Juxtaposed Images of Life as a Follower of Jesus

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1101060918_400I’m not the type of individual who gets offended easily. Most of the people who know me say that it is often just the opposite…I’m too easy going at times, too forgiving (if that is possible, huh?)…always looking for the best in people. Frankly, because I’m a well-rehearsed codependent, I take on way too much of other people’s “stuff” simply because I’m a nice guy. Right! Even so, I found myself deeply offended while I was thoroughly investing my time in reading the cover article from last week’s Time Magazine, “Does God want You to be rich?” Little did the publishers of Time realize that while they were busy assembling their magazine for publication with that particular cover article that I would be in the middle of reading a very good book on World War 2 and the battle of Iwo Jima, “The Flags of our Fathers” (which will be soon released as a movie that Clint Eastwood has had his hands in). Well, back to the story…I found myself ashamed while reading the Time article. I was ashamed of being a Christ-follower in America knowing that this magazine has a very extensive readership not just in the USA but also around the world. I tell you, if THAT is what is being portrayed to the United States and to the rest of the world as a vital “snapshot” of the American brand of Christianity, I seriously want no part of it. Now understand me, I’m not trying to be a whiner like my son Aaron sometimes rightly accuses many leaders who are looking at living and leading a new paradigm of Christianity of being. In this case, whining has nothing to do with it. This article gives incredible insight into what is most likely the number ONE problem with the American Church…it’s wholehearted sellout to consumerism, materialism, and a manner of doing “church” that completely distorts the truth of the scriptural narrative which embodies the faith. John Kavanaugh is right when he writes in an extremely profound and prophetic book, Following Christ in a Consumeristic Society, that a “consumer society is a formation system: it forms us and our behavior…we are what we eat, what we build, what we buy”. He goes on to say that we are being transformed NOT into living ambassadors and present day “incarnations” of Jesus but into the very “idols” we trust. I couldn’t help but think of many, many of the things that I have been exposing my mind and heart to over the past months about the issues that are undermining the American brand of Christianity. In my mind, the dicotomy that existed between the pictures that were being painted in my imagination over the two writings: Flags of the Fathers being about sacrifice, commardery, passion, and vision. Flags of our Fathers describing how one battle over a course of a week saw the death/injury of close to 60,000 Americans and Japanese many of who were under 20 years of age, and how our country at that time expected every man, woman and child in America to be part of “war bond” issues (at $100 per person) that provided the conflicts with needed financial resources at a time when the average family made close to $5000 a year. I was simply overwhelmed when a story like that was juxtaposed against the Time artlcle that raised up the “values” of self-indulgence, consumerism run rampid, self-satisfaction, self-focus, and self-motivation as leaders in churches struggle not against bullets and death but against a prevailing scriputural hermeneutic of sacrifice and humilty as they shamelessly promote visions of granduer and plenty. The “hero” of the Flags book, Jack Bradley, didn’t worry about his notoriety as he helped hoist the stars and stripes on the pinnacle of Mt. Serubachi with five other comrades…he wasn’t thinking about selling millions of books once his story got published or how he could manipulate the media in order to mug for the camera. I read this very humbling story about a man who didn’t even count himself as a “hero” in the battle of Iwo Jima despite helping young men scores who were wounded or dying with no regard for his own safety or status. He knew the truth – the real heros of the battle were the ones who never made it home but gave their lives for freedom. I read that and then I looked over at Time and the pictures of our “brothers” in the church as they posed in the best of light, many of their pictures “air brushed”, bathed in just the right light to bring out the best photographic image…most of them, very wealthy even by American standards, and I thought, “we really don’t have a clue about reality, do we?” I humbly ask for you to consider this – how do you think God “feels” abou tthe American church? I am now more and more convinced that God must be ashamed at the American Experiment. More and more the scriptural images that come to my mind when I think about the state of American and the American “church” that most people know is that of the Harlot in the book of Revelation. Again, I’m not trying to jump on some apocalyptic bandwagon here…all I know is that modern American looks and feels like ancient Rome at the time when Revelation was penned. Maybe we are the great Babylon…maybe we wouldn’t know humility, honesty, and sacrifice if it hit us in the face. The American Church is known for too many celebrities and not enough servants. The Amercan Church is known for too many mega-buildings, stars, properties, offerings, book deals, etc. and not enough authenticity of sacrifice and love. I don’t know…maybe I’m getting a bit jaded. All I know is that it would make a big difference if Time magazine would have to focus on other issues in the faith as it attempted to summarize what is going on in a majority of pulpits and pews of the United States. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we saw a cover article that said, “Does God want you to Die?” or “Does God want you to be poor?” or “Does God want You to be Humble?”. I’m believing more and more that the real “heros” of the faith these days are not the ones leading big churches and big ministries and talking about whether God wants to fill our wallets and driveways and lives with more and more stuff. The real heros are the ones who are daily giving their lives to a Kingdom that stands for values other than those frequently epitomized in our culture – the values of meekness, gentleness, patience, love, servanthood, humility, poverty of spirit, strength in the face of suffering…the real heros are the ones who sign up to be part of the “fellowship of suffering” (Phil. 3:10) not those who are looking for more and more of the cultural “action”. Here’s something for you to do – why don’t you read the Time article and let me know what you think (article here). I’m ranting a bit here…but I think it’s merited.

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2 thoughts on “Juxtaposed Images of Life as a Follower of Jesus

  1. hm.. good read. I just now got around to taking a look at the article and i’m glad i did, although I am slightly sickened. It is just frustrating that all of these people are settling for such insecure and shallow interpretations of what Jesus really meant when he said he came to give us the abundant life– something even bigger than money. Anyway, thanks for highlighting the article– although i didn’t find it much surprising, unfortunately.

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  2. Who absorbed who? The answer is and has always been obvious: western Christianity has absorbed the ugly American. Our culture is finally a consumer culture. We live in an age of extreme information overload but haven’t the time to look at any of it because we’re too busy grabbing for everything that we ‘want’ at the eternal expense of what we ‘need’. The emperor is naked ..and shopping for more of nothing at the Gap.
    One of the hardest things for me to do as a player in pop culture is to keep myself free from absorbing my vocation as a food group. While I daily walk and work amidst the world and it’s occupants, at the end of the day I eat from an entirely different table – that of a King Who’s ways are always higher than all ways.
    We’ve accepted the baggage of another world and are running the risk of missing the opportunity to strengthen the things that will remain long after our trash-greed culture is consumed by a fire that is most definitely coming to destroy it. Regarding America’s place in the latter days: there does come a time when ‘the eagle’ ceases to be mentioned in Bible prophecy. Won’t happen here? 911 won’t happen here either. Wake up call implied. Even so, “Come Lord Jesus!” Where are our treasures stored up anyway? Thoughts that bear internal investigation.
    These so-called leaders are blind guides that are leading us into a ditch. They have always needed driven from God’s temple. They make me angry enough to puke (in a violently wretching but loving manner, of course).

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