical equivalent of abstract art, or those 3-D paintings that everyone claims to be able to decipher.)
It did occur to me, however, that, try as we might, we'll never truly assimilate with other cultures and ethnicities. We've evolved too highly and rapidly in the area of guilt for anybody else to catch up with us.
Guilt, having become a science, is no longer a grief, because the guilt has become penance in and of itself. It is now the end, not the means. We don't have to crawl up the steps of a cathedral, but the principal remains the same.
No self-inflicted pain can ignite our soul like God's burning purity.
So we lacerate our bodies with feathers, and fast on junk food.
If you are sorry, you get a pass.
If you resolve never to sin again, you are to be pitied.
The guilt trip is a short one, if often traveled. You get good at it, and it's easy to feel really sorry for your sin without getting carried away by delusions of grandeur and imagining what life would be without it.
But humility, well, that's something of which we can all be proud.
There has never been a generation so humble as ours.
We trample each other flat getting to the back of the line.
Is there a virtue left which has not been compromised?
Man's eyes were indeed opened that he should see good and evil, only he chooses to keep them closed most of the time.