Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bad Christian

Overall, I'd say I'm a bad Christian.

Here's the laundry list:

1. I consistently forget to pray.
2. I seldom read Scripture. Though I really enjoy it when I do.
3. I swear.
4. I am a moody, moody man.
5. I can't pay attention to things that don't interest me.
6. I will take long hiatuses from church and not be bothered by it (last one was 2 years).
7. I commune my kids.
8. Much to the anabaptist's chagrin, I baptise my kids.
9. I can't stand evangelical Jesus-is-my-boyfriend lingo, sentiments, or worship.
10. I refuse to buy in to the latest programmatic/formulaic Christian rubrics for successful conversion of unbelievers.
11. I'm not a pacifist.
12. I read anti-Christian literature, and I don't think Harry Potter will damn me.
13. I watch movies that sometimes have violence or nudity in them.
14. I can't stand most “Christian” music (though I do love Handel and Bach).
15. Politically, I'm libertarian.
16. Philosophically, I'm a Christian anarchist (à la Jacques Ellul).
17. I'm an epistemological agnostic – which is to say that I believe all knowing has a limit as to its origin and scope. After that, I hold fast to “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen” (Heb. 11:1) in combination with seeing through a glass, darkly (1 Cor. 13:12). So, I hang fast to St. Augustine's dictum, “Crede, ut intelligas” (believe in order that you may understand).
18. I refuse to spank my kids despite all traditional misinterpretations of Proverbs 13:24. Here's why.
19. I don't believe that having a talent, or gift automatically, or ipso facto indentures me to using those talents or gifts in front of the assembly every Sunday morning.
20. I think Sunday School, by-and-large, is a fantastic excuse for absolving yourself of the responsibility of guiding your children into a common, family experience with the holy (there are, admittedly, some rare exceptions).
21. I don't smile because Jesus loves me. I love Jesus and sometimes I smile.
22. I spend a lot of money on organic food. Apparently that makes me unconventional, and financially irresponsible. But if you don't have your health...
23. Sometimes when I pray, I get really sarcastic with God, even angry.
24. I don't think two people necessarily have to have the blessings of the church, and the licence of the government to be married. Though it is a well-reasoned assurance, I think it is mostly an insurance policy. Real marriage, I think, takes place between two people who honestly love each other wholeheartedly, and strive to follow through on life-long commitments to each other. Sex consumates that wholehearted commitment, and thusly signifies two as one.
25. I am a semi-convinced theistic evolutionist.
26. I think homeschooling is the only logical choice for people who really want to develop the depths and riches of what a family really is.

27. I avoid Swiss Chalet on Sunday afternoons because that's where all the Pentecostals are. I eat at Pizza Hut instead because that's where real community happens.
28. I'm not totally into tea 'cause I'm not a teetotaler.
29. Fruit juice during the eucharist doesn't assure me that I'm not going to be an alcoholic, or that I am an alcoholic, or that other people have the same assurance.
30. I like dancing. Sometimes it leads to sex, and I'm okay with that. 'Cause I'm married to the woman I like to dance with.

There must be more to that list, but I really can't think of anything else at the moment. That should be enough to have people mercilessly impugn me, however.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone on the planet has their own list; few are willing to share it with others, much less face it or accept it themselves.
We are not stagnant. We are always changing.
But even if you lived the rest of your days with the same list, you would be loved beyond comprehension.
Anyone who would "impugn" you does not understand the richness or the depth of God's mercy and grace.
I have wondered, at times, probably along with almost everyone else, if I could disclose what I believe, my daily thoughts, habits, dreams, fears, hangups, and still be loved by those I think love me now.
But, what makes me think I am different from anyone else who walks on this planet?
I am no more special and no less special than anyone else.
I am a child of God and loved as I am by a God who desires me to grow and change in that love.
Thanks for having the courage to share your list. I wonder how many others here would have the courage to do that.
But, having said that, I find your list far less than shocking.
You are a traveller -- saved by grace -- a sojourner.
I'm glad that we do not make this journey alone.
See my hands? There are no stones in them.
J

Christopher said...

J.,

You are a sweetheart. Thank you for your warm-hearted approach to my oddities.

And thank you for not taking offense to my admissions that I am not part of the cast of typical evangelicalism.

Onfoot said...

An intriguing list. Besides resonating with many of the points, my main impression is that the list primarily reflects a reaction against a certain strain(s) of conservative Christianity (or perhaps better, conservative Christendom).

Would be fun to dialogue on several of the points, but I am moved to comment on your point 24. While I would not argue with your point that the church and/or the government are necessary in principle to establish the difference between marriage and fornication, I would argue that it is not enough to intend a lifelong commitment and have sex. Missing from your criteria is the deliberate and formal involvement of the community (however it is determined).

Marriage is not simply an individualist expression or decision--it always takes place in the context of a community and gains a significant part of its meaning from the community.

Onfoot said...

oops. Meant to say "...church and/or the government are NOT necessary in principle..."

Anonymous said...

Wow! Talk about stripping down naked and running through the streets with all your naughty bits hanging out for all to see.
Sorry, as I read your manifesto my right brain couldn't help but envision that. My apologies to Sarah for imagining your naughty bits.
Honestly, though, I could find little to debate you on. Some of your statements are personal choices of belief open to honest debate, while others are more general and worthy of discussion. To follow the train of thought from Onfoot, I believe the point you make on marriage is true. There is no "thou shalt have a marriage license" verse in scripture. Onfoot does have a point concerning marriage including a "deliberate and formal" inclusion of community. This accepted across the board in every culture, and is a point which, I believe, you probably believe in in one way or another.
That being said, much of what we construe in our society as "Christian", such as the particular form we use to marry couples (license, etc), or "Christian" education (Sunday school included) or even "Christian" music are constructs of the religiosification of our Western society. In fact, the last two thousand years of history clearly testifies against the Christianization of culture and the institutions that rise from its needs and desires. By Christianized, I mean the separating of a certain aspect of a culture as being exclusively Christian or where our influence on a culture becomes institutionalized, such as Constantine the Great requiring conversion to Christianity.
I believe I can say with some certainty that there has never been a successful castration of one aspect of a culture, such as music, to have it stand alone as something outside the host culture. I might enjoy so-called Christian music immensely, but it really is neutered in some ways. Christians listen to it, might be encouraged by it, might be glad that we have Brittney Spears sound and look-a-likes who sing about more then their libidos, but as a tool to express the character of God to a broken world it really is quite ineffective. Unbelievers just don't listen to Christian music. And sadly, whenever some one like Amy Grant tries to cross over back into the culture that we live in, they tend to get labeled by the Christian sub-culture as traitors of the faith. The far greater witness, one which takes a measure of courage, is to live as windows to God's character in the midst of the varying degrees of spiritual darkness that exist in our world and its many cultures. And, if you see that as assuming responsibility for educating your own children, or living as a semi-convinced theistic evolutionist, then do so with conviction, and remember to keep the windows clean so others can observe your life and believe. And, if you have the courage to do so, run naked through the streets! Uh... I mean proverbial, of course.
My apologizes for the length of my response.
Cheers,
Wyatt

Christopher said...

Onfoot, Wyatt:

I completely agree with both of you: two people coming together in a lifelong commitment should do so in the context of community witness. A point I neglected to include in my article.

Thank you both for reminding me.

Dr. V said...

Christopher,

Thanks for being a bad Christian. And thanks especially for the chuckles in the way you've listed your bad qualities.

I must say that I think some of your points are more bad than others. The Pizza Hut point really troubles me. Isn't Pizza Hut in cahoots with Proctor and Gamble, which is a company that's in cahoots with Satan? (An attempt at humour...)

Seriously, I encourage you as you follow Christ our Lord.

All the best to you and yours,
Hendrik

Anonymous said...

And since we don't have a Swiss Chalet, that makes the decision so much easier ...
Chris, are you surprised by the responses?
You are not a "bad" Christian, whatever that is.
Are any of us "good Christians"?
"Good" Christians can do bad things, and probably "bad" Christians can do good things.
Thank God for grace.
J

Christopher said...

Dr. V.,

I'm so glad you came by the blog and decided to comment. You know I love dialoguing with you, so it's really a thrill to me that you dropped by.

Thank you for your kind words. God bless you.

Christopher said...

Yes, J.: having no Swiss Chalet in Whitehorse makes it immesureably easier to avoid it. ;)

I would suggest a "bad" Christian -- as Michael Yaconelli descibes in Messy Spirituality -- is a Christian who happily disregards the conventions of evangelicalism (e.g., refraining from using clichéd spiritualised phrases). That's all I mean by it, really.

