Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Losing my verbless religion...."

From Don Miller, "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality":

In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn't do it, and moreover, that I didn't want to defend the term.

He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told yes. "Then why don't you want to defend Christianity?" he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant.

Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term
Christianity meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won't do it.

Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the term
Christianity and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people?

I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn't like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.


I found Miller's thoughts unsettling, intriguing, satisfying, even a bit frightening. Most of all I found them resonating with my heart.

Christianity as a religion has always been distant to me, something familiar but never anything to which I wanted to give away my heart and soul. It felt alien, clunky, spiritually inbred, dead but was animated by legions of feverish fans who couldn't imagine any other way of the wotld. For a long time I embraced it because I didn't know any other way to approach God, Jesus, the Spirit. Imagine your favorite grandparents who live at the end of a steep, deeply rutted, muddy dirt road. The only other ways to reach them is to walk or ride horseback.

In the past few years I care less and less about it as a religion, a system, a thing.. After reading "The Shack" (which, despite its many faults presents a compelling picture of a deeply personal God.) I want the Jesus from that book, I want Aslan frrom C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, I want Jesus as a person, not a concept or dry historical figure.

Thus, I want His grace as a verb--active, do-ing, be-ing, go-ing. May God grant me, and grant you, the verb of grace today from the hands of the living Christ.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rotary oscillator, meet biological waste product

Well, it's hit the fan now.

My brother R. found this blog, read enough of it to send me a GFY email a few hours ago accusing me of hating him, calling me ungrateful, "the phoniest Christian I know," and swearing he'll never ask me for help again.

Part of me wants to saddle up and counter-attack, venting the considerable amount of bile I've just realized I still have toward him, listing the ways he's been a sonofabitch to me.

I asked my wife how I should respond to him, and she said do nothing for now. I think she's right. If I respond tonight, he'd not hear anything constructive I said. I don't know if I'd be able to resist the temptation to counter-attack.

In essence, doing to him what what he's doing to me.

If grace means anything to me, it means I get to love my brother even when all I want to do is hurt him as I've been hurt, when all I can see of him is entirely negative.

This, I think, is the work of grace. So much of me begs to throw his sins in his face and trumpet my virtue as victim.

So I will shut my piehole. I will ask God for His grace on both of us and on anyone else who becomes involved. I will pray for R., and pray honestly, not one of those "God, help him not be such an asshole" POS prayers.

I considered taking down the blog in case R. notified our other sibs about it and they read it. Their reaction would likely parallel his. But if I do that, it seems to me I wouldn't have the courage of my words. I stand by everything I've written here. (Certainly I could have phrased some thoughts more clearly or more diplomatically.)

If I've been nothing else on this blog, I've been as honest as I can. I've confessed my sins publicly and laid claim to the mea culpas which seemed appropriate to me. I won't promise my perceptions are accurate, but given what I know and feel and remember, I've done my best to tell the truth.

This blog is my way to work out the incredibly messy and often painful road I walk toward God's grace. It's also the way I can show how God's grace meets me where I am and demands only that I allow myself to be loved by Him.

R. will calm down in a while, perhaps we can talk then.


ADDENDUM 21 April:

R. has told me he wants no further communication with me and suggests I'm no longer his brother. (Oh, and I'm still a lousy Christian. He's right, it's a main theme of this entire blog.) I responded I would not fight with him and he should do whatever he had to do. That's where things stand for now.



No change.