Dueling Ministers

There are at least two kinds of ministers.

One kind ministers in such a way so as to help his people fit their Christianity into the culture in which they live. The thrust here is to help people fit in and navigate their culture while being Christian.

Another kind of minister ministers in such a way so as to help his people understand that Christianity can’t fit into the culture in which they live. The thrust here is to encourage people not to let the world around them squeeze them into its mold.

These two ministers won’t typically understand one another very well.

Trying to solve Evangelism — Thinking Out Loud

Typical Evangelism seeks to pick people off one by one while paying little attention to the context in which people are living. This is like going to a group of Pirates, resplendent with all the appropriate scenery, gear, and pirate habits and urging Pirates to convert to becoming Cowboys without providing them any kind of context in order to understand the Cowboy life vis-a-vis their Pirate lives. The consequence of this kind of evangelism, when successful, is to have a few Cowboys walking around in a Pirate culture not really making much of an impact since everything is understood in terms of Piracy. The consequence of this kind of evangelism, when unsuccessful, is to have a bunch of pirates walking around who fit right into pirate culture but who constantly insist that they are Cowboys, or perhaps even going so far as to say that Cowboys are really Pirates, only better.

Indeed, I would contend that much of our evangelism today is the type that doesn’t really confront people with the idea that conversion means understanding, and so living life, in a measure and in a way that is dramatically different then what is considered common-place. Our Evangelism has largely forgotten the anti-thesis that insists that the thinking of Christians must be overwhelmingly different then those who are not Christians. This has resulted in whole Churches and denominations, and thus Christians, that are devoted to aping the culture in their Worship services.

It strikes me that the solution to this is to start asking ourselves if an Evangelism that picks people off, one by one, without paying any attention to the context in which they live is proper evangelism. This is especially true given that we live in an anti-intellectual age while ours is a Gospel that requires one’s thinking to be radically altered in order for adult conversion to be genuine.

But maybe there are other means to see genuine conversion apart from demanding people, living in an anti-intellectual age, to engage in struggling directly (and ‘directly’ is a key word) with the propositional nature of the Gospel. Perhaps, instead of expecting individuals one by one, here and there, to do intellectual labor and so be converted we might pursue an Evangelism that seeks to change the whole scenery and context so that people are converted because they indirectly do the intellectual labor unto conversion by means of seeing themselves fitting into a different cultural and contextual storyline.

Imagine trying to convert Little Red Riding Hood. All she knows is her story. But if you change her story (her scenery, her preoccupation with the wolf, her sorry Red Riding hood) and suddenly she might be able to hear the new message that there are other story lines where she isn’t forever having to flee from carnivorous wolves.

People are chameleons. Most people are eclectic or conglomerate thinkers who do not think about their convictions but pick them up like the common cold by being infected and affected by the cultural backdrop against which they live. In our culture most people (including Christians) are pagan humanists, not by choice, but because, being chameleons, they have blended in with the worldview scenery. One can’t help but wonder whether or not if one changes the scenery, or if one provides an alternative scenery for people to live against, the consequence wouldn’t be large scale genuine conversion as chameleons change their colors to fit against their new backdrop.

This would require our Evangelism to be stocked with another arrow in our quiver. While we would retain the arrow that presses the propositional nature of truth that thinkers could engage and so be converted via the Holy Spirit’s awakening of their intellect via direct challenge, we could add the arrow that creates a beautiful living context that people would be invited to so that they might be genuinely converted via the Holy Spirit’s awakening of their intellect via an indirect challenge. An indirect challenge that invites them to exchange the storyline they are living in from a culture of death to a very different storyline where they can find a culture of life. This is, it seems to me, a covenantal approach to evangelism, if only because what people are being asked to do is not to individually arrive at the truth, but rather to experience, in a covenantal context, the goodness and the beauty of the Christian life. To pick up the metaphor that we used earlier, we would ask them to quit being pirates and come into a different story line that is more appealing. (“Just imagine…no more swabbing the deck, no more being hung from the highest yardarm or walking the plank or being keelhauled, or having parrot poop on your shoulder.”) We would quit expecting people to embrace a naked, solely intellectually driven Christianity, and offer to them a Christianity that doesn’t demand every single individual to understand all the propositions of Scripture but does provide a story line that implicitly contains all the propositions of Scripture as the scenery against which they can understand their living.

