Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Have you ever had a notion but the words to express that thought (outside your own head) just don’t come to you? Often, when you least expect it . . . presto . . . there’s the words and syntax you’ve been looking for. It hasn’t happen this time.
I’ve been chewing on wordless thoughts since Sunday and it remains so. But I’ve decided that the time has come to attempt to dress them up in make-shift sentences to try and communicate it to others.
I’ve shared frequently about my struggles to live within the evangelical world while no longer being one myself. Once again I will indulge into this matter. But my reason and attitude is not from the position of “OMG, please help me I don’t know what to do!” But, more like, here I am on this journey and I want to jot down some observations, not about me so much, but about the issues.
A few weeks ago I shared that my evangelical church had a service as good as it gets . . . yet, I walked away unfulfilled. I would have to say that this past Sunday was the opposite. It was as bad as it gets . . . and I still walked away unfulfilled.
I considered it as bad because the sermon was about football. The pastor is a big football fan. The chief elder is a high school coach. We use to have a couple of other coaches in our congregation. The pastor’s brother is a high school coach. So the subject matter comes very easily to our congregation.
I think the reason I didn’t like the comparisons of football game to the good Christian (the good ones are the players and the bad ones, just fans) is because I was with my youngest son.
You see, for most of my sons, high school athletics were not a positive experience. They frankly didn’t care for them. Oddly they liked academics much more. However, their lack of interest in sports caused them to be the brunt of a lot of anti-social activity.
I remember when we first moved to Spring Valley, Minnesota (a farming and football town) I observed while a pick up truck load of players passed by our house and screamed at my sons (whom I obvious love very much), “Hey Jones Queers!”
I asked my sons, “What was that all about?”
One of my sons answered, “Dad, this is our lives all day, every day because we aren’t on the team.”
I’m not sure if their mom appreciates their dis-taste for organized sports as she was the proverbial cheerleader dating the quarterback throughout high school. You know, the small-town American dream.
So that was the first part of why Sunday wasn’t my favorite service.
The second part carries the greater mystery. You see, our church always has a new world changing program or emphasis each fall. They always peter out before a few months have passed. The first part of my disillusioned regards how evangelicals always see the problems of the world as being solvable by programs. I’m program-weary. I despise all of them . . . all hoopla and no meaning. I have no excitement when the newest, positive “God thing” comes down the tube.
The latest one is the “Truth Project.” Our church is going to jump in with both feet and if you aren’t jumping in too, then you are just a fan up in the football stadium . . . not a player on the field.
Why this creates so much turmoil in me is my most inward contradiction. I have always advocated studying church history, philosophy, art and science within the church setting, especially as it relates to understanding our present culture. On the surface, that is exactly what the Truth Project is. I should be jumping up and down . . . shouldn’t I?
I had only heard a little bit about it before Sunday, but as I sat there in the bleachers . . . I mean pew . . . I had a sad, uneasy feeling about this. I came home and studied the project online in more detail. I think I know why but I’m sure.
First of all, it is another evangelical project. I was very involved in such a project years ago called “I Found It!” We were going to reach the entire world for Christ within one year and then usher in Jesus’ second coming. I think it alienated more people than it attracted or helped. The effort consumed the best part of an entire year of my life.
The man behind the curtain was a Campus Crusade staff guy who had previous worked in and ad agency on Madison Avenue (if I remember correctly). His resume read like the perfect all-American, father, husband and Christian hero. He also had a strong, handsome, confident type-A persona. Looking back and deconstructing a bit, I see that the whole damn project was wrapped up in his personal ego.
Dr. Del Tackett, the man behind the curtain at the Truth Project reminds me so much of the man behind the “I Found It!” campaign. When I watched the video (online) about his great accomplishments, I get the ebie jeebies.
I hate being a cynic. I loose sleep over my self-doubts and guilt about it. I don’t mean to be. I mean, I’m really not an Eeyore. I see so much good in the world and so much beauty. I see so many wonderful people, so much so that I’m drowning in envy. But I am dubious about so much that is evangelical and the Truth Project is such a case.
The next issue about this project is the way in which it is packaged. It, for all practical purposes, is a MLM scheme. You can not participate unless you attend (and pay for) a training conference. Then you have to follow the plan and orders coming down from the top to a “T.” You must purchase their books, tapes and etc. A good, Jewish friend, named Dave, always tells me, "Mike it is about the money. Everything comes down to being about the money." In this case, I do think that the Truth Project will make someone (or some group) rich. Count the money.
The next point, is where I feel the guilt of my cynicism most acutely. It has to do with the experts featured in the project. I will just mention Os Guinness. You see, I’ve always been a fan of his. I’ve read about all of his books. I taught at least two Sunday school classes based on Os’ lectures (via tape). So I feel shameful that a project, which he supports and is part of, rubs me the wrong way.
What’s wrong with me?
Okay, one last point and I wish I had the elegant verbiage of a Kerouac, Dickens or Lawrence, but I don’t. It has to do with how these topics of philosophy, science and history are used in the Truth Project. Rather than helping us to see God at work in the world, the purpose of it seems to further divide the good guys from the bad guys in the perpetual culture wars (between the Evangelicals and nons).
I rest my case.
Posted by MJ at 5:53 PM