Friday, April 11, 2008

Liar-Liar, the art of lying for Jesus

I'm working on this post and will finish it by tomorrow.

To wet your appetite, this posting was the result of reading Frank Schaeffer's book Portofino. which I bought at the famous bookstore, Powell's Books in Portland. I read the entire book in 24 hours, which is very unusual for me. I've mentioned it in previous post.

This is not a review about the fictional book (also a quasi-autobiography) but a review or discussion about an interview done with Frank Schaeffer at Powells . The interview was sparked by the release of Frank's later book Crazy for God. I've also discussed this book previously.

If you read the interview, Frank's (and I think he is being honest) reason for writing Crazy for God, is that he is tired of lying. This is what I think attacks me to Frank's writings. His parents (Francis and Edit Schaeffer) are as much as my Christian heroes as anyone, while at the same time, it is very attractive to me to know that they were far from perfect. The reason that I find that so appealing (maybe in a morbid way) is that for many years, as an Evangelical, we held up leaders and Christian heroes as almost perfect. The best example are the missionary biographies, such as Hudson Taylor, that portrayed them as bigger than, and more perfect than, life.

So I find this great comfort in having a Christian person whom I deeply admire (like Francis Schaeffer) and who has some major character flaws . . . because I too am made of the same fallen stuff. I too have some anger problems. I too can be lazy etc.

When I first started to return to Christianity in the early 90s (after having a crises of faith and was on the verge of reverting back to my old agnosticism) I found myself standing on the steps (figuratively) of the Church and trying to decided, if I go back in, who will I be? The point being, just like any sub-culture, within Christendom, there is tremendous peer pressure to lie . . . to lie for Jesus. I remember vowing (almost audibly) that I would never, ever do that again. I'm sure I have, as the pressure to lie for Jesus is tremendous.

I really believe that this is what Frank is talking about. If you read his books (Portifino, Zermatt and the book I am now reading, Saving Grandma) you will see the dichotomy between Christian spiritual talk and reality.

An immediate example is at church. If the church has a brief moment of "fellowship" where everyone greets one another, and some one asked, "How's your week" and you are an elder, can you say, "My week was crap. My boss owes me $10,000 that he's refusing to pay and I may have to take him to court, my daughter wrecked the car and I threw my freaken back out!" Now you can but you would have no spiritual respect from fellow Christians.

Now, even though you may feel crappy, but smile and say, "It's been a week of blessings, " then you will for sure be voted in as elder again.

It's not about always being negative or always being positive . . . it is about always being honest. There is nothing unspiritual about saying your week sucked. There is no statement that has more truth than the old, 1980s, statement "SHIT HAPPENS." We do live in a fallen world.

Now, there's no reason to get all depressed about it. But we should have the freedom to tell the truth. Maybe the reason you want to be in a particular Bible study is to look good . . . or to see Joe's wife, who you think is pretty. Now that's not a good reason, but it may be a real reason. That's the level of honesty that Frank Schaeffer speaks on.

I would love to be part of a church's greeting time, where it was extended to at least 30 minutes and people really did tell you how their week was. I DO want to hear about their troubles rather than superficial smiles and handshakes.

I don't read missionary newsletters anymore. We get quite a few, even from our old colleagues on the field. The reason is, they only paint a positive, spiritual facade over their real lives. We went through a missionary letter-writing course where we were instructed to 1) start with a verse and end with a verse, 2) teach the reader something new about Jesus, 3) tell a little about yourself . . . but only in the most positive way, 4) make your financial needs known but only in the form of a "prayer request" and 5) write only in third person. Crap, crap mega crap!

I get letters from missionaries who follow this exact format and it is a total waste of time to read it. I want to know what's really going on.

I can not express how refreshing it was to get a missionary letter from friends of ours a few years ago (from Germany). It was obvious that it was Karl writing and the first thing he said was, "I've come to the conclusion that I am a alcoholic and I'm getting help. Please pray for my recovery." Man alive, it was the best news letter I had ever read. I not only prayed for Karl but I immediately wrote him a letter of support.

When I was a missionary in Egypt, a colleague of mine had been hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. I asked him if he had sent out a newsletter for prayer support over the matter. "Are you nuts!" he said. If I told people back home that I had a breakdown, we would loose all of financial support. I'm afraid he was right.

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