This would require the Church to start (it’s already happening in some places) to build alternate communities. These Christian faith communities would be parallel but not isolated communities. They would be parallel enough to provide a contrast to the life of non-Christian communities but not so isolated that those living in faith community would cease being salt and light to the larger community.

Failing this approach, but still harmonious with the thrust is the suggestion that perhaps our Evangelism needs to be done in this culture by means of writing good stories. Once again, the foundation of the thinking is that people, being chameleons, are more prone to draw meaning out of a good story about the true and the beautiful quite apart from holding direct conversation with themselves about what is true. In an non-intellectual age perhaps giving people the means by which they can be drawn into a narrative they find appealing, even if they can’t articulate why, is a way of doing sound evangelism.

The common strand here is the idea that most people don’t live the life they live because they have sat down and had a conversation with themselves about what is true. Most people don’t build their worldview houses with propositional sticks and stones but rather move into houses that they think look nice that other people have built before them. Now the houses they move into do indeed have a propositional structure but that is not what they are seeing when they move into them. Rather what they see is that the worldview house they are moving into fits the context of the storyline they are living. Change the storyline and they will want different houses, perhaps not even knowing why.

Nobody is advocating dispensing with individual evangelism that focuses on the propositional nature of truth. That still needs to be done because people who convert in that kind of context are the people who can help build the proper cultural storyline. What is being advocated is embracing, for those who are not thinkers (and legion is their name) a way to offer Christ that still includes all the propositions of Scripture but serves them up in a embodied context.

Huckabee Campaign Rally

It’s true.

I attended a Huckabee for President campaign rally in St. John’s Michigan last Friday Night. Please don’t hold it against me as it was Huckabee who invaded my space and not my going out of my way to swoon over his rock star like status. My Son was competing in a Homeschool basketball game and the Huckabee campaign decided that the venue would be a great photo op and rally site. Now, I could have decided to just miss the game since it was being converted into a ‘All ignorant Jesus lovers vote for me’ rally but since I am an assistant coach for Anthony’s team I though I would grin and bear it.

However, since I was forced to be there I do have an observation about those gathered, a observation about Huckabee and an sociological observation regarding social behavior towards those who refuse to drink the kool-aid and who scream loudly that others shouldn’t drink the kool-aid.

First concerning the gathered lemmings — it was as if I was transported to a Tom Jones concert of 40 years ago. You know … the type where all the women would throw their undergarments on the stage along with their hotel room keys in hopes that Tom would pick them. The swooning was surreal. Before Huckabee arrived their were announcements on the PA about how the Huckabee staffers were nervous that the crowd would swarm him and pleas that everyone would let the candidate approach them and not approach the candidate. The people in charge of the campaign kept giving us minute by minute updates on the coming of Huckabbe. “Governor Huckabee is 10 minutes out. Governor Huckabee is 5 minutes out. Governor Huckabee is 2 minute out.” And on and on it went. The last time I’ve seen a person tracked this closely was Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. Every time an update was given the 500 souls in the gymnasium would swoon like teenage girls being asked out on their first date. Then we had practice cheering runs. “Let me hear what kind of noise you’re going to make when future President Huckabee shows up.” I found myself wondering how Royalty was ever treated any differently. These people were wetting their pants over getting to be in the same room with a guy that makes Tricky Dick and Slick Willie look like amateurs.

And then when Huckabee shows up it was more of the same. The Huckster’s speech was boiler plate political vapid. There was no there ‘there.’ My 18 year old daughter characterized it as ‘bushwah.’ And yet people were screaming their lungs out as if Huckabee was serving as the prophet of Allah making pronouncements revealing Allah’s will.

To be honest I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed because despite all my skepticism and cynicism I had underestimated the ability of those who call themselves Christians to be totally deluded. Those 500 people present, most of whom no doubt would label themselves ‘Christian’ have no idea who Mike Huckabee is or what policy he has pursued, and further have no desire to know. It is enough for them that Mike says he is the Jesus candidate. I used to think that these people were being manipulated by their Pastors but having spoken to a few Huckabee Pastor types I realize that the fog in the pew is because of the mist in the pulpit. In short, their Pastors are just as deluded as the rank and file. Somehow a lemming avalanche for Huckabee got started and once the avalanche begins no amount of reasoning will thwart its kinetic energy.

