Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Jumble of Disconcerting and Infuriating Ideas

Right now while I'm writing this post, there is a documentary playing in the background.  It is called Raw Faith.  It is a documentary about Marilyn Sewell, a unitarian minister.  It is honestly just what I expected.  My heart hurts for the pain of her childhood and family life.  But, I hurt too for some of the choices she made--like leaving her husband when her children were toddlers.  She talked about it--and didn't say there was abuse--only that he didn't feel like "the right one".  Interesting.  She talks over and over about people being "good" people.  She mentions having a "calling", but not WHO that calling is from or where that calling comes from.  She mentions love over and over, but not the source of that love.  She attributes that love to the beauty of people.  Her ministry took her from her children because she hasn't had much left over for them.  Several people, including her two boys, talk about the role that the church fills in her life.  It is her significant other.

Where is God in this picture?  She believes in the wisdom she has inside of her--"the divine is within".  It reminds me of what I heard over and over in the Quaker church I grew up in.  There was much focus on "that of God in every man", but none on Jesus.  In Raw Faith, Ms. Sewell's therapist encouraged her to listen to her own deepest longings.

I find this idea over and over in our culture.  The idea is that the answers can be found within ourselves.  I found it in a teaching book about poetry... I found it in Suzanne LaFleur's fiction book Eight Keys... I found it in just about every recent romantic comedy that I've seen in the past few years...  I see it in advertising every day.

He isn't shown encouraging her to read God's Word.  He never once quotes Scripture.  Hmmm...  In her sermons, she tells stories from history, but not from the Word (at least on the screen).  There is this idea of truth that continually comes up in this film--but I wonder where is this truth that she speaks of coming from?  The point I am starting to see in the eyes of this woman is wholeness--she is on a journey to wholeness.

I don't think she can find that without God.  Christ came to die for her sins and my sins and your sins.

It's very interesting to me to hear someone preach over and over that the answers can be found within us.  I don't think they can.  What I see in myself makes me realize more and more how much I cannot understand and how Great God is.  God amazes me.  No human can create a flower the way God can.  We can nurture it, but we can't create it.  No human can create the weather.  The big bang and spontaneous generation has not been able to be replicated despite many human attempts.

But, the reality of God is something that I see in my own heart when He washes it clean and compels me to forgive when I don't want to.  He rid my heart of anger when I prayed that I had tried for years to dispel on my own.  God is very real to me.

In contrast to this documentary, I have been reading Mark Driscoll's new book A Call to Resurgence. It's been interesting, eye-opening, and heart-cringing.  Pastor Driscoll has a very blunt, direct style.  My husband tells me constantly that I always choose the middle of the road.  He's right.  I do.  I try to be a diplomatic, peacemaker at all times without sacrificing what I believe.  Pastor Driscoll, on the other hand, feels called to live very differently.  He says those things that cut right to the quick.  He isn't averse to making people squirm.  He is a west-coast, Seattle-living Christian.  I think this is important to note because we recently had a visiting pastor preach at our east coast church. The pastor was from the west coast and his style of speaking was so different than what I am used to now.  But, it is very much like I was once used to in my youth growing up on the west coast. 

But, back to this book.  The premise of this book is that Christendom is dead--which Driscoll gives lots of support for (and I agree with).  So, as believers, we need to band together--to love others well, to overlook tribal boundaries (basically denominational boundaries), pray for one another, and seek to glorify God in our lives.  But, we need to do this without the false belief that we can rest on our laurels and think the world is friendly to Christians.  It's not.  That's basically the point to this book.  It's easy to be lazy and take it for granted that the world is going to make life easy for you.  But, when you realize it isn't, you realize, too, that you have to fight to live what you believe.  That's Driscoll's point.  He's not inflammatory about how Christians need to engage in politics and that our salvation will be found if our country becomes a Christian nation.  That's not the point of this book.  His point is that we need to stop criticizing other believers and instead focus on loving people--believers and unbelievers and sharing the Word of God.  True. 

The book itself was interesting.  But, I found that it went on and on.  Often Driscoll's examples almost offend, but don't quite.  He really gets close to an imaginary line between inoffensive and offensive.  He attacks a lot of people by name.  Sometimes I felt what he said in the book didn't need to be said.  I found myself mired down in the book and had to jump ahead.  The second half of the book about tribalism and getting over the boundaries felt unsettling to me.  How he spoke of himself and who he is (well known) also was a bit unsettling to me in the context of the tribal discussion.  But, I very much agree with what he says on the last page (295), "More than ever, it is important that godly tribal chiefs love one another, pray for one another, and labor together for the greater good of the Kingdom of God.  This does not require watering down our convictions but rather adding to them the Bible's exhortations to love and unity."  I whole heartedly agree.

Would I recommend this book?  Only if you know you like Mark Driscoll's style.  It can come off as very abrasive to people and I would definitely preview the book before purchasing it. 

Side by side, these two media inputs are quite a contrast.  One is without the Word and one exhorts the Word and truth.  If there was a continuum between the two, I am close to Driscoll's camp, even though there are many things I see differently.  I appreciate that he feels a deep conviction to call Christians to be alert and not sleepy.  Christians need to actively live their faith and love others with the love God has given us (I John). 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Driscoll's book for review from the publisher. 

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