BOOK RANT: RADICAL by David PLATT
"We are molding Jesus into our image . . . And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the bible. instead, we may be worshipping ourselves".
Knowing my struggle with pop-culture Christianity, a mentor suggested I read this book. There is much to appreciate about Dr. Platt and his ideas. He is obviously very bright and yet he comes across gently. I would not disagree with many of his ideas, but found the book to be sufferficial and steeped in modernist thought with a tinge of American exceptionalism behind an age old missions rhetoric.
In Radical, Dr. Platt identifies the American Dream as a value system "dominated be self-advancement, self-esteem, & self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism". He goes on to say that "we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accomodate our assumptions and our desires... how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is Biblical?"
These thoughts resonate deeply. In recent years, I have been struck by the weak Biblical hermeneutics delivered from many pulpits. Sermons quickly become the platforms for setting agendas - agendas for evangelism, for building plans, for budgets, for making a name for ourselves (in Jesus' name).
Of course, this is nothing new. Religious leaders have notoriously used power for self-gain throughout history. However, i wonder at the cultural undercurrent of American individualism and how it manifests itself in the American church. What unique eisegetical pitfalls does the independent evangelical church face? Why is individualism so great a danger to the church?
Dr. Platt suggests that individualism is dangerous because it leads to complacency and a lack of zeal to go to all the world and preach the gospel. While I cannot argue with this point, I am more interested in delving deeper into where this individualism came from, how it has polluted the framework of American church, and what an appropriate response should be.
Perhaps we can trace this individualistic trend back to the Great Reformation of the 16th century. Or perhaps it was confounded by (or was it precipitated) by the cultural shift toward humanism that took grip of the newly independent protestant denominations. Within a few centuries, the church continued to divide, splintering into faction after faction. I am afraid to know just how many denominations exists today in North America. I am more afraid to know how many independent churches exist with no authorities or theological guardians keeping an ear to the pulpit. Each church upholds a unique and "true" interpretation of God's word and is burdened with the great task of making disciples. I can't help but ask, disciples of whom?
When Christ said to Peter, "upon this rock, I will build my church", did he really have the assorted independent denominations of the 21st century in mind? Do these schisms reflect the way of Christ as he led in humility and submission? I cannot recall the last sermon I've heard about Biblical submission that wasn't geared toward women only. Rather, our pastors uphold rhetoric of independence - after all, we have been set free in Christ. Lone ranger pastors. Rebellion and self-determination outweigh respect for elders, compliance to authority, and seeking out Godly council. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Martin Luther stuck it out and reformed within. Is it possible that in an act of righteous protest the path toward individualism and rebellion was forged? Is it possible that this path has led to this evangelicalism "dominated be self-advancement, self-esteem, & self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism"?
This poses some significant challenges for a struggling evangelical who longs to be set free of the American church. In a future post, I hope to explore some of the perplexities this presents in terms of the authenticity of protestantism in general. But for today, I must consider that the way of the consumer is not the way of Christ. Perhaps this cagey creature should stick it out and learn a lesson or two from Christ about submission and healthy spiritual reform before she jumps ship in search of the perfect church that meets all of her individual needs.
AMERICAN MANGER SCENES
For several years now I've wrestled with my inner "evangelical". I like the music, the coffee, the manger scenes. There's something so American about church. It's a great show, often quirky, but to me, always a little foreign as I watch the others swaddle up the fake baby Jesus and grab another cup of coffee. Although I have struggled against it for so long, I find my inner evangelical is now on the outside looking in at the American evangelical church. A drive-thru nativity spectator.
My husband says I'm recovering. I prefer cagey. . . wary, skeptical, trapped. Perhaps it's the Third Culture kid inside that's having a hard time recognizing this American god. Perhaps it's the media critic in me that just can't stop analyzing script in terms of culture, power, and hegemony. Or perhaps God is doing something very fascinating and utterly confusing. These next few posts will explore some of the questions a cagey, recovering evangelical ponders, a few book reviews, and some interesting thoughts I hope to borrow from respected friends. Come on ring those bells and everybody stay tuned.
first anniversary: haiku
Columbus half marathon
This weekend was the Columbus marathon. Jim had been planning to run the half but forgot all about it. Without any training or even a good jog for several weeks, he got up before dawn, in 38 degree weather and joined the thousands of runners at the start line. Luckily, he had a good friend to run it with. I tried hard to meet Jim at various points along the course to get a few photos but the early morning lighting just didn't work it. Here, he is pointing at the house in the next photo.
This is the University president's house. It is the only landmark we know on that side of the railroad tracks. We only know this because the night before the race, Jim and I attended a new faculty reception there. The race led through a few other interesting sections of town but we weren't successful in meeting up again. And so, these are my only 2 pictures of the Columbus half!
Over the Rhine in Kentucky
My wonderful husband convinced me that Kentucky is not too far to drive to see Over the Rhine play in a vineyard. Although it did take us a good 4 or 5 hours to get there via the scenic route (and getting a little lost), we enjoyed the fall foliage and meeting the front porch locals. When we arrived, the sun was just setting against the Kentucky hills. We plopped down our lawn chairs and opened a bottle of Kentucky white paired with pizza. It was a truly fantastic way to enjoy an October Saturday.
Date Night: waterfire
So, it's been awhile since I've posted. Marriage has been more fun than blogger, but I promise I will get back into . . . with the help of new flicker photo uploading tools.
This is a picture of Cat. She's pathetic and long outlived her 9 lives. When she died my mom told me about it in a P.S. She said, "P.S. Cat is dead." But now she is immortalized on blogger. And we have a happy ending.
Although we really had no idea how it would work out, Jim and I decided to get married during our regular Sunday service. We attend IAC (International Anglican Church) that meets in Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus. This church has been a place of spiritual growth and healing for both of us. We wanted our wedding ceremony to be non-traditional but yet to really focus on the sacrament of marriage. We often integrate dedications and community prayer times into the regular weekly liturgy and asked our pastor his thoughts on integrating the wedding liturgy into the service. Both Ken and his wife Sallie were very open to the idea and helped us organize a beautiful service - full of worship, good teaching and community participation. I wouldn't have done a thing differently! It was truly a wonderful service!
Jim and I decided to meet half-way down the isle - a symbol of two becoming one. It also struck me as an interesting representation of the biblical analogy of Christ calling his bride the church. It was nice to have Jim come and call me to join him. I really love that he is an intentional man and enjoy responding to him.
our first steps together
Jim looking studly with a few of his closest friends. The day before the wedding, I came home to find these guys swarming my car with buckets, hoses, soap suds and sponges. It was highly impressive - almost out of a scene from zoolader - but much less hazardous! I look forward to getting to know these guys better in the future. Andrew, in particular, was the pillar organization and happiness that kept the wedding flowing so beautifully. We feel so honored to be known as friends!