I know this because I got snowed over by the avalanche. When it was announced that Huckabee was going to be in St. Johns and when I realized it was the homeschooling organization that I am loosely a part of that was pushing it I sent a e-mailing out to those in the homeschooling group simply explaining some of the liberal and Statist tendencies of Mike Huckabee and providing links for people to look closer at this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Given the response I received you would have thought that I had committed blasphemy by touching the Lord’s anointed.

So here is the summary of the first observation. People, including Christians, so desperately want heroes that they will turn off rational thought once they decide, for whatever reason, that some person is going to be that hero. Secondly, the Christian community is no different from the non-Christian community when it comes to shallowness, practicing thought by emotion, and sheer unmitigated gullibility.

The observation about Huckabee is that he is slick the same way that Clinton was slick except that he has added Jesus coating to his slickness. This is the my chief reason for disliking Huckabee. It is my estimation that he is cynically using Jesus to get elected. Let’s face it if it weren’t for Huckabee’s ministerial ties and willingness to invoke Jesus at every turn he would be running neck and neck with Duncan Hunter. Recently, I am blaming him less and less for this and increasingly I am blaming the ‘Christian community’ for being such willing fools. Huckabee’s ‘I am the bible’s candidate’ spiel came out again in the few minutes that he spoke where he appealed to people to help him slay the giants he was facing in the Michigan primary the way that David slew Goliath. More identity politics and more red meat for the Jesus fools.

Here is the summary of the second observation. Huckabee will ride this ‘I love Jesus’ train as far as he can. What is unfortunate about it is that he is getting away with what so many ministers in our Churches get away with and that is constantly having Jesus on their lips while preaching a Theology that is not particularly Christian. The goods are out there on Huckabee in terms of his leftist, Statist and non-Christian agenda but Christians just don’t care because it is enough to invoke Jesus.

My final observation is sociological and has reference to the way people treat those who are unwilling to drink the kool-aid. During the 36 hours when all this was unfolding I was told it was inappropriate for me to e-mail people to warn them about Huckabee. My Son was told by someone that they ‘felt sorry for him that he had the Father he had,’ and the most benign look I seem to get now is one that is quizzical as if somebody is looking at a hunchback cannibal with the remnants of dinner still wedged between his teeth. Like the human body, a community protects itself by attacking foreign elements that it perceives does not belong there. Much of the Christian community has decided that Huckabee is the man and woe unto those who suggest that a vote for Huckabee is a vote which is, in reality, precisely against their best interest.

So yes… I attended a Huckabee rally.

And my worst fears were realized.

Patriotic Graduations

Victor mumbled to himself the whole 25 minute drive to the meeting working up a good lather before he walked into the home-school graduation planning meeting.

He just couldn’t get his mind around a group of home-schooling parents who wanted to go all patriotic on the graduation services. First, they wanted to post the colors, and then they wanted to pledge allegiance to the flag and then somebody wanted their daughter to preform a off tune rendition of ‘God Bless America.’ Victor half expected that by the time the meeting started somebody would have recommended that they invite the Army recruiters to set a booth up so the graduates could sign up and enlist after they received their diplomas.

Victor walked into the meeting just before the gavel hit the plate calling the meeting to order. He wanted to make the comment that meetings were the ‘invention of the devil’ but he managed to chew his tongue on that score.

Mrs. Dolby Beckman, the resident Republican apparatchik, who had exactly zero children graduating during the upcoming ceremony started the discussion,

“Well, I couldn’t help but notice that the children left out the patriotic aspect of the ceremony so I thought I would just go ahead and include all of that since I am sure it was just an oversight.”

Jeanie Cheeseman immediately offered her sycophantic gratitude for Mrs. Beckman’s ‘rescue’ of the graduation service. (After all, if one wanted to move up in the “home-school, Republican, I love Jesus” society, one had to do all they could to kiss up to Mrs. Beckman.)

“Oh Dolly, where we would be without your organizational skills,” Jeannie offered, “Dear me, what would have State Congressman Connor have ever thought of us if we had forgotten our good citizenship.”

All the rest of the Mothers nodded in agreement.

