I’m blogging my way through Neighbors and Wisemen for Lent. Today we read chpt. 15 where the author tells us a story about Dr. John Perkins’ visit to a packed Reed College auditorium.
For those of you who don’t have the book, here are some selections from the chapter to get you up to speed.
With his simple Southern accent, he set the stage of racial and economic injustice in America. He began with his childhood and walked the room through the essential and painful drama of the 1960s. He unapologetically insisted that the disparities of race and class remain today.
From there Dr. Perkins moved to his own thoughts on the very real plight of America’s disenfranchised and marginalized communities. He expressed how these populations have been systematically removed from the national consciousness, and affirmed the absolute need for a new generation, one fueled by compassion and a sacrificial life.
Tony was shocked at the amazing reception Dr. Perkins got from a student body that allegedly not only had no interest in Christianity but a real and serious dislike of all things Christian. Then he says:
“Reedies want the same thing that Jesus wants. They want authenticity, not hypocrisy. They want faith that leads to activism, not institutionalism. They want to believe in something not because it is redundantly preached but because it is sacrificially lived.”
Yesterday I mentioned Christianity’s territorial participation in the Culture Wars that developed in the 20th century. Whether you think I was too partisan or pessimistic in my assessment of the situation, what you can not get around is that there is a problem.
We have a problem.
More specifically, we have a problem with how we frame the cultural conflicts. When we use the militaristic language of “combat” we miss what may be really going on. As I said earlier this week, our language about combat not only influences how we interpret our experiences, it is actually creating those experiences at some level.
I’m going to say this again: while I do not like drawing lines and attempt to be generously orthodox, it seems to me that there is a kind of christianity that the world is fine to let us hold and actually finds quite intriguing. Dr. Perkins has that kind of faith. He even gets to use Jesus’ name without folks getting offended or upset.
There is however another type of Christianity that is not as well received. This other kind of Christianity, in many ways, is seen to make the world a worse place. I think that I know at least part of why that is the case.
Modern Enlightenment Christianity – an inheritance from Christendom and the Inquisitions – seeks to categorize, compartmentalize, then control the categories. It is forceful, muscular Christianity. Much more like the Romans in power than the type of power we see Jesus utilizing.
Think that I am over stating it? Look at Dr. Perkins. What if it came out that he did not have perfect theology? What if he held some views about social issues that did not meet the litmus test contemporary clashes? Would he be discounted? Marginalized? Attacked and discredited? I don’t think that there is any doubt.
The seminary that Tony and I went to tries to correct this by adding another overlapping area called ortho-pathy (right feeling). This is a spiritual formation-discipleship emphasis.
That is a move in the right direction. What I fear is that we have become so ingrained with this rabid obsession with our form of orthodoxy that we not only neglect the other two but would discount someone like Dr. Perkins who’s life speaks so loudly about Jesus that his words do not have to.
Our contemporary spiritual climate is so inflamed with animosity, conscientiousness, adversarial approaches, combative critiques, and dismissive polemics that we become gun-shy about adopting the kind of faith that makes the world a better place and shines a welcome light in dark situations.
If you think that this world is full of spiritual poo and it is only a matter of time before Jesus steps back in with vengeance and flushes this world down the eternal drain … then any good we do now is no more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
In that case the only thing that really matters is right belief (orthodoxy) for which we will be judged …
Well, you know the rest. The us-them mentality becomes completely acceptable. The neglect of right-living (orthopraxy) and right-being (orthopathy) becomes justifiable.
I would simply say that Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats seems to put far more concern on being judged by our right actions than any theological litmus test. So not only does God seemed more concerned about it, but the world what God loves seems more attracted by it.
I loved this story about John Perkins’ visit to the college. I am inspired at one level and completely discouraged at another.
Is it just me?
Am I overstating the scope of the problem?