Friday, April 3, 2009

A Medley of Self-indulgent Thoughts in the James Joyce Style

I think it was a combination of three things that put me in such a good mood this morning.

Reason 1) The sun is out! It has been an entire week of cold rain. That’s why I selected this photo of me. It was a self-portrait taken in my pup tent three years ago in the God-forsaken NW Pakistan; near the epicenter of the terrible earthquake (ironically the name of the place I was, in Urdu, is “The Place God Loves”). It had been a cold (36 degrees) rain for about 4-5 days straight. My pup tent was surrounded by ankle deep mud and not far out side the mud was a crowd of angry protestors, on the back of wagons . . . . being pulled by tractors, yelling (in both Urdu and English) “Death to America!”

On the morning of the photo, I awaken early (5 AM) to no sound of rain. Then, when the sun came up . . . it was out and I could tell from the brightness through the tent wall. So I had the same feeling this morning. On the morning of the photo, I awaken early (5 AM) to no sound of rain. Then, when the sun came up . . . it was out and I could tell from the brightness through the tent wall. So I had the same feeling this morning.

2) I feel like I am walking through the aftermath of a hurricane (I know that’s an embellishment). But, starting about three weeks I worked like a dog, went off to a family reunion and then have worked like a dog this week upon return. I put in a 13 hour yesterday. Today, my schedule is light . . . halleluiah!

3) It’s Friday.

Regarding James Joyce. I had enough time this morning to sit in the coffee shop for 30 minutes reading James’ Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m trudging my way through the long book because I want to read all the great writers. Growing up in the (Dualistic) Bible belt, we were taught that novels (earthly people writing about earthly things) were a waste of time so I’ve missed out on all the great novelists.

Joyce writes Ulysses in the stream-of-consciousness style. Some chapters read in a way that each sentence is a totally different thought from the previous one. I have a lot of thoughts this morning so I’ve decided to borrow from James . . . at least this one time.

Self-indulgence. I would guess that Blogs, by definition, are somewhat self-indulgent. I mean there are millions of them, most of them (probably like this one) go unread. But like I’ve said before, the purpose of my Blog is for it to function as my “Wilson” (from Castaway). It is my sounding board to get my thoughts in a written media. Certainly it is nice when someone comes along and reads and comments . . . especially when they are saying something that I read as “No you are not insane . . . I feel the same way.” Of course, occasionally, I get the “Yes you are insane” comment or e-mail.

The collapse of Evangelicalism. Mike Spencer had done a series on his blog and in the Christian Science Monitor on his belief that Evangelicalism is terminally ill. I’m sure if I buy it. Okay, maybe it is in ICU. I know that I’ve been critical of Evangelicalism but I think it will, for better or worse, survive in a variety of forms. This includes the propagation of mega-churches with “rock star” Pastors. I do believe that the old mainstream, somewhat conservative, churches will endure . . . but their separation from reality will continue to widen.

But in the aftermath of the Evangelical illness I do believe there will be some new Christian paradigms on the scene.

One will be the pseudo (I say “pseudo because I don’t think Donald totally supports this idea) Donald Miller’s Blue-Like-Jazz “Free Lance” Christians. These are people, usually younger than 35, who have a conservative theology but do not go to church anywhere. I don’t think that’s a healthy option, but time will tell.

Lastly, I suspect a boom in the quasi-Christian-pantheistic approach. You know . . . the “all streams lead to the same sea” system. The Bishop that just got defrocked for being a Moslem is at sign of this kind of thinking. I’ve noticed on our island several Christian, especially charismatic Christians . . . as well as the old mainline ones, mixing new-age spiritualism comfortably.

But then, I’m not sure what’s going to happen to my breed of Christian. I'm talking about those who are disillusioned with Evangelicalism (might say post-evangelicals), who want a much more honest way to function as a Christian, but who are not tolerated within the present wineskins.

This brings me to my last random thought, again self-indulgent. I know that I am often critical regarding Evangelicalism. There’s all kind of clich├ęs about not "don't be negative or critical if you are not willing to be part of the solution."

But then I review my history. I've really tired to be part of the solution, but it is swimming against the tide. I was a staunch Evangelical for twenty years. Then, my falling out with them was gradual. The whole time I was attempting to stay and be part of the solution. During these years of my falling out I’ve been an elder for two different churches. I’ve been the deacon of small groups. I’ve been the main adult Sunday school teacher for a large church.

When I moved to this island, I had great ambitions of contributing to the local church. We joined. I tried to teach the youth class.

When I took over the youth, I had them pick the topics that they were most interested in. One was music. One was TV shows. So we started listening to their music with a deep understanding of what the song writer or band was trying to say. We didn’t do it in a flippant way, but investigation the philosophical beliefs of the band. Then we compared it to the Biblical concepts. The TV show that we did this with was LOST. I thought we were having a great time . . . but then the pastor quickly replaced me. He was worried that some of the parents would be dissatisfied that we were watching a TV show in Sunday school . . . rather than being lectured to about the Bible.

Then I tried to teach adult Sunday school and ran into the same kind of roadblocks. Then I not only became elder, but later became the head elder. However, it was very hard trying to fit in.There were so much emotional dishonesty between the elders and pastor. I was also looked down on by some of the other elders. It is hard to lead if you don't have respect. And the disrespect was based on honest things I tried to say. For example, the previous head elder questioned if I were a Christian because I didn’t believe the earth was only 6,000 years old.

So I’ve tried. Now I live in limbo. I’ve given up on trying to be involved with the church. My wife says we’re are NOT switching churches. So I find myself, as a Christian, just as isolated as the “Donald Miller” freelancers . . . something I sense very unhealthy.

The last random thought was about happiness. I know deep question. But with every scenario that I can conceive, I can not create a heaven on earth situation that would yield happiness. I don't believe in the old fakey happiness that I use to believe in . . . smiling a lot and claiming that I'm happy.

But I really am starting to think that Soloman had it right. Eat, drink and be merry because everything else on this earth is in vain. Of course we are given eternal life in Christ and a new heaven and earth. But I really don't believe that the positive thinking approach is the way to find contentment . . . but enjoying yourself is. I don't mean sin . . . Jack Daniels and two super models in a beachfront hotel. No. I'm talking about having fun with your family, drinking Mochas in the sun, reading Joyce, soaking in the hot tub or hanging out with your relatives on a family reunion. Maybe I don't have to find all the answers to be happy. Maybe I don't have to fix the church or even my own family. These things, eating, drinking and being merry is what brings contentment.


Kim - Marketing Coach said...

I find your post very interesting. I think there are many of us out there struggling with where we fit into the christian world these days.

I don't think the church can be fixed in its present form. God seems to be in the process of calling his people out of the buildings that they like to think of as the church, and teaching them to remember that the church is nothing more than the body of Christ gathered together in fellowship.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean sin . . . Jack Daniels and two super models in a beachfront hotel.

No multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers, cases of grapefruit, and identical Oriental Bondage Twins?

Actually, CM, you look like some sort of manic Steven Spielberg in that picture.