Before Victor launched into his observations he first wondered why he was the only Father at this meeting and then he wondered, not for the first time, why he even bothered trying.

Still, Victor was the eternal optimist and regardless of how many times his ideas went down in flames he remained ever hopeful that someday logic would find a way to overcome emotion.

Victor lowered his voice working on keeping it calm and level.

“Ladies given the fact that all of us here have already flunked the good citizenship award I am not sure why we are suddenly concerned about it now.”

Mrs. Beckman in her best ‘affronted Republican I love Jesus’ voice protested, “I don’t have any idea of what you might mean Mr. Nauh.”

“What I mean, Mrs. Beckman is that these parents gathered here, by educating their children at home, have been anti-patriotic by having a loyalty higher then the State, and now that their anti-patriotism has come to a climax in a graduation ceremony that acknowledges their success in keeping their children away from the clutches of the State you want to cover it all in paens to the State. I’m here to register my opposition to pledging an allegiance to a Republic-State that I’ve worked for 13 years to avoid having anything to do with.”

Victor pressed on

“Look ladies, the way I understand the Constitution it should be the Nation that pledges allegiance to the Citizens and not the citizens who should pledge allegiance to the Nation. Second, when it comes to posting the colors I can’t help but think of the holocaust the unborn have suffered under those very colors. I just can’t bring my self to be very respectful to a Nation that continues to offer up its children to Molech and frankly I don’t understand how allegiance to Christ doesn’t trump good citizenship and reciting the allegiance to the flag.” Thirdly …

Mrs. Beckman interrupting Victor’s thought said, almost tearfully, “Mr. Nauh, I don’t know how you can be so Anti-American.”

Victor paused, sighed noticeably and responded, “Dolly, it is because I love America that I have these convictions. I am trying to be an example to my children of what it means to be against America because I am for America. Indeed, I would say that by your entering in to these patriotic frenzies you are the one who is being anti-American if only because by doing so you communicate that you think everything is hunky dory in the ‘land of the free.’ Dolly, everything isn’t hunky dory and there seems to be little sign that it is moving in the direction of hunky doriness.”

Rev. Stan Patrick, who was attending because Dolly figured she might need some heavy artillery to resist Victor spoke up.

“Well, this graduation is happening in my Church and we must at least have a pledge.”

Victor fired back, “Sure let’s have a pledge. I’ll say a pledge to Jesus. I’ll say a pledge to the Church. I’ll say a pledge to my family. Shoot, I’ll even say a pledge to my community. By all means let’s do a pledge but can’t we find a pledge that doesn’t implicitly bind us to the sins of this ‘one nation under God.’ (Victor always wonder just which God the nation was under but he held his fire on this point.)

Trudy Heartshorn, head of the homeschooling organization that lent official sanction to the Diplomas asked, “Victor what was the third point you were going to make before Dolly interrupted you.”

Victor was hoping that the third point would be forgotten but being in for a penny he figured he’d go in for a pound.

“Trudy my third point was going to be an analogy. I was simply going to ask what we would think if we could take a time machine and go back to German Christians in the 1930’s organizing a graduation exercise. I was going to ask what we would think of those German Christians planning a graduation exercise with all the patriotic excesses that we are including. What would we think of German Christians who were going to post the National Socialist Flag and pledge allegiance to the German Nation under one God. What would we think if could go back in a time machine and listen to them going on and on about good citizenship?”

Rev. Patrick and Dolly exploded both at the same time.

“How dare you!”

Victor rejoined, “How dare I what?”

Rev. Patrick answered, “How dare you make a moral equivalence argument between this country and Hitler’s Germany.”

Victor knew he was licked. He slowly got up and collected his things as the hubbub he had created increased in volume as he headed for the door.

Once at the doorway, he turned with this parting observation, “Ladies (and here, in his thinking, he was appropriately including the Pastor in his address) if moral equivalence is in the eye of the beholder we might want to ask the dead unborn if they think there is a moral equivalence between the holocaust today here and the one our imagined German graduation planning committee was living through. If we were to get their answer we might go a little slow on the good citizenship angle.”

Four weeks later they had their graduation ceremony, complete with the posting of the Colors, pledging allegiance and an off tune version of ‘God Bless America.’

Victor and His family were the only ones that remained seated.