Recently, I had a local evangelical military wife inform me that “I ignore people with my constant reading and that the only time I interact is to fight.” Now in fairness to her I was getting in her kitchen about the sagacity of our youth signing up to go into the military after they graduate high school, and I was making the case that Biblical Christians serving in the US military struck me as more than a bit oxymoronic and so her words hurled at me were hurled out of defensiveness on her part. Still, three days later I am musing over her words and I must admit there is some truth in her words. And so for those who have come to similar conclusions about “the pastor who always ignores people with his reading and only interacts in order to fight” allow me a small apologetic for my idiosyncrasies.
First, I am not a particularly bright person by nature. Consequently, if I desire to have anything at all interesting to say in my role as Preacher and counselor I have to read, and I have to read with a vengeance. Inherently brighter men might be able to be in the ministry and not read and be successful but if I am going to be worth my wage and keep I have to read.
Second, we live in a culture that is stupid. This is not a malicious opinion. This is a fact. I struggle with that residue clinging to me as much as the next person. If I wish to rise out of the stream of this culture that is carrying so many of its sons and daughters along to destruction then I have to read. If I want to be an answer for the culture that I love and hate at the same time then I have to offer it something better then what it is offering. The only way I can do that is to read till I bleed. I read not in order to ignore people but to be a boon to them (even if they just wish I’d shut up).
Third, if I don’t read I’ll be a captive to this zeitgeist, and as I am convinced that this zeitgeist is from its father the devil I have to do all I can to saturate myself in the wisdom of other times. So, when I read, I try to read old books and old authors and the reason I do so is that I have hopes, as silly as they might be given our zeitgeist, that Christian men and women alive today might tire of the wickedness of this age and long for something other — a something other that I might be able to offer because of my reading of old authors, old books and of times and wisdom now forgotten.
Fourth, to be perfectly honest, the people I meet in my books are usually 100 times more interesting than the people who are walking expressions of this culture. If I have to choose between Charlemagne and Joe the Dispensationalist, my tendency is to choose Charlemagne’s company every time. If I have to choose between the insights of Robert Nisbet or the wisdom of Daphney the Government school teacher it’s Nisbet every time. Now, I realize that this is a weakness and even a sin. Joe and Daphney still need Jesus and Charlemagne and Nisbet don’t and so I should expend more effort with Joe and Daphney, but I have to tell you when Joe and Daphney insist that I’m an idiot or respond with strained silence when I bring up conversation that goes beyond conversational pleasantries Nisbet and Charlemagne look more and more attractive.
This is why I read. I make no apology for it. If you see me reading try to keep in mind that at least somewhere in this vessel of clay — despite all the sin that still clings to me, there is a small motive of love for God, people, and the desire for Reformation that has me turning page after page in book after book.
Now as to the fighting part of my interlocutor’s accusatory words I must once again plead guilty. But, please, I ask that you would once again hear me out.
First, understand that I wear myself out resisting fighting. I doubt that there are more people who chew more holes in their tongues then I do. I literally, bite my tongue. I literally pinch myself. I literally walk away in order to allow for conversational and relational bonhomie. A little credit where credit is due if you please.
Second, y’all have to realize that I am convinced that this culture needs Reformation. Allow me to suggest that Reformation isn’t going to come without fighting. So, yes, I’m often in the midst of intense conversation. In the Lansing area I’ve warred with the Evangelicals about their love for America and civil religion that is above their love for Jesus. I’ve argued the doctrines of grace vs. the doctrines of self-salvation that most evangelicals embrace. I’ve debated with them about their constant need to plight their fidelity to the flag. I’ve debated with them about the wisdom of sending their children into the Military of a country that is doing its utmost to destroy Christianity. I’ve debated with them about the density of Dispensationalism, trying to get them to take my standing wager that my great grandchildren will die of natural causes before Jesus comes back. I’ve debated with them about their happy clappy churches and their “God is my girl-friend” church hymns. I’ve debated with them their strange notion that their covenant seed shouldn’t be Baptized and the notion that the important decision is not God’s decision for their seed as proclaimed in the waters of Baptism, but rater their seeds decision for God when they reach the age of accountability. I’ve debated with them about the utter nonsense that we should care about Red Heifer’s being born in Israel, or that Israel has anything more to do with God’s eschatological intentions or timetable then any other nation. I’ve argue with them about the advisability of sending their children to “youth-groups.” I’ve argued with them about the propriety of holding Church in their “living rooms,” where the blind lead the blind. So, yes I have fought — I have fought about these things and a million more — but don’t you see that unless someone fights this culture is going to go the way of Rome. Listen, my evangelical friends — the problem isn’t with the pornographers, or the homosexuals, or the abortionists, the problem is with us and our twisted theology and thinking. Somebody has to fight to try and set these things straight.
Hey, I’m not any different, instinctively speaking, then the next guy. I’d love to go along to get along. I’d love to glide along with the cultural current. It sure would be a lot easier to float downstream then swim against the tide. But until God grants Reformation and Awakening, I will continue to be “the pastor who always ignores people with his reading and only interacts in order to fight.”
Won’t you join me?
There is always room for one more.
2 thoughts on “A Small Glimpse Inside”
You can count me in, although I’m more of an upstart than a sage at this juncture.
Amen! Amen! and Amen, brother! Keep reading and keep fighting. You have been an enormous blessing to me and my family. Though I am half a nation apart, you can count me in, too. I need help in the “keeping my mouth shut” arena. In other words, I need to STOP keeping my mouth shut so much.
Joshua, from what little I’ve read of your posts, you seem to have a good start.
May the Lord continue to work in you both and increase your knowledge, understanding wisdom, while keeping you humble.