Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can the Fall be Managed? Part II



I can always sense a real difference in my perspective and many of those at the Evangelical church I attend. For example, in once such exchange at our Bible study, when I commented that the church needs to communicate to its members and visitors that it is a “safe place” (as many of our families have left after they, or their kids got in trouble). Another man disagreed strongly. He said the church should not be a safe place but a scary place, where people sense God’s wrath. He also suggested that, in his opinion, we are far too soft on sin.

I heard from the pulpit and a couple of church leaders a few years ago that the reason that so many youth leave the church is because we cut them too much slack. It was suggested that if we banned our teens from getting tattoos, wearing baggy clothes (or low cut blouses) and require them to attend church every Sunday (while they are under our roof) that when they grow up they would be much more likely to stay in church.

I strongly disagreed with this notion and I was the only one in our Sunday school class who did. It is the same mentality that you can “beat the sin out of them.”

The same man who said that we are soft on sin, thinks that I’m especially soft on sin. But I think we are in different places in our lives. I don’t mean this in any kind of arrogant way, but he is a relatively new Christian (about 10 years). So I think he is still in that idealism that I had during my first 15 years as a Christian. That sin is manageable and I can grow the point that I’m no longer vulnerable.

Now to clarify what I am thinking a little further is that I am not advocating that we have a free pass based on the blood of Christ. I’m not saying, (as some in the early Church did) that we should sin freely now because there is no hope of overcoming sin. I’m not saying that we should grab a hooker and some meth and take off to a fancy hotel . . . hey, wait a minute . . . that’s exactly what Ted Haggard did! And Ted, if you listened to his messages, was in the camp that we all should “shape up” and over come our sin and be godly. He taught that sin was manageable. I’m sure he thought of himself as a “godly man.”

No. What I’m saying is that we should put every effort to do what is right, which is defined within Agape-ism. However, we must never believe that the Fall is manageable or that we can remove ourselves from its influence.

How many times I’ve see (pick your adjective; strong, mature, godly) Christians abruptly leave everything Christian. They didn’t have to slowly “backslide” over years. I think of Norm, people told me that he was the godliest father they knew (had 7 kids, 5 adopted handicapped ones). He instantly left his family and moved in with a co-worker who was half his age. He left and never looked back (he was literally voted the “father of the year” the previous year). Then I think of a good friend Carolyn, who, while in the middle of an extreme discipleship program (designed to mentally beat the sin out of us) abruptly, literally overnight (and this was after years of being in the discipleship program) returned to her drug culture. I think of a Baptist pastor in my small town who out of the blue, grabbed the wife of the Methodist pastor and fled to the beach to live.

So, a few years ago, when our pastor told me that he was to going start discipling us elders as his inner circle, I knew my days were numbered. I have been discipled almost to the point of having a virtual lobotomy. If 20 years of hard discipling by the Navigators (the modern re-inventors of discipling) didn’t take, I wasn’t clear what he could do with me. I know that tomorrow, lest I am careful, I could be capable of the most distressing sin. So I must pray, “lead us not into temptation lest we should sin against You.”

If you want any more proof of he condition of us "spiritual" ones, you can follow this Google search for the words, "Pastor Arrested." The pages go on and on and on.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

How many times I’ve see (pick your adjective; strong, mature, godly) Christians abruptly leave everything Christian. They didn’t have to slowly “backslide” over years.

I've seen similar behavior in non-Christian contexts, one being a "Mid Life Crisis" at age 30 straight out of a cartoon in its overreaction and intensity. I can only describe it as a Damascus Road Conversion Experience.

So, a few years ago, when our pastor told me that he was to going start discipling us elders as his inner circle, I knew my days were numbered.

Because "Discipling" is Christianese for "Brainwashing". Break the thought-criminal in Room 101, then fill him up with "He Loves Big Brother" -- doubleplusgoodthink INGSOC, doubleplusbellyfeel INGSOC,
doubleplusduckspeak INGSOC.

And when I was at Cal Poly in the Seventies, the Navigators had the worst reputation for this. And the rep for the highest burnout/discard rate.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Anonymous said...

If you want any more proof of he condition of us "spiritual" ones, you can follow this Google search for the words, "Pastor Arrested." The pages go on and on and on.

136,000 hits for images alone.

3.1 MILLION hits total.

pennyyak said...

I almost don't want to tell you I laughed at this - but that fellow who thought the church was too soft on sin reminds me so much of someone I knew who was newly off-the-bet (as they say) - a gambling addict. Sometimes I think I know more addicts than not.

He said that anyone who relapsed should be banned from a 12-step program for (some period of time). Unfortunately, that would result in the meeting being empty on some nights. Maybe for weeks at a time.

Tar and feather the folks - ya'll come back now.

Surely we need some room to fail as Christians - not because we want to, but because we will. Though you and I stand at different points in Christendom, there are sometimes mirror images I see - it's not always a nice experience.

Anonymous said...

Loved these posts. So much of Christianity is "Fall Management."

I confess to wondering (knowing this is tipping sacred cows) if the whole approach is 100% born out of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's all about good vs. evil, this focus on not-going-to-sin vs. going-to-sin...

Whatever happened to the Tree of Life?

A friend sent me this quote by Rumi, the Persian prophet and poet (he's not allowed, just like KD Lang, of course), that said:

"Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there."

It hit me so hard that I'm still kind of dizzy. The Christianity I've known has been all about right-doing vs. wrong-doing, and it's such ...a trap...like a stuffy room full of smelly sweaty people in long lines, getting approval, getting papers stamped, going to the next long line....but somehow never ever getting out of the lines and out into the open air.

It struck me that there is a field, out past all of this, where the breeze is fresh and the air is clean and there are no lines, no papers, no requests for approval (can I think this thought? can I listen to this music? can I ask this question? can I read this book?)...just Life, as the Creator intended it.

The rest of it is all Fall Management. "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, Which Is To Come Get In Line, Let Us Tell You How to Think, Breathe, Talk, Feel, Behave and Look, Inside, Where We Can Keep Track of You, Amen." I find myself nervous, though. It is one thing to see the inadequacies of the stuffy room. It is another thing to leave it and walk out to the field. I admit to preferring to stand on the edge of both, where it feels safe.

E. A. Harvey said...

Great post. After 25 years of being a Christian with plenty of disillusionment to go around, I still sometimes think I can tame and manage sin--not just my own, but others' sin as well. I find myself thinking, "But this just SHOULDN'T be! I'm doing everything right!" I'm not sure why I'm still surprised by it.