Modern Ruins in Christian Evangelicalism

Modern Ruins in Christian Evangelicalism

Lunch at the Ark of Ham

ham-taxidermy-encounter

When after years of planning, scheming and working, seemingly unattainable dreams finally come to fruition, how do you respond?

One response is to look to the future. There are the formative experiences for the children [few of whom are seen in the photo, although they would most likely be in school anyway] and family memories. From a Christian Evangelical perspective, there is the ‘apologetic value’ of such projects.

One could also talk about God’s goodness, how God led the project, provided for the project, protected the project from accusations of fiscal malfeasance. With our latest extravaganza in place, God’s intention seems quite clear. Obviously, this was God’s plan all along. But the word ‘latest’ indicates another possible cause for reflection and ground for perspective.

Another response is to remember the past. Sure, it seems counter intuitive in the midst of ‘doing great things for God.’ Who wants to read history when you can make history? Yet history has a way of imposing its verdict on us despite our best efforts to lock it away in the closet.

Modern Ruins

detroit-ruins

‘Reflection and perspective’ came to mind on reading Lauren Davis‘ categorization of another evangelical extravaganza under ‘modern ruins.’

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m intrigued by social contradiction. And few things in life seem more contradictory to me than paring what is social with desolation. And what has this to do with the Ark of Ham? It so happens that this isn’t the first time that Christians have embarked on great adventures that ended well before their anticipated time. Consider Jim Bakker’s Christian theme park.

modern-ruins-in-christian-evangelicalism

Davis’ article recounts that after opening in 1978, ‘Heritage USA’ soon drew some 6 million guests a year. Then came scandals, then the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status, and then came Hurricane Hugo. Barely into its second decade of existence, Heritage USA closed for good.

History has a remarkable propensity to teach us about humility. Before we adulate and exonerate our vision, ingenuity, motives and successes, we might ask why we expect that our efforts will end so much better than many other equally-well intended evangelical extravaganzas.

What exactly do we leave in our wake? What do our best-laid plans and works actually achieve for God? It is one thing to point to ruins, modern or ancient, and say that they display the futility of human endeavor without God. But Christian fundamentalists notoriously recruