Friday, February 24, 2012

Running From . . . Not To

The photo is from What Dreams May Come, which was the subject of our most recent film club discussion. If you haven't seen the movie, the main character (played by my look-alike) Robin Williams is on his way to Hell to rescue his wife.

I was thinking about that movie this morning while on my drive up the coast to Bellingham.  I was listening to NPR and they were talking about the economic situation in Portugal. They consider it to be the next Greece.

There is a mass exodus of young people out of Portugal out to the previous Portuguese-speaking colonies, such as Angola.  The interviewer asked a young Portuguese man, "Do you really hope to find your dream in Angola?"

He answered clearly, "Oh, we're not trying to find a dream . . . we are running from a nightmare."

I think that statement sums up something I've been wrestling with for a while.  When I first started getting disillusioned with Evangelism, now about 20 years ago, I searched and searched for Heaven on earth.  I just knew that there was a right way to live Christianly, a way I had not found up until that point.

This chasing after the true church or the Christian utopia led me down many blind allies, such as trying to start a house church or finding LAbri (not a bad experience at all).

I knew the paradigm had changed, but I had not put it into words until now.  It has been a year and a half since I left my last evangelical church.  This time my leaving wasn't to find that better spot, but to escape the hell of evangelicalism.

I do like my present church much better but I have to keep her at arm's length.  We dance but we don't slow dance. Part of the reason is that I am so busy right now that I can't attend many of their activities. The fact that my wife is still very involved with the old church adds to that difficulty. But the other reason, as I move towards the inner circles of this new church, I start to find the same cliches the same blue-stained lips of the Cool Aid sippers. After all, this is still Protestant Christianity in America.

I'm not saying this to be cruel.  I am the one who is the lost sheep.  This new church is much better than my old one, where it was concluded that the biggest reason that the young people were leaving was that we had not been tougher on them. You know, screening their music, screening their textbooks and keeping them, for God's sake, away from college.

My point here is not to criticize evangelism as I've beat that poor horse to death. My point is, and I don't think I'm alone, that when we escape the madness . . . there is no place else to go.  With my great imagination, I can't conceive of what that better place would look like anymore.

I've talked before that my utopian church (if I have any hope of that anymore) is where a group of Christians meet at a coffee shop, or bar, and have real conversations about real life and relate that to the God who is there.  But I am 100% sure that if I ever attempted to create that space I would only have; a) Those totally pissed off by the Church and are now claiming to be atheists or some twist to New Age Spiritualism or b) the old Evangelism re-wrapped into "cool or neat" packages of contemporary ministry.

In the later situation, the conversations would be sprinkled with the same-old emotional dishonesty. They would speak with certainty, "God said to  me this or that," and the thinly veiled self-praises. They each would try and manipulate you to stroke their egos . . . covered with smiles and Jesus talk.

So, it is part of that Hebrews 11 experience, that discontentment with what is, but hanging on, with both hands, to that hope that somehow, somewhere it will be better.  In the same way, as I get older and my joints ache more each year, my hope is in a new body some day. A body where I can run or fly . . . much like the Robin Williams character did when he found his version of Heaven.

It is faith that must sustain us. A faith that all broken will be fixed some day. That the madness will be replaced my true-truth. It is like I have spoken of the "Gospel" all my life as a linguistic exercise. But now the true Gospel is the air that must sustain me. The awareness that I am clean in God's eyes, even though I'm a miserable disappointment to my Evangelical friends. Even though absurdity surrounds us, there is a sanity that awaits or coming.


Anonymous said...

This is awesome. You have described a lot my own experiences and conclusions that I have reached in recent years. Thanks for being honest, and keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Keep the faith! Love your blog.

Johan said...

Again you describe an experience I also note in myself. I am currently more and more becoming part of a house church, a group of people who are genuinely searching for the love of God. In the mean time there's no single neuron in my brain that wants to go to regular church any more. On the other side I don't expect the house church to be 'heaven on earth'. The experience of church that you hope for, I long for too, which is: real relationship. But I find I cannot orchestrate that. I can only recognize it when I'm in it. Last night with a friend, just now with my younger brother visiting. I can only receive it as a gift, not trying to hold on to it as something to control. And all those experiences of true fellowship are mere tastes of the glory still to come.

jmj said...

I think if I were in a bigger city, I could find those of like heart. Here, there is a sharp divide between the Evangelicals and the New Age Tree Worshipers.

I did have one friend who was on the same page, but he lives half the year in Italy.

I've shared the story once where I tried to start a house church. Looking back, it failed because every family that came, had left the Evangelical church out the hyper-evangelical door. One of the families that came, required the wife to wear a veil (think of the lunatic that kidnapped Elizabeth Smart). You have to smile . . . or go mad.

Eagle said...

I would be one of the pissed off people MJ! ;-)

I hear what you are saying as I ran from evangelicalism as well.

I have this situation that has developed in my family. And I'm a long way from home as this plays out. My Dad had a medical crisis and was rushed to the ER. He appeared to recover and then I had some past fundagelicals that asked me about my skepticism with God. And they told my that prayers were answered. Why do I feel this way?

I never emailed the person back. But I was thinking about doing so when my Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He will be having surgery shortly and I've been thinking of where are these people who talk about answered prayers now? When life is going great they pop up everywhere...but when the shit hits the fan, they are no where to be found.