Monday, November 06, 2006

Pardon the Vent

I am tired. I am tired of this stuff. I am not tired of the media and their exploitation of one mans sin over another's, we should expect this out of a capitalistic media. No, I am tired because the Church, well, we ask for this bullcrap. And that is just what it is. We set ourselves up on this big stupid pedestal like we are something great. Well I've got news. We aren't. In fact that should be the first thing everyone should know. It is the reason we go to church in the first place. We neeeed it. Desperately. We need each other. There is something mystical about the body of Christ, the Kingdom of our Lord that gives us the sustenance to live and walk in the light. We don't go to pat each other on the back, kiss each others butt and tell each other "HEEYYY great to see you fellow perfect non-sinning-non-cussing-non-drinking-saint! So what did you do that was so wonderful and pious this week that made your poop smell like pumpkin pie??"

It is just not true. We are crappy. Crappy right to the bone. There was some shred of a desire for God left after the fall, and that alone has inspired the only good that has ever come this world but right now, you and me, we all jack it up. We have lustful thoughts, we say mean and cruel things, we are jealous, we have cheated, we have lied and we have our own private addictions. We need God as bad as the Prostitute down the road. If you ever get to the place where you think differently, well then get ready for some media frenzy when you can't deliver the good(s).

It is amazing that we are so surprised by these things while we read the bible and it is written half the time by convicted murderers and idolators. Solomon had 500+ wives and even started worshiping and offering sacrifices to OTHER PAGAN gods later in life. David Killed a Uriah so he could get it on with his wife that he saw bathing on a roof. So that makes him a peeping Tom to boot. Even the disciples betrayed their best friend when the feces hit the fan.

I wake up every morning and know that I need a Savior so bad that if I don't pray and depend on him, I could very well end up in the same situation. Even on my best days, I still might.

Lets come out of the self-righteous closet people. We suck too. If we know something that they don't it is that despite our suckiness, God loves us and can help us if we ask him. I am not trying to lay a guilt trip or be a kill Joy, I just think that pretending that we are perfect people is one of the worst things we can do. I just read Brant's blog on some Pastors thinking outside the box on this and was encouraged.

The biggest lie that Satan has fed us from the fall is that God doesn't love us and that we need to earn it.

I am not offering excuses. I am calling out for us to get real. We don't want to get real though. It is too painful. We prefer our perfect language peppered with only the most pious phrases and our perfect homes and our perfect cars and our perfect Jobs and our perfect Churches. Crap. Crap crap crap and more crap. It IS A LIE. A facade. A masquerade sponsored by the Devil to fooling us into believing the we are better than our pagan neighbor and the at the end of the day, ... well...God? Nah. We doin' just fine without all that confession and repentance business. Mostly because we don't need it. "Hey, I got my ticket when I was seven. I'm in baby. Heaven here I come!!!"

That is why we work out our salvation with fear and trembling not pride and pats on the back.

Most of the men who read this very blog and who blog themselves have struggled or lets face it, are still struggling with addiction of some sorts. It is all in us. It is why Paul says "What a wretched man I am! Who will save me?" Come on. Do you think he was talking about a addiction to checkers? Pin the tail on the Donkey? Dates? Figs? Sandal Collections?

So in all of that there is Hope, Love, Grace, forgiveness and Peace. That is what we as the Church can offer. It offers sanity in a world where insanity is the natural pull. Not an example of a plastic perfect people that the world should want to immitate.


Seth Ward said...

Seth, you sound a bit angry. You should get some fresh air. Go take a walk. Maybe... a cookies and cream milkshake at Chick fil A. Seriously. Don't be so hard on the old Christian subculture. They get it enough...



Lexie Ward said...

I think people just want to believe that if they act perfectly and do all the right things, nothing bad will every happen to them.
Meanwhile, bad things are already happening to them behind the scenes...

Seth Ward said...

Yeah it is weird. It is like we go to church and it becomes "play time" We are suddenly without flaw. I am not talking about the beautiful unity that we feel bonded in Christ, I am talking about having a problem and not being able to discuss it with your sunday school teacher or your pastor. Feeling like you are isolated and alone. So common in Church. It is like we don't want to get well we want to forget that we are sick. Sometimes we are well and we want to forget that we were sick and that we were healed. The balance is hard but if people would just be a little more real, then it wouldn't be so hard.

I am still unable to put a finger on my frustration here. Help me out.

I think this thing has struck a chord with quite a few people.

euphrony said...

Brant Hansen had a post about the whole Haggard "affair". He talked about the standard Christian response that, yes, we sin and that "But we never said our churches are for perfect people. They're hospitals for the sick." At least, that is the ideal that seems rarely attained.

My comments there, which apply here, are as follows:
"Yeah, most often a 'hospital' is not the most accurate description of a church. More often, it seems, a better fit would be mortuary - full of dead people who have been dressed up to look as beautiful and perfect as possible.