And that's where I can agree with Dr. V. that some of the items on my list are more 'bad' than others. For example, that I regularly forget to pray is actually not good for the well-being of a Christian. But disliking the platitude 'smile Jesus loves you' to a point where I want to yell at the person who says it (or any of its variants) is not really bad, but certainly not in keeping with the expectations of typical evangelical culture. Or finding a ceremonial marriage unnecessary for two people to have a lifetime commitment that includes sex -- that's not typical evangelical Christianity. It might even be considered 'bad', or 'heretical' (as I've been accused of on this count). Nevertheless, it's where I stand on the issue until someone can convince me otherwise. And I suspect that will be hard since the typical view X was what I once held, but I now hold Y. That makes returning to X quite difficult, to say the least. ;)

I'm pleased, I think, with the generosity of the responses, J. It's nice to know I'm not the only nut roasting over a perceived fire.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear sometime what you consider the "conventions" to be.
I am sure many Christians feel guilty about not praying, but I wonder how many misunderstand what prayer is. There are many forms of prayer and because it is so varied, I find myself praying in ways that I never would have thought of before as prayer -- things like driving and spontaneously singing to the Lord, writing a bit of praise, reading scripture and talking to him about it, asking him a question in the middle of my day, even noticing someone who is hurting and lifting that person to him.
I think of prayer, now, as spontaneous -- throughout my day, as well as a planned time to read the Word and spend time thanking God and listening (which I need to do a lot more of).
I do not believe that Christians need always be smiling. I have seen smiling Christians who are in a lot of pain. They put up a good "front" at times, and I can't blame that for that or judge them for that. But, at the same time I know that you can have a joy that is untouchable, even in the midst of pain. It confounds reason.
As for marriage: If I wasn't married and i found myself on a deserted island with a man and it looked like we were going to be there indefinitely, I have no doubt that I would find myself wanting to draw comfort from a relationship. I do believe that God would understand a marriage like that.
However that is not the world I live in.
I think of marriage, to a degree, in the way I think of baptism. It is a public declaration. It is a commitment to move forward with another person, just as baptism is a public declaration and a commitment to move forward with God.
That declaration and testimony honours God.
I believe God honours that, as well.
Now, it is true that you can say something outwardly and it holds little meaning. God alone knows the heart of man.
Just as the Trinity is in communion with each other, I believe we were created to be in a community. We are relational.
When God talked about one man and one woman being joined, it is a celebration, a union before God and man.
I think you agree and I may be missing your point on this.
Technically, what does it take to get married? Well, in a world where promiscuity and the consequences of that run rampant, I believe it is good to have a ceremony and an "official" time of commitment and dedication.
It also encourages that community to come along side of that couple and help them through the storms that will come.
There is a strength in inviting people to witness a commitment. Some day they may need to remind you of that commitment.
It is also like driving down a stake at that point of commitment, which hopefully you will move forward from.
Christians are not granted immunity from problems in this life -- just the assurance that he is there in them.
But I am "preaching to the choir".
I do not mean to preach.
This reminds me of another subject: that of baptism and church membership being one event. They were not one event in scripture, but there are healthy reasons for them to be joined in churches, I believe.
It has to do with being in a community and opening your life up -- being accountable to others.
I'm sure accountability would be an interesting conversation. I'm probably in over my head already, so I'll leave it here for now.
J

Anonymous said...

#20: I was one of those "exceptions" you are talking about, growing up without parents who were able to teach me about the "holy", although they taught me a lot about human character and taught me lessons that are now invaluable.
My mother was one of the most quietly compassionate people I knew. I did not recognize that until years into my own adult life. Her compassion was expressed more in action than in words and continued "underground" in her second marriage.
But my parents were unable to teach me about Jesus or the Bible ... even biblical principals.
I can't say I agree with any part of #20 because you use the words "by and large" and "fantastic excuse" and I don't agree with either.
I do believe that parents who know the Lord have a responsibility to teach their children as they go. All parents do, even if they are not aware of it.
Having raised our own two children and two children, now adults, with special needs, I appreciate those who have reached out to them where they are at and who have taught them, throughout the years, at their level of understanding as they grew.
It seems to me that that is a way of honouring someone -- meeting them where they are and walking along side them, and that includes teaching people at their level of understanding.
So, while Sunday School is not the only place that children should be taught, it often is. I am thankful that it is at least one place, and we need to recognize its value.
I don't believe I was the "rare" exception.
Another thing I have learned over the years is that other people have been able to teach our children things I couldn't. There have been some wonderful teachers in our children's lives and I am thankful for them.
As you said, it is not an excuse, but I see it as a wonderful opportunity for children and their families.
J

Christopher said...

J.,

I think the issue of Sunday School is something I'm going to have to write an article about. What little I said about it in #20 is exactly that: only a little said. I have what I think are reasonable precedence from Scripture, sociological observations, and plain logic for why I don't consider Sunday School acceptable.

The only time I make an exception for my distrust of Sunday School is when I know and trust the person leading Sunday School. So, in that case, you were the rare exception when I put my kids under your care that one Sunday. The only other time I experimented with Sunday School since arriving in Whitehorse, my eldest told Sarah that he was sad because he "couldn't sense God there."

