Relevance & Redemption, part II

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What is relevant?

I want us to think about this some more. Last time I invited some responses (and got some great ones) on the reality of living with the darkness of sin in the world. My basic assumption is that it’s only when you’re living in the world that you can be truly “relevant.” And my contention is that we exchange truth for a lie when we come to “save people out of darkness.” We can’t take people out of the world. We can only give a glimpse of the light and allow Christ’s redemption to make an impact. The distinction here is deceptively important. Being like Jesus is the key: hating the evil, but completely at ease with the state of the victims, nonplussed by their sickness, so much so that the life shining through us forces us to love them by living where they live.

And most of us already know that instead, it’s become common to reduce redemption to gimmicks, social mobility, status, and other escapes from reality—much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. Christianity wasn’t supposed to raise your standing in the social strata or help you escape the dirtiness, the unsavory, the violence, sex, and language of our culture. If you think about it, Christianity is more likely to cripple you in the world’s system than help you conquer it. But we’ve begun to equate success as a Christian with the life support system of books, music, and para-church ministries that the Christian industries have created. And I’m really, inescapably tired of it.

Because you know, none of this would be such a problem if it wasn’t for the religiosity it encourages. Religiosity—trading the power of God for the power of men—is ten times worse than the darkness the religious Jesus junkies are so afraid of. False piety and Christian elitism is not simply opposed to the redemption of God; it’s a destroyer of truth. Closing our eyes on ugliness and evil severs the work of redemption, supplanting the reality of God’s humility, and making others feel even lower than they already do.

The fact is, there’s no escaping reality, for Christians or anyone else. We are all under this curse of evil until the day we die. We can’t and should not want to escape the brokenness, for the sake of our neighbors, our charge from Jesus Himself. Of course, we should desire the redemptive nature of God’s work in the world and the ultimate escape of heaven. But let’s just accept the reality of sin. It exists. It can’t be denied. And it has no power over us. And pardon my heathen talk, but what the hell are we so damned afraid of?!

You can’t prevent exposure to evil, if you want to be relevant to evil. When Jesus came, He promised daily help in temptation. He promised a life of adventure, of living in the world as we helped others understand their daily need for salvation. And in return, He promised we’d be consistently reminded of our need for Him as we lived out that charge.

I just want to help more people catch this message. Do you agree? I’m ashamed of much of what is called Christian these days. I don’t know any other way not to be of the world than first, to be in it. It’s only when I’m in the world that I realize my daily need for a savior. Only God gets to not be in the world and Christians need to stop pretending they can be little gods and section themselves off from the people God loves.

You know? This is why we need ministries like Youth Specialties and Relevant media and all the great generation-changers I’ve been getting to know through this blog. I believe we can change the way things have been going with some good books that don’t sell out to the lie of safety. And I want to know who’s with me. I want to see all of you who know this stuff already and feel it down in your toes that God wants to use you to have an impact in some way on this current system. I’ve been jabbering on for a few months now and I’m trying to get my bearings. It seems to me there are plenty of us who realize the need for something new, and some are already doing things about it. We need to find more of them and bring them all together in one place.

There are exciting things on the horizon for those who catch this wave and hang on for the ride. I hope you’ll consider coming along…

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10 thoughts on “Relevance & Redemption, part II”

  1. Very well said! I agree. Why are Christians afraid of it? If we don’t tell the complete redemption story of sin + repentance=redemption, there’s no power in our words. I read so many CBA novels where only half the story is told, leaving me to wonder “What are these people supposed to be saved from? Feeling bad about their circumstances?” Telling half the story is not only powerless, it’s telling a lie.

  2. Well said, Mick. Like a pastor friend of mine says, I’m a recovering Pharisee. I detest what legalism and head-in-the-sandism does to paralyze Christians. And I cannot find a single example in scripture to support such nonsense. My problem (okay, ONE of my problems) is not succumbing to legalism or self-righteousness about legalism and self-righteousness.

  3. I started to write a comment here, but it grew into an essay. I plan to post it Thursday on the Master’s Artist. Thanks for making me think. You’re doing a good work.

  4. You’rea bsolutely right, Mike. I struggle with judging the judgers too. But Jesus led the way with firm love of his attackers. We need to do no less.
    I loved this portion of the interview with Ted Dekker over at Hollywood Jesus: “Well in the CBA you have the same thing. You know, gatekeepers who basically control the commerce, the business side of it. Only now are they starting to realize that the church—that Christians, believers, real believers—warrant and benefit from real literature, not just Christianized stories. Real stories that explore the truth, the true struggle that we all face on a day-to-day basis, which requires writing about both the light, and about darkness because in one sense they define each other. It’s very important to have. One thing I like saying is that if you paint evil with anything less than a truly black brush, you try to use a gray brush in characterizing evil, you in essence are deceiving your reader by saying it is not as black as it really is here. It is actually a little gray. In essence, you are being complicit with evil because evil’s greatest objective is to hide itself. Right? So, who are we as writers to compromise the true nature of evil? To whitewash it with a little bit of white, to turn it into a gray mess when it really is black? Let’s call it what it is, especially evil! I can understand a person without faith doing that, but we, Christian writers painting evil with anything less than the blackest of brushes. How dare we! I say, the teachings of Christ when characterized in real life settings, characterized in stories which represent real life, they are the most important thing to reenergize our culture in a long, long time. I just happen to be one person who is doing it. We need many, many more. We need many more. I’m certainly not the best, I’m certainly not the first, or the last. I’m just one person doing it in an interesting way. It may not even be that great of a way. I’m just doing it and that alone is unique. And so, what is important is what I’m writing about, not me.”
    (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/book_reviews/dekker.htm)

  5. Hey, because I’m also a writer, I happened to notice your blog listed on another site and stumbled on over. Yes, we have to call evil what it is. Pardon my heathen talk; you can paint a dog turd pink but it’s still a dog turd. Let’s get real. Then let’s get real with people — all kinds of people. There’s not so much separating us from non-Christians (for want of a better word). And sin is one thing we certainly have in common. How in the world can you shine a light in the darkness if you won’t go out into the darkness? yikes.

  6. Mick, I am in your camp. But let me offer some thoughts from the older lady who sat at your table at breakfast on Friday at Mount Hermon: I can tell you what we’re so afraid of.
    We’re afraid for our children. Because while it may be that sin holds no power over us – though there’s frequent enough evidence that would indicate otherwise – it does most certainly threaten them. Most of our kids hold a kind of heirloom faith that we handed them when they were toddlers and polished as they grew. That means when they come of an age to pry our fingers off their destiny, one of the first things they discard will likely be their faith, and with it, the accompanying moral standards. And most of us know from past experience, or at least from observation, just how far wrong their lives can go. So in vain we barricade them in a plastic Christian-world with all the corners rounded off.
    We’re afraid for the future. Tell the truth: this past week, as Terri Shiavo lay in bed slowly dying of dehydration, didn’t it cross your mind to wonder how bad things were going to get during your lifetime? The world’s system already sends the clear message that your value equals your tangible contribution minus the inconvenience you impose on others. How long before all those with a negative score will be routinely put to death? Aren’t we already more than half-way there?
    And we’re afraid for our souls. Many of us who read your blog crossed into this camp long ago, with fear and trembling. How many of us had to “backslide” from the same rounded-corner faith we’d handed our children because we’d thought it was the real Christianity? At first it felt like we were losing our faith, because we found ourselves sick to death of many of the “principles” we’d been taught, unable to believe them anymore, and groping for what, if anything, we did believe in the end. Imagine our surprise to find Jesus in this camp, to learn it was he who guided us here. But we still don’t know where his pillar of smoke and fire is going to lead us. It’s exhilarating. And it’s very scary.
    And the people we left in Christian-world look at us with such concern. And the older among us understand.

  7. I write for a few Christian newspapers and magazines and I can tell you, Mick: I’m in your camp.
    When I read through some of the pubs I represent I am dumbfounded by the slutlicked faith that is dished out every month to many believers. And I imagine how many of them take this stuff and apply it to their lives.
    I’m fearful about our faith’s future.
    I may be the last left winged christian in Georgia or the world for that matter. So I know that I have to contend with my editors who want me to turn my articles into non-fiction chicklit instead of my truth about being a single unwed christian mother in a “ProLife, but just Don’t Get Caught Pregnant Christian World.” I’ve lost count on how many times an editor has changed my writing from “my daughter’s father” to my “ex-husband,” as if I’m the only christian woman in the world who struggled with bad boy lust.
    I want to talk to women who have made mistakes to tell them that God is still here for them and can help them through this issue. But when they see me as some warped June Cleaver with flowers and dessert on my article pages, will they take me seriously and will God’s true message get out there?
    I don’t know, bro’, so I’m in you corner.

  8. Hi, Dee. They may never be accepted by “nice” society, but we need to hear from the people who have experience with real life and mistakes. And as these characters talk to each other in jounal pages, blogs, and study groups, if we’re not afraid, soon others will realize too.

  9. it freaks me out how truthfully you speak. (if this is an old post i’m replying to, forgive me, i never really know what day it is).
    i think my great problem with the church, which i’ve just begun to be able to verbalize is we approach everyone like they are broke and we need to fix them. who wants to be someone else’s pet project? it’s like the married wife who just has to fix her husband. yeah, like that ever works. hey, we’re all broke. we can’t fix each other. can’t we just focus on Jesus and forget the brokenness and our actively making it not-broken. i’ve found i only break stuff further when i try to helpfully fix the broken. hear, shattered when i’m through. it’s a recipe for disaster trying to fix the broken without being broken and understanding that first.
    broken but crushed. cast down, but not destroyed (or something like that), suz.

  10. I liked this. I thought this once. I said I’d stop preventing exposure with evil. But now I have a kid and I totally changed my mind.
    Just kidding. :)
    Thanks for the resounding support! I’m really starting to enjoy your skat chat. Hey, everybody stop by siouxsie’s blog (in the sidebar) and leave some niceness.

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