A friend recounted to me once of a time when he seriously gave up on the whole church-thing. He and another man were leading a small-group discussion with some teens. It was an intimate discussion, and trying to be honest and encouraging my friend opened up and talked about the things he has struggled with. The teens, encouraged by this honesty and seeing someone who could understand and possibly encourage them, also began to openly talk about their struggles. Then the other adult chimed in. He stated that he was thankful to God that he had not sinned at all in the last week, and that he felt that soon he would be able to go a whole month or even a year without sinning. The teens stopped talking; discussion over."
The facades we put on disgust me - so I suffer a bit of self-loathing, because I put on masks as well. If we cannot admit to our brothers and sisters, the body that supports us all with Christ the perfect high priest as head, that we are in trouble and we need help, then we will rot and waste away of our own prideful, privitistic self-reliance. I can lift myself by my own bootstraps, but only as far as my arms reach; this would be fine if the much and mire I am engulfed in were only that shallow.

Chaotic Hammer said...

I'm feeling a strong sense of the same thing that you're feeling, Seth.

But I can't put my finger on it, either. For me, it really has nothing to do with the guy in the news that sinned or whatever. Though that does make a good springboard for this much-needed discussion.

I sense a strong, distinct calling from the Lord to really walk differently. I also feel an overwhelming sense of "O wretched man that I am", I'm pretty much a complete mess.

On the one hand, there's "Dang, as long as I've been a Christian, and known the Truth, and been supposedly walking with the Lord, I sure do feel like a whiny little diaper-crapping baby in the Kingdom", and on the other hand, there's "So are you going to use that as an excuse to wallow in doing nothing, and not living a different kind of life with the Lord, or are you going to make the decision and commitment to truly live what you believe, passionately."

I'm so restless and dissatisfied with "good enough". I want the best. But I know that doesn't come by way of "pulling myself up by the bootstraps" (as Euphrony said) and becoming a Lone Ranger for Jesus, or a Supernatural Superhero. It comes by being joined by the Holy Spirit to other members of the Body. I actually do have this sort of thing in my life, through my friends and small group.

For several months, I've been blessed to be part of a group that has met every week, just to let God have His way in our lives. We've been transparent, and there's been a lot of praying together, and working through extreme hardships, and confession, and bearing of one another's burdens. So like you, I'm really not angry or complaining, I just sound that way. (Or maybe I am angry -- at sin, death, wasted time, wasted opportunities, etc.)

Pendrax said...

Hmm...I don't buy the "let's all get honest and tell the world we're screw-ups" message. It doesn't fit with how people interact, and I don't think it works for real relationships.

Being Christian, even in the best sense of that adjective, doesn't change who we are and how we relate to other people. I can't handle everybody else's problems all the time, and I can't share mine with the whole world. That's why I don't have 100 close friends. I don't think I could survive the experience! On my best day I just barely have enough emotional energy to deal with a few "true" relationships...the kind where there's nothing hidden...maybe two or three tops. (Aside: One of the truly amazing things about Jesus is that he has this kind of "true" relationship with ALL of us!)

So, that's what masks and manners are protect us from each other. They make society work smoothly. We can tolerate others because we don't have to deal with who they actually are all of the time. I think being socialized as a child growing up teaches us how to get along with others without being a burden. It's like when you say, "How are you?" to someone when you really don't want to know all about how they are.

The danger in all this is when we start believing we (or other people) ARE the mask. Maybe that's what is at the core of your post. We begin to believe our own marketing message and forget who's really living in there. That's when I need one of those few, rare fiends...the kind that knows who I am, doesn't buy the hype I put out, and like me anyway. The kind of friend with the courage to point out when I've forgotten who I am. (Aside: It's moderately dangerous for this to be your spouse. You have been warned!)

Every person I have ever come to know in this way isn't who they seem to be on the outside. That's why I still like them...they're just like me! We shouldn't be so surprised or offended when some high-profile person is "found out" because it should be understood that they aren't their mask. None of us are.

Interesting...I think I just agreed with you by accident! Funny how that works.

Pendrax said...

That "fiends" was supposed to be "friends" up there.

You know I never noticed how close together those two words are...only an "R" apart. There's got to be some kind of sermon illustration in that!

Seth Ward said...

Rob, Great words and they provide a good balance to what I am saying. Even some needed clarity. When I say "lets all get honest and tell the world we are screw-ups" I don't mean "lets all get honest and tell each others dirty little secrets or just get around each other and cry and bitch all the time, wallowing in our despair..." (Pardon the Fran├žois there btw!) I agree with you that one of the things that are so wonderful about the church is that it is a place to find hope. I think in the end we really are agreeing. It is the "Mask" that we become. It is the mask that I just hate. I know Sunday schools are filled with marriages that are hurting and people act like they aren't. Like I said, the Spirit working in the Church can provide a wonderful sanity in an insane world. That is a marvel. It is just when that sanity becomes an exterior rather than the interior.

C-Hammer, I love a word you used. Transparent. I loved meeting with your friends and the BEAUTIFUL honesty that is there. It is warm and full of the Spirit. There wasn't a moment where we didn't feel like we couldn't say just be ourselves. That is the REAL environment for healing. I can't imagine a single person in that group letting you or each other get away with anything. So cool.

Rob, One last thing, I posted and deleted this post 3 different times. I knew it would come off a bit... harsh but it felt cathartic for me. Thanks for your great wisdom. I wish we could have been a part of your class many, many times.

BTW, I also love how closely the words rap and crap are related.

More to say. . . Didn't get to respond to Euphrony but will tomorrow

Chaotic Hammer said...

I agree with Pendrax about the balance needed when we start talking about "sharing who we really are".

It has become a cultural norm today for celebrities to get into an interview with Barbara Walters, or Diane Sawyer, or Oprah (or whoever) and have a long, gushing revelation of childhood traumas and personal addictions and all sorts of scandalous confessions. For a while, I think this "everyone air your dirty laundry" stuff actually got out of balance, just the opposite of the "every act like everything is okay" that the previous generations held in high regard.

It's important to note the context of the confessions, and the bearing of burdens that we're talking about. Seth nailed it -- it's to be done in an environment where hope wins out in the end. Within the context of a group of believers meeting together to hear from the Lord, and to let Him have His way, this is very healing stuff. We pray for one another. We make personal commitments to be there for one another during the hardest trials and darkest hours. We ferret out sin and rebuke and correct when it's needed, but in a spirit of gentleness, to bring about healing and restoration.

I'd be willing to bet that many times, when a highly-regarded leader falls into "scandalous sin", it's because he or she was trying to uphold unrealistic expectations, and didn't have anyone to go to and be real with.

Being isolated and alienated, we all get the sense that our sin and darkness of heart is worse than anyone else's, so we set up secret places to let it live along side our "public persona". And it just deepens our separation from both God and other believers, until it blows up in plain view of everyone (or worse yet, nobody ever finds out, and we're able to live comfortably alongside besetting sins).

I hope this guy in the news stories finds real healing, and is surrounded by genuine, loving members of the Body who can restore him into a stronger and more authentic place, where he is accountable and can feel free to admit his shortcomings, and can still use the gifts and talents that God has given him to bless other members of the Body.

euphrony said...

We can do things in the extreme, can we not? We wear a mask so tight-fitting, so perfectly sculpted that none can distinguish reality from the desired picture. We can go around, bearing out souls and confessing sins until we wear sackcloth like a badge of honor - pride in our sinfulness.

We cannot have perfect, deep, meaningful relationships with everyone - you are correct in that it is amazing that our God can do this. But the niceties of everyday life does not necessitate masks. We can - no, we must be honest. Honesty may not require full disclosure at all times, but to the few who are close to us (like those Hammer has found) it is important. This is an encouragement, a gift from God to strengthen us. It is, I believe, the dishonesty of the mask or the sackcloth that leaves the world ridiculing the church as hypocrites' they are left jaded, with a skewed perspective of what a life in Christ is all about.

Seth Ward said...

Wow are you guys speaking some burning truths or what? Thanks for your thoughts. It is helpful to me to sort out what it is that is bugging me.

I wonder if it isn't a part of the whole mindset. Evangelicals are a fearful bunch. It is ironic that most "Evangelical" Christians surround themselves with only other "Evangelicals" This is pretty unhealthy after a while because there is no action to your faith. When there is no action to your faith it dies and what you are left with is a plastic version of your faith and then yourself.

Maybe it is a balance that we are missing. Pastors do set themselves up on a lonely power-hill and have no one to confess to or be real with. They MUST appear to be this penacle of Holiness at all times. then the stuff happens that C-Hammer mentioned, they start leading double lives.

Maybe we are talking about a merging of those double lives we live. Maybe we get to the point to where we don't need masks at all. Of any kind. When it is all laid out there, there is no room for sin to sink in and take root.

Euphrony, it is so true that we can take pride in our sinfulness at times. God doesn't want us to run around with a whip lashing ourselves. That is why I practically bawl when I get to the end of Romans 8. So much joy and hope and Love. How can we say we are free when we are constantly talking about our sin?

Where is the abundant life in that attitude?

However, when we do sin, the worst thing to do is to hide it. THE WORST. It must be brought into the light in some way immediately or God will do it for you.

I guess I just always hope that the Church never becomes the environment where you can't get it out in the open. How can we rejoice when the Amish are bringing the murderer to their church and forgiving him or when the Pope goes to visit and forgive his assasin, and we turn and weep and knash our teeth as we fire and shun the preacher with the addiction?

Anonymous said...

Your sense of disquiet over men, particularly men who are supposed to represent the best in us reminds me of this speech from Hamlet:

"I have of late--but wherefore Iknow not--lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me."

Shakespeare had a little talent, huh? No matter how great and awesome the potential and ability of man, there is no escaping our base nature. And it can be darkly depressing to dwell upon it.

And your recent remarks about lonley power hill remind me of this poetry by Donne:

"...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."

Though Donne was speaking about a literal death of any man diminishing us as a whole, it could easily be said that Haggard has died a metaphorical death and we Christians are the less for it.

I guess I just thought that I'd let my betters speak for me today. I'm feeling a bit Hamlet-like myself over the whole thing.