I don't fault anyone for that reality. And, at the same time, I don't think it is right to put him in a place where he might feel the same way again, and have the added burden of not having his parents around to guide him through his impressions. By extension then, I think it best to keep my children with me in service.

On a more general note, I don't agree with segregating worship by age. That is, the adults go to the sanctuary to learn one thing, and the children by 'virtue' of their age go to another place to learn another thing. The lack of commonality between their experiences skews the family dynamic so crucial to establishing a cohesive bond -- and on such an important part of their lives to! What could possibly be more important than a family having the same potential for a common experience with God? Can you think of anything? I can't. In fact, I'm willing to wager that the community of the Holy Trinity is a fantastic model for the necessity of the family community: having all things in common despite differences in roles.

What are your thoughts?

Christopher said...

One more thing, J. It seems to me that there is too much emphasis placed on the common function of Sunday School: to teach something at the level of the kids. This assumes that our expressed understanding of a certain thing is on-level with the kids being taught. The difficulty with that is, in practice, people usually condescend below the level of children's understanding, or take on a destreamed educational package that treats all kids as understanding at the point of the lowest common denominator. The tragedy of that is that Sunday School teachers can't please the level of understanding of everyone there. The best possible conclusion that can be drawn from that scenario then, is that children should be taught by their parents, and alongside their parents. That way, kids are always in the position of having maximum potential understanding via the intimacy of the child-parent bond.

Anonymous said...

My children, now adults, would never have understood the language we use in this blog. We would have to adjust our language to fit their developmental age, but that is not talking down or dumbing it down, it is showing preference.
When I prepare something for children, I am thinking about how they learn. I try to use things that incorporate the senses so that they can experience what they are learning.
For example, when I used the scripture verse that says, Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow", we talked about what that meant. We brought snow in from outside and the children held it in their hands and we talked about how white it was.
They made snow flakes from sheets of white paper.
It may actually have been too abstract for them. But I am trusting that God can take that experience and his word, and teach them.
The most important thing about any Sunday School time, I believe, is that the children know that they are important to God and that they are accepted and loved as they are.
Our daughter, who has special needs, has difficulty sitting in some adult teaching sessions and has difficulty on some Sunday mornings.
We talk about it. I accept that she struggles to understand and do not insist that she stays in a group where it is difficult for her.
Cognitively, she is much younger than her age. Most people do not know how to teach an adult with special needs.
She learns in specific ways. She has great difficulty with abstract thought. We often use role modeling with her.
But there is one thing she understands: she knows if a teacher cares for her and trys to include her. That is far more important to her than the lesson itself.
I hope that is something I have instilled in our children, to respect others and to care for them. They learn that by example.
I have always had the attitude that God can teach me through anyone. A classic example of that is a severely handicapped couple in a church we used to attend, in another city.
Actually, no one would pick them up because they literally smelled so foul that people wanted nothing to do with them.
Our family picked them up and took them to church. Then we took them to Dairy Queen afterwards.
Our children watched how we related to them.
The greatest surprise was that I discovered I was enjoying my time with them.
I confess that when I teach, I am concerned that all of the children understand. I am often so impressed with the older ones in the group who are patient and help with the younger children.
It teaches them that it is not just about one person -- it is about community. I think they start to learn that at a very young age.
I always, I think, speak to children as individuals. They show their individuality at a very young age and I love that.
I also recognize that we are all alike in certain ways: we experience and learn things with our senses. And those senses become triggers later on. That makes me wonder, if a child sees the falling snow, or plays in it, if that child will remember the simple verse: "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."
I hope so.
God planted one verse in my heart as a child: "All we like sheep have gone astray..." (Isaiah 53:6).
Thanks to the kind teacher who loved children enough to teach in a way they could understand. And it was fun.
The other thing that I find challenging, but fun, on Sunday mornings with children (I used to teach every Sunday, for years) is that they are not all the same age: we most often have children from age two or three to age ten or twelve. That is quite a spread.
But it is great. We throw adults in with the mix and we all experience and learn together.
That blows your statement about "segrating worship by age" out of the water. :)
And we worship together upstairs -- all ages -- and it is wonderful there, too.
And we worship when we spend time together outside of church. All of life is worship.
J

Gregory said...

Hey Chris, in light of Numbers 10 and 21, I thought I'd pass along the sign out front of the church near my house (The same church that I'd written that article about another one of their signs).

Thought you'd get a kick out of this:

Sermon:
Seven Steps to Holiness

Thought:
True Holiness consists of doing God's Will with a Smile.