Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Fever

I woke up, May 2011, with spring fever - in the sense of laziness - and without getting out of bed started to read about Frederick Buechner in Yancey's Soul Survivors: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church. This book leaves me with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. Joy because Yancey writes well and asks many of the questions that I too have had. Sorrow because all of the writers who influenced Yancey came from privileged backgrounds. We worship Jesus and we beg God to break our heart for what breaks his. We talk about the life giving faith, strength, peace, the poor and the suffering have in Jesus but we then go back and admire the rich, the privileged, and what they do for the poor. Why is it I never read a book about how much the poor are admired for what they do for the rich?

There are authors who write about the poor as Yancey himself notes. The writer Robert Coles, for example, wrote through children. Frederick Buechner, who wrote about the ordinary and de-mystified the saints, showed the world just how human they were with feet of clay.  More recently, and this is not a Christian book, Katherine Boo wrote about life through the eyes of the poor in the slums of Bombay in Behind the Beautiful Forever. Still, my question holds. It actually falls in line with another question that Yancey was asked in India and that he recounts in the book:
One thoughtful young Indian who had sat quietly through the discussion spoke up at this. "I don't understand, " he said. You seem to say that the West on general is receptive to a saint, someone like Gandhi who stands apart from culture. But is the church receptive? You have said that American Christianity has never produced a saint who follows along the lines of a Gandhi. All the Christian leaders are so different from Gandhi. You seem to imply that if a Gandhi rose up in the American church today, he would not be taken seriously, would perhaps be laughed at, rejected. And yet those same Christians say they worship Jesus Christ. Why don't they reject him? He lived a simple life, preached love and nonviolence, refused to compromise with the powers of this world. He called on his followers to 'take up a cross' and bear the sufferings of the world. Why don't American Christians reject him?"
Yancey concludes thus: It was a good question. One I still cannot answer.

I, on the other hand, do have an answer. We don't reject Jesus because we re-create him. We worship a Jesus fashioned to be counter-cultural but not radical, a cardboard cutout, but not real, partial not full. The Jesus, we worship, is loving and charming, not judgmental, remembering Isaiah "A bruised reed he will not break" not Revelation, "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron." Am I right? Or am I wrong? Do tell.

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