Monday, November 17, 2008

314. so what are you doing, Randall?

I blow a lot of hot air about Christianity and church and how there should be more of a subversive, counter-cultural element to them. I sometimes hesitate when putting up such posts because I'm afraid of a question - a question that hasn't come up yet, thankfully. And so I'm thinking that I should take this question on preemptively. Because I'm actually curious about the answer myself.

The question I've been fearfully awaiting is, "so you're doing all this writing about Christianity - what are you doing about it? How are you living that out?"

And I first think of these lines from the Billy Bragg song, "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards"

Mixing pop and politics
he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment
and my usual excuses

Because I'm good at coming up with excuses: my band is my main priority right now, I'm unemployed, I haven't gotten all of my thoughts about Christianity figured out just yet, I'm waiting to find a life partner, I'm waiting to see if God wants me to be single for the rest of my life, blah, blah, blah.

I suppose the fact of the matter is that I'm honestly not sure how much my Christianity is lived out on a daily basis. And part of this has to do with the fact that while I'm do quite a bit of writing about myself in this blog, it's hard to know how accurate my self-reflection really is. Because there's no way to get any distance from myself because, of course, I'm stuck in myself.

Last week my church hosted Shane Claiborne who spoke on a wide range of topics. Among them was the idea that as Christians, we're called to "not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our minds]. . ." Romans 12:2. Shane said that there should be something peculiar about us, that people should notice that we're different somehow because we don't behave the way the world expects to.

And this isn't a new idea. I heard this same message for years when I was younger. The difference in the way Shane talked about non-conformity is in how it actually looks. Back then I was taught about non-conforming through all of the things that I didn't do - not drinking, not dancing, not hanging out with the wrong crowd. When it came to things I should be doing, they mostly involved personal spiritual development - praying more, reading the Bible and memorizing verses. About the only social aspect I was taught related to sharing the gospel or learning how to defend the faith.

While I don't think he would disagree with most of those actions (or non-actions) Shane's version of non-conformity had a lot more to do with breaking different kinds of broader, more uncomfortable worldly patterns - advocating for peace not through war but through non-violence, figuring out ways to live more simply with less of an impact on the planet, building and living intentionally in community (he argues that we would do well to reexamine the lifestyle of the Amish for hints as to how to live out the gospel in America), and a bunch of other ideas.

Anyway, I remember someone telling me back in high school that most Christians went through two phases: questioning your faith and your faith in question. And though I don't have it all figured out yet, I've thought about and understand enough of Christianity to know that my life has definitely entered the "my faith in question" phase.

If I had to make a case for my own Christianity, there are a couple somewhat concrete things I can point to as proof of my faith. First is the whole Harold Experiment thing I blogged about a year ago. That was certainly a case of me trying to live out my new understanding of Christianity. A second thing would be the fact that one of my roommates, Darwin, and I are co-leading a C-group (Bible study) for my church. The title and theme of the C-group is Jesus' Heart for the Poor - we read and discuss Bible passages relating to poverty and the poor and once per month we try to do something grassroots/hands-on at a non-profit or other organization that works with the poor. And speaking of the C-group, I can't speak for Darwin but as for myself, part of the reason I wanted to help with this C-group was to try and live out my Christianity in a more tangible way. I guess I've been asking myself this how-am-I-living-out-Christianity question for a while now - certainly since I've moved to Seattle.

But is that enough? I suppose none of us can ever really do enough because there's always more to be done. But God only calls us to use the gifts (physical, mental, spiritual) he's given us as best we can wherever we are. Looked at this way, I'm nowhere near where I should be. There's lots more I can do.

I mean for one thing, I should be writing far more often than I am. If I could wave a magic wand and create whatever life I wanted for myself, I'd create a world where I could get some of this Layman's Theology thing published and to be paid enough for it that I could read and write (and perhaps even speak) full time. I think that would be amazing. But I don't have a magic wand and so one of the best things I can do in the mean time is to continue working on the ideas that God has given me. Which is to say, I should keep writing and posting. Which I haven't been doing, at least not nearly as faithfully as I should. And that's sin.

But is thinking and writing enough? I want to be out there more but I'm a pretty introverted person. So much of the work that needs to be done in the world seems to be work for the extroverted and the entrepreneurial, the people who like getting out there and meeting people, shaking their hands and hearing their stories while sharing their own. Acts like that scare the hell out of me. Meeting new people generally stresses me out - it's not how I'm wired.

And so I wonder if just reading and thinking and writing are enough for me.

I don't think they are.

But I'm trying - co-leading a C-group dedicated to talking and doing something about poverty is a way that I'm trying.

But is it enough?

No, it's not but I need to at least be doing what I can - I need to start with what I can do now (writing) and trust that God will continue the process of maturing and movement from where I am to where he wants me to be.

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