Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's in a name?

     I figured that I might need to explain the name for this blog, so I'll illustrate it with another story.

     A while back I was at work one night.  I always try to bring a book with me in case there is any down time.  This time I had brought Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz."  If you haven't read it yet, you are really missing out. (Stop reading this blog right now and go out and buy a copy)
     So anyway, I had left the book out and my friend Mick walks by and picks it up.  Mick is a very funny person and a very cool DJ at a local community radio station.  So when she saw the title she naturally thought it was a book about music.  When she read the description under the title, "Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality,"  she let out a moan and said "GOD, I don't want to read about GOD!"  An interesting response to a simple book title, don't you think?  Why would you think that anyone would have that kind of a response to a book cover?  Just think about that question for a bit before reading any further.

     OK, ready?

     Now I can't claim that this is the answer for everyone, but in this particular instance it has to do with an un-named person who also works at our store.  This person tends to let everyone know that they are a "Christian."  They also tend to let everyone know when they are wrong, being sinful...and what place they are going to because of such foul wickedness.  The odd thing, though, is that this same individual is one of the most UN-happy people you could ever meet. (At least as far as most who have to work with this person would tell you) When given half a chance this person will fill your ears with all the tales of woe that life has beset them. (Yes, I am even keeping this person gender neutral.) 

     So much for "the Victorious Christian Life."

     Needless to say, when Mick saw the words on that book her immediate association  to anything remotely "Christian" was this person who tends to excel at being a buzz killer.  And Mick is not the only one at the store who has either received or been witness to the unbiased judgements of this person.  "I hate Bible Bashers" is a refrain I have heard more than once at the store.  You want to know something?  So do I!

     At the top of this entry is a book by Gabe Lyons & David Kinnaman called "UN-Christain."  It was a part of a 3 year study by the Barna research group on how people about 30 and under perceive Christianity in America.  Next to the Bible itself, it's probably the most important book I've ever read...and it's not a pretty picture.   Essentially, their findings show that the church is perceived as being #1. Hypocritical, #2. Only interested in a good "Body Count" at the altar, #3. We hate gay people, #4. We are sheltered, #5. Way too political, and #6. Judgmental.  It's a painful book to read.  At least it was for me, because I found myself guilty on multiple counts as I read through the book.  You might not like what the book has to say, but you simply will not be able to dispute the research.  The Barna research group is simply too good at what they do for you to fight the facts. (You should pick this book up too, while you are out getting a copy of "Blue Like Jazz."...which might be difficult if you had stopped reading and gone out to get the first book like I told you to.)
     So it would appear that I and my fellow believers have gone out of our way for decades now to give Jesus a nice, big black eye in the eyes of American non-believers.  Actually, the majority of the stuff in the book are things I have been thinking about and questioning for years.  But I've never seen it put out so precisely before.  The comical part about the book as that it also shows that while non-believers tend to have a problem with many, many so-called Christians, they tend to kind of "Dig" on Jesus...a little ironic, don't you think?  How is it possible that so many people who call themselves Christians tend to act like the very Pharisees that Jesus constantly popped a bolt over?

     OK, so why the long rant before explaining the title of my blog?  Well, the truth is that I don't like to call myself a Christian.  I hope that doesn't sound terribly heretical, but I just don't like the term that much any more.  It seems to carry too much negative baggage with it. (And now you know a little bit why) When people ask me if I am Religious (another term that tends to give me the dry-heaves), or if I am a Christian I try to respond that I am "Tripping & Stumbling while following Jesus."  Ta Da!
     I've become a bit tired of having to go through some apologizing when talking about my faith with others.  Unfortunately, it's become rather necessary for me, but it is NOT apologizing for being a believer. (That's a term I like) What I have to apologize for is the way I and other Christians have behaved that has given the listener enough negative red flags to fill Tiananmen Square.  I find that when I use my tripping & stumbling line, it tends to catch folks of guard a bit and softens the negative perceptions.  I also like this phrase because it doesn't sound final or perfected.  It sounds more like a journey...which is what it really is.
     I think the best thing a believer can do on this journey is to simply be "Real."  And being "Real" means that you acknowledge that you are so far from perfect that you wouldn't even presume to judge an unbeliever...which is strictly forbidden in the first place.  It also means that you try to live as transparent a life as possible, willingly admitting that you do NOT have it all together, that you have your issues,  struggles & demons.  But it is also an acknowledgement that while you are messed up and imperfect, you have a God who IS perfect and loves you regardless.  This God loves you so much that He willingly took on human form and allowed Himself to be butchered for your sake.  And at His resurrection He took all of those imperfections of yours and flushed them down the toilet, saying "Hey, I know you're messed up, but I love you anyway.  I'm a little crazy that way.  So why don't you let me give you a hand?" Finally, being "Real" also means that while you are picking up your own cross and carrying it, you help the other believers carry theirs too...and do as little as possible to trip them on the way.   

     Boy, I sure hope most of that made sense.


1 comment:

  1. Joe,

    I can certainly relate!

    We have a co-worker in common, and it always seems to puzzle me, that this person claims "to be working for God", not the store.

    If we, as believers, truly have a heart for God, and carry that love in our hearts, wouldn't/shouldn't that love be reflected in our words, thoughts, and deeds? (If we are having a really bad day and we have to be at work, wouldn't you suppose there could be a "happy medium"?) This person's negativity is scary...

    Obviously we all have different things going on in our lives, and we all have different struggles, but come on... Loving God and having Jesus in your heart is something to be happy about! :)

    It has always been quite baffling to me that true "Christians" in our society are some of the hardest people to be around.

    While Jesus has a loving and compassionate heart, and a level of patience that blows me away, so many believers seem as though they have hearts of stone... Hardened by life... Seemingly with not even a speck of compassion. (And this doesn't even touch on the concept of "playing God" and judging others...)

    One thing I have found throughout my life is that the word "Christian" seems to scare many people. As with so many other things in life, I think the idea of being a Christian means something different to every person. And that's really okay, as long as we keep it in its proper perspective.

    It's almost as though the term "Christian" is used all too loosely. Either we are believers or we aren't... I don't believe there can really be a middle-ground. A person either has a true relationship (however deep it may be) with Jesus and a true love for God, or they don't. We can't sort of love them. We either do or we don't...

    We are all blessed in that our relationships in our faith are at different levels of understanding. Life is not black and white.

    There's an old saying:

    "Anything worth having, is worth working for."

    To understand its value, we have to be willing to apply the effort! To have the desire to grow in our faith, we have to be willing to struggle, and suffer, as we find our way... Tears are good. Whether they are from a really hard struggle or tears of joy or confusion --- God can relate!

    And the really special part, is that when we stay true to our faith, God will place all sorts of people in our lives, so that we never have to go through any of these things alone! :)

    It's so awesome ---- He loves us - no matter what we have ever done... (I choke on that really often!)