Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Friday, February 17, 2006


This might be the first blog I've written that's really "Christianey"

Practical theology like anything else is subject to the ebb and fall of trends. When the sacred romance was the thing people talked a lot more about their passion for God, when wild at heart was the thing everyone decided Christianity was an adventure and a spiritual quest. That's fine. Christianity is a story big enough to tie together these elements into a pretty neat tapestry. The big element right now is "We're so sinful."
Derek Webb's House show is all about it, as are a bunch of other new CD-s, and it's also becoming a key part of the vibe in Christians I know.
My problem with this is not that it's inaccurate. It is accurate. It's just incomplete.
Christianity with no awareness of one's sinfulness is like doing chemo because you think you have a cold. However exerting your entire focus on your sinfulness with no discussion of redemption is like returning to counseling for the dead and dying after you have been cured. To my knowledge there is never a scriptural message on brokenness that isn't immediately followed by a message of God's redemptive action.
This came to mind when I was reading the blog a friend of mine had.
Some guy wrote in and said, "Your funny, but you're not much of a Christian." My buddy said, "Yeah, you're right." This guy got back on and said, "You know...I've never really seen a Christian." And then the part that pissed me buddy and a few other folks wrote in about how wise and insightful this whole thing was.
I struggle with that. Not so much with the anonymous guy. I have a bad impression of him, but only because I'm nuts about my friend. He might be a great guy, but for better or for worse I see critique of my friends with roughly the same level of nuance as a mother bear sees a hiker playing paddy cake with her cub. That's not always good, but it is true.
What I struggle with is the vibe I'm picking up from some Christian's that: A) Sin by itself is a worthwhile focus; B) Awareness of sin is brand new, cutting edge, and exciting.
On item A:
Yes, sin is huge. I'm not sure about how this theology rolls into my day-to-day but I believe that sin is the seminal problem of human existence and every day I'm confronted by this. But as I noted above this alone is not the story. God doesn't need smart and self aware Christians rubbing gravel through their hair so that they get to feel more righteous because of how keenly and vocally aware they are that they suck.
On item B:
It takes seconds to get to the part in the Bible where we find out about sin. My problem is that if we treat this like a revelation it does three things:
1. It opens us up to the "sin alone" theology that bugged me in item 1.
2. For people who've been trying to chase after God for a while, treating this as a revelation is kind of like the kid who's been lifting for two years but then shows on day one of my lacrosse team's lift and pretends that he's a novice who's just gifted. He gets a "free pass" for the time he has been lifting as a time when radical transformation was not an expected part of his life.
3. Sometimes artfully expressing something takes away the sting. Just as using big adjective strings is very very bad writing because it becomes about the paint not the subject, if we spend time writing thirty-one rhyming couplets about sin this is no longer self awareness of a soul crushing illness, it's a muse for poetry.
Another way to put this is this--to me the viibe feels like it's cool to be aware of sinfulness. I think that's becoming a problem for God because he wants us to eliminate it, not write reports about it.
Back to the guy who wrote in and in some ways prompted this discussion. He made a comment, "I've never actually seen a good Christian."
My gut feeling is that he's reacting to the change in his wife because genuine transformation seems so rare that it probably just looks like she's a sold out actress. But again, I don't have any empirical basis for that and in this case I truly am just generalizing from a few paragraphs of evidence.
Let's say he really has NEVER seen a "good Christian."
That's tragic...
My point is that this entry shouldn't end in ellipses.


Blogger sheplaysamartin said...

i clicked over from justin's blog. this was a great post. very very true. very insightful. thanks.

9:45 AM  

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