Monday, February 16, 2009

Questions for God, Part V-A How Honestly Do You Want Us to Live?

I’m calling this segment V-A, because I know I will need a V-B to complete the question. I will spend most of this first posting just defining the question.

If you look at the question and give an immediate resounding, “Completely honest of course!” then you don’t really understand the question. It is a very serious, deep and somewhat philosophical question. If you did understand the question and still answered that way, then I think your answer is too frivolous.

I’ve given the illustration before of society (including the Christian societies)being like a building. In some ways, we as individuals, are like a buildings in a microcosm. In the very bases or cellar of that building is real-reality. I used this term in the same way that Francis Schaeffer had to resort to using true-truth because the term “truth” didn’t carry the classic meaning anymore (even during his writing period of the 50s and 60s). The same is now true for “reality.” Reality has become even personal as you hear people talking about “your reality” Vs “their reality.” But I’m talking about absolutely pure, emotional and intellectual reality or honesty. Another way of saying it is extreme candor.

In this fallen world, the basement of the building is not that pretty. I mean there are some scary things that lurk there. To insulate ourselves from that ugliness, we start to build floors above that real-reality.

In my opinion most of us live somewhere between the 20th and 50th floor of the building. I said in a previous posting that in the top floors, such as the 100th, reside those with psychosis such as schizophrenia, living within psychogenic worlds totally disconnected from reality.

On the 80th floors are many public figures, especially most of the TV Evangelists, politicians and I would speculate many in the entertainment world with their fake; boobs, faces, hair and names would fit well there. People with other mental illnesses, such as personality disorders, would live there comfortable besides them.

Down on the other end of the spectrum, say on the 10th floor, you have the so-called “right brain” people—those with particular artistic abilities. Some of the best examples are the poets, authors and song writers (not necessarily musicians) as well as painters and photographers. But not all of them. I mean, Thomas Kincaid, the patron saint of Evangelical art, lives well up on the 75th floor. Of those in the entertainment world, the comedians might be more on the lower floors because most of their material (think of George Carlton here) comes from throwing back the curtain on this cellar real-reality in brief exposures (enough to get a laugh, without making us too uncomfortable).

When I was “godly” and a Navigator-staff, missionary guy, I was living up about the 50th floor. Most Christian role-models live there. The missionaries there share the floor with the pastors and community Christian leaders.

The reason that Christian heroes have to live so high in the tower is linked to our whole misunderstanding of the concept of godliness. When we really think that godliness is obtainable, but it really is not then we have to insulate ourselves from the brutal reality of our inner man (or woman). That’s why the Christian leaders who have a lot of public exposure often have to keep moving on up the stairs of the building until they are near the penthouse with the lunatics. That’s where I put the Ted Haggards of the world . . . woops, I said I would never mention him again.

However, when your building collapses, like mine did about 20 years ago . . . suddenly you find yourself down on the 10th floor (or lower) in a pile of rubble. Then you have to decide what to do. Some try to reconstruct your fake world even higher above reality than your old fake world. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees (who also lived high in the veneered tower) “white washed walls.” Some of us, though, enter this confused state of seeing beyond the looking glass for the first time, and not wanting to go back.

This is where this question comes in. How far back up the stairs do you climb and where do you position your life again? Where is it that God wants you to live?

The reason that I called the quick, “God wants you to live completely honest” answer as frivolous is because it is virtually impossible to do. Society, including Christian societies, builds these facades for a reason. If you do not conform, you find yourself becoming more and more isolated and rejected. Not only do you look much less spiritual, but the Christians don’t like you anymore.

I wish I could give a simple example of this phenomena. I would have to say that I think, in a way at least, Frank Schaeffer is an example. If you read his Crazy for God, or his fictional works, he tries to write as close to the basement as he can. He still considers himself as a Christian. But many in the Evangelical world see him as the devil. Why? Because they see his honestly as a cruel embellishment. But if it is an embellishment it may be an anti-embellishment, where you bring the facade down to reality.

I will try to give a more practical example. If you try to live within the typical Christian world, yet try to live near the ground floors, then you talk openly about . . . more to come.


steve martin said...

I don't think God wants us to be anywhere but the first floor.

Ground level.

That's where the real people are that need us.

He will take care of the "righteousness project".

No spiritual ladder climbing is necessary...and it might even be very harmful to us.

A lot of phoniness and pride hang out on those top floors...and the fall is long and hard.

Great post!


Hope T. said...

Good post. I will have more to say about it after I mull it over some more. However, I first wanted to direct a comment to steve martin.
MJ mentions in the post that people who live closer to the ground will be rejected. It is not only the Christians who won't like you, though. Many of those people in need that you mention, steve martin, will reject a person who does not have Answers with a capital A and a smooth testimony of their victories.
Two quick examples of what I mean:
a.) At big homeschooling conferences with multiple speakers, I was always drawn to the speaker who admitted that he messed up as a dad and his relationship with his kid wasn't all that great. I was fascinated that someone would be that honest when all the other speakers were talking about how they had their families operating as smoothly as a greased wheel by using three easy steps. My husband didn't like the "honest" speaker, though. He said "Why should I listen to someone who doesn't know what he is doing?" I think many would agree with that, although I would qualify that the others merely appeared like they knew what they were doing.
b.) Yesterday I read a blog post about an Episcopal priest who was introducing a Bible study to incarcerated men. She told them that scholars do not agree on the meaning, interpretation, origin, etc. of the book of Genesis. The mens' response was that they wanted to learn from people who knew what they were talking about and had some firm answers. They needed or at least wanted someone who would tell them what to do, what to think.
My point is that others will need you, even require you, to hide a lot more of yourself than you think. It sounds like you have experienced otherwise, though. I would be interested to hear about that and I am very interested in where part B of this post will take us. :)

Bryan said...

It takes a lot of work to live on the lower floors. Perhaps it is because I'm used to living higher up, but I find that many of my true feelings and motivations are quite hidden, even (especially?) from myself. Maybe I have just grown so accustomed to burring my true feelings that it is very difficult to break the habit and let them into my conscious mind.