Friday, June 5, 2009
I really liked this painting for two reasons. For one, it is titled Disillusionment, which is the topic for this post. But also, the artist encourages people to share it (and buy the prints which you can find via the title link).
I keep saying that I want to start taking more of my own photos to illustrate my posts, but, I really don't have a good camera right now.
I wanted to talk about Christian disillusionment . . . and is there a blam . . . or a cure?
I start with a verse from Proverbs 13;
12a Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
There are days when I wish I was still naïve. There was a time in my life when I believed everything. I believed that there was a great chasm that separated the good guys from the bad guys . . . and I was a good guy. I believed that all spiritual (meaning strong evangelical) people were good to the bone and had pure motives in all their interactions with me. There was a time when I believed that my own actions were from great purity.
There was a time when I believed that God controlled every tiny event in my life. If my pencil rolled off my desk, God did it for a special reason just for me. Maybe it was because when I bent over to pick it up, a mirco-meteor would fly over my head just missing me. God did it for a reason. He saved my life!
There was a time when a Christian leader would tell me to jump and on the way back down I would shout, “Thank you sir.” I knew that Christian leaders loved me more than their own life. Or at least I hoped.
There was a time that I believed in an utopian Christian world here on earth. On the other side the non-Christian world, in great contrast, was evil to the core.
There was a time when I believed that I was among the few that had true doctrinal dogma. I was thankful that God had shown me the way, bringing me to the right teachers, the right books . . . and just giving me the sense to always find the perfect truth.
But this was a long time ago. I, like many post-evangelicals, became terminally disillusioned when we were slapped in the face with brute reality. It was then that I discovered that my prince (not talking about Jesus but referring to the prince in the painting above) was really just a skeleton
My question, is there a cure? Are we marked forever? Is there a place for us anywhere?
I think I bring this up at this time from this issue that I perpetually deal with . . . church. My wife, in her wisdom, has said, “Mike, it really doesn’t matter which church we go to, you will not find that perfect church you’re always looking for.”
Some days I am content to live with this great unease. It is the same unease of Hebrews chapter 11, here the so-called heroes of the faith, who lived with expectations . . . but not realizations. I do have a great hope for the new earth and being a new person someday.
But on other days, I feel discouraged. I am the perpetually square peg in a world of round holes.
I really enjoy IMonk’s blog. I was reading his posting today about the church conference in N.C. I hear about Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill church, which he pastors. It sounds great . . . and it’s only an hour from me. I couldn’t attend there, but I could visit. However, would I find contentment in his church? I fear that I would not.
My fear may not be justified. But I will close this part of the post with a story. It was when I was trying hard to re-find the church after a horrible 3 years of depression and confusion (after returning from a failed mission experience).
I heard about one church in our community that seemed out of the evangelical mold. I was leading a class at the public library in Marquette, Michigan, which I called, “Eastern vs Western concepts of spirituality.” It was my feeble attempts at reaching the un-churched with the truth about Christianity. It came out of the fruits of my own personal study.
My own personal church, save our pastor, thought I was nuts because they had no clue why I would want to talk to New-age people and why I would want to talk about philosophy rather than throwing verses at them.
Two Christian guys (the only Christians in the class) approached me and invited me to their church. They described it as a “thinking” church.
I took my family with great expectations that I had found a home church. My previous church (even though it wasn’t charismatic) had a large group of people who wanted to import the Toronto Blessing.” If you don’t know anything about that, look it up. It is bizarre.
When I arrived at the new church (a Christian Reformed) the first thing I noticed was that the guy who led the singing, kept doing little talks between songs. He shared that he is a Ham Radio operator and he is in contact with Christians around the world. He had just heard the night before that Jesus had returned and was in India, raising people from the dead. There was excitement in the church.
I was discouraged. I left the building and took the family out to eat at Ponderosa Steak House. As we went through the Sunday buffet, I notice a group from the church right behind us. It was a well-dressed, attractive lady who was about 40 and two men, rough-looking (tattoos and beards). We smiled and said hello to each other.
I sat down at a long table with my wife and five kids. The threesome, from the church, sat down at the table right behind me. The lady introduced herself and the two men (friends and housemates of hers). She welcomed me to her church.
I turned around and started eating. Behind me, I heard one of the men praying loudly, first in normal English, the in tongues . . . I suppose.
In a moment, as I had a piece of steak in my mouth, she tapped me on the shoulder. “Bruce here has a question.”
I smiled and turned around (my family was oblivious to this whole conversations as they were enjoying their great food).
Bruce: “Do you know the Lord?”
Me: (being a little surprised) “Uh . . . certainly.”
Bruce: “I noticed that you didn’t pray over your food.”
Me: “Well, sometimes we do. My family started eating while I was introducing myself to you . . . so then it was too late.”
Bruce: “It’s good to always put God first. It’s also good to be the leader of your family.”
Me: (feeling really angry by now) “Fine.” I turn back around and try to eat.
The lady taps me again. “Bruce here has a lot of gifts . . . he has God’s anointment.”
Lady: “So . . . he is talking to you and you should listen to him.”
Bruce: “Do you have the Holy Spirit?”
Me: (rolling my eyes) “Yes I have the Holy Spirit.” Then I turn back around.
Bruce walks over to my chair and speaks with his eyes rolled back in his head and with his hand on the top of my head. “God’s spirit says to my spirit that you are without God . . . that your heart is dark and blocking the spirit . . . Satan release this man . . ,”
I jumped up and ran out to the car. I was so damned depressed and I felt like the entire Christian world was a bunch of freaking lunatics.
I’ve been involved with a couple of churches since then. Certainly I’ve found much better experiences. I find an occasional person, like Lincoln, at my Minnesota church whom I can really relate to. I feel like I am with a group of like-minded misfits when I go the US LAbri conference once a year. But most of the time . . . I feel like the square peg in a round-hole world.
I have the feeling (and I don’t think this is founded) that if I even went to the Mars Hill church, I would be greatly disappointed. Someone would walk up to me and try and tell me something that Gold told them to say to me . . . right out of the blue.
Is this the way it must be for the rest of my life? Do I just withdraw and become a freelance Christian? I don’t know. But I will keep praying that I would find someone here on our little island who’s a Christian but a square one. There are plenty of opportunities to come to church here and pretend that I am still innocent . . . but not a church, which I know of, were I can go and be real.
Posted by MJ at 3:34 PM