8.19.2005

vestiges

"That's me in the corner. That's me in the sporkfight, losing my transmission." (to the tune of R.E.M.'s "Losing my religion")
I saw Saved! last night after our small group met. Today I learned from my wife that MercyMe is the headline act at the Pulse Festival, held here in good ol' South Bend. Ugh. MercyMe's megahit "I can only imagine" has been criticized for being little more than universalist pap warmed over and given a "jesusy" image--rightly, in my opinion. And our church's youth group is going to the festival to see them and listen to this song. The thought of that really bothers me. But it's more than that.... Something in Saved! struck a chord with me similar to what I felt after watching Silent Bob's movie Dogma. It's a difficult to explain emotion, but I think it goes something like this: as much as the movies sucked (they actually weren't that bad) and were over-the-top in their criticisms of organized christianity, they were partly right--and that makes me feel knotted-up inside. American Christianity has very sick parts. Not imperfections/sins per se--every human organization has that, churches included. It's the fact that we often seem to portray our weaknesses as strengths rather than admitting that they're imperfections. We hold onto or gloss over the mess instead of trying to fix it. And groups like MercyMe (although I don't mean to focus solely on them) seem to exemplify on a popular scale these weaknesses that we count as strengths. Much (though certainly not all) of CCM falls into that same category for me, and it makes me loathe the whole enterprise, baby and bathwater. And am I the only one who sees more of this sickness expressed in pop evangelical and charismatic circles than anywhere else? I identify it in myself. I find myself at war with the vestiges of my past prejudices, shortsidedness, judgmentalism, willingness to turn a blind eye to social problems, willingness to call on Jesus to solve things so I can wash my hands of them--things that I was taught were good by my former teachers and pastors. People who were caring, often kind, and very evangelical/charismatic people. But they were not Mother Theresas, going in there elbow deep in the filth of humanity to humbly act as the hands of God. They were squeaky clean, quick to clean themselves off; they taught me to fear the dirt and (perhaps only by extension) the dirty people. I can admit that I have huge planks in my eyes. I'm just not sure where they came from, how to identify them, or how to get rid of them.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Ray Grieselhuber said...

Considering that we basically went to American Eagle Christian High School, it doesn't surprise me that Saved! struck a chord. It did for me too.

8/19/2005 11:56 AM  
Blogger e said...

glad someone felt something similar....

so now the follow-up question: do you see any "hold-overs" in yourself from those bygone days? Anything you really don't like? Anything you really do?

8/20/2005 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Ray Grieselhuber said...

Sure - and it's mixed for me. If you recall, I wasn't exactly the poster boy for the ideal, clean-cut W C Warrior so I dealt with a lot of remaining pissed-offedness for many years. It still doesn't take much to get me riled up when I see such obvious hypocrisy over "morality" in the church.

But then I see much of the same in myself - judgmentalism, feelings of superiority, unwillingness to engage in relationship, etc. - just in different ways and with a different focus - usually directed towards those who most look like the typical American evangelical church...

8/21/2005 7:09 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

Erik - My wife and I absolutely loved Saved! It struck deep chords with us because we were going through some similar issues with some Christian pastors we knew.

On another level it hits deep with me as well. I'm currently at a missionary conference in Colorado playing bass in the worship band. I realized that a few years ago I would have been the one in the audience entering the mission field - an I idea now that makes me churn with revulsion.

The reason is that I saw over the past couple of years that most of my motivations for doing anything were to please whatever 'Christian Leader' I was most in contact with at the moment. I hoped that by pleasing whoever these people were I too would climb the ladder, hopfully becoming - I shudder to think - much like Mandy Moore's character (at least in status, not so much physique...).

In fact, I almost broke off my engagement to my wonderful wife simply to please a pastor.

I find now that my life is moving in a direction more towards the cool skateboarding pastor's son in Saved! My favorite scene of the movie is when he meets his girlfriend's baby's gay father and his boyfriend and just greets him in a warm, friendly, welcoming manner.

If it was me just a few years ago I probably would have smacked him with my NIV...

8/22/2005 4:37 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

One other thought... for whatever reason I think American Christianity (as a culture group) has a particular monopoly on the issues you were trying to describe.

8/22/2005 4:40 PM  
Blogger e said...

Good comments.

So, Seth, perhaps you would like to expand on your claims to exclusivity for American Christianity. Are there no other groups that can be cited for these things? And perhaps I should ask, what are the terrible things that you (and I) think are perpetrated by this brand of Christianity?

8/23/2005 7:51 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

What I'm talking about is our obsession with appearances, of not getting dirty.

Although, now that I think about it I think my original statement re: exclusivity was stupid...

I'm not sure though. What do you think? What ARE we talking about? :)

8/25/2005 9:37 PM  
Blogger Inheritor of Heaven said...

First, I heard the author talk about the song I Can Only Imagine and it was written as his father was dying. As I watched him share his thoughts on the song and his father, I was convinced that it was not made to be a pop hit.

Second, I think you are right in that we Christians have been rather judgemental and unwilling to go low as Jesus did. I think we are allowed to critique ourselves (in the church) but we always turn our critiques outwards to the world. Paul talks about the disciplining of sin in the church and realized that if we did not interact with sinners in the world where the heck could we go? I think the Lord is calling the church back to BOTH holiness and loving service.

8/26/2005 8:54 AM  
Blogger e said...

IoH and Seth--
I think what gets at me is just what you're both talking about--we're comfortable with working at (relatively) easy issues, even superficial ones.

When it comes down to the thorny issues--the ones that take real forethought, patience, serious dilligence and prayer--those are the things we shy away from. And then we seem to even celebrate the easy/superficial, the emotive, and the temporary at the expense of the contemplative and thoughtful. (This shouldn't imply that the emotive is bad or always easy--it just happens to be overemphasized.)

8/27/2005 8:14 PM  

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