This year I find more and more of my humor, not to mention my time, being siphoned off to fuel Dr. Toboggans’ increasingly numerous activities. I don’t know how I ended up as his chaperon, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be making parole any time soon.
What I have been making, at least on this site, are more serious posts. Articles that put into print the ideas and conversations that I have been developing with several friends over the last few years about faith and action and changing the world one person at a time.
To that end I recently made a video about the word “christian” and what it might mean outside of the marketing channels it has grown to represent.
I didn’t think I was ready to share it, but my friend Debbie sent me a link to a parallel post by Brain Jones that reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this approach to faith. Strange how quickly I seem to forget that. Anyway here it is.
One day some the members of Jesus’ inner circle came to him with a question about judgment.
Trying to get their theology straight, they pointed out a man blind from birth and asked where to pin the blame.
Was it this guy who did something wrong or was it his parents? What caused God to curse him like this?
And Jesus explained to them that it wasn’t the anger of God or the judgment of God on display in the man’s life, but rather the assignment of God. That his condition was not a curse, but instead a canvas for God’s work to be displayed. (ref)
And then he restored the man’s sight.
Strangely, it seems that every time disaster strikes these days, whether it be hurricanes in New Orleans or the recent earthquake in Haiti, there is no shortage of supposed followers of Jesus rushing to blame the victims and declare the “judgment” of God upon them.
The very ones who could rattle off from memory that,“…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” seem to spend these times of crisis concocting theories about how somehow the recipients of tragedy are especially sinful and deserving of divine destruction.
The assignment is clear, the canvas is prepared.
This is not a time for theories or excuses or recriminations. This is a time for action.
Once upon a time there was this guy named Jesus, you might have heard of him or even read his book.
One time at a major public address, he said that the people that followed him would be like a city on a hill: unmistakable, un-missable, un-hideable. A prominent feature on the skyline of society.
Which sounded kind of strange…until he described what his followers would be about. They would feed the hungry, they would clothe the poor, they would visit prisoners.
Not as a way to score points or impress people, but as a way to worship God.
Instead of courting favor from the powerful, they would serve and protect the powerless. They would not strive for wealth or status, but instead their success would be defined by the degree with which they were able to serve others.
And the metaphor fit, for a group of people that genuinely loved others without condition or reciprocation would be hard to miss.
But they have been missed. Sorely missed.
Although today more people today claim the title of christian than ever before, as a group they…okay, we… have never been more unrecognized, undistinguished, insular, and well…flat.
So much so, that at least in America, many now resort to advertising how different they are on billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers, or any available surface, often ironically declaring their uniqueness in the most unoriginal styles possible.
Which leads me to wonder…perhaps what the world really needs is not more hype, but rather more height.
This time of year, it is not unusual to hear from crowds of Christians bemoaning the current state of Christmas and how secular, and selfish, and generally Christ-deficient it has become.
It is also not unusual to view these people as whiners and spoilsports, out to ruin the fun for everyone else who doesn’t believe exactly as they do.
A perception that is substantially aided by the tone with which they present their case.
Which is generally whiny and obnoxious.
Now I think that most everyone would agree that Christmas has become over-commercialized. All you have to do is listen to the economic reports to realize that Christmas is Very Big Business, and given our struggling economy, is seen as the last shot at salvation for retailers across the county and perhaps around the world.
But although there are aspects of Christmas that most people don’t like, no one truly becomes dissatisfied with Christmas as it exists now, until they stumble across a glimpse of what it could be.
For example, what if instead of a struggle, or fight, or at best a festive crisis to be endured, Christmas could be a time of peace and reflection and generosity?1
I don’t think anyone would be against it. Even the giant corporations would sign off on it, if they could still somehow receive their truckloads of consumer cash.2
This is where the glimpse comes in.
Notice I don’t say vision, or blueprint, or High Definition streaming video documentary. That’s because I don’t know exactly what a fully transformed and refreshing Christmas would look like. I don’t even know entirely how to get there. But I think I’ve seen the first step, and it looks like this:
If you can, please contribute to the water fund, because it is ridiculous that today with all the miraculous technology of the twenty-first century, people are still dying from dirty water. But even if you can’t part with any cash right now, try to cut back on obligation and debt this year, and focus more on actually being there with your loved ones. Not only will they understand, they’ll love it.
For one thing, the Christmas carols we sing would start making more sense. After a recent visit to the local shopping mall, I was considering changing the old line “comfort and joy” to some something more like “seek and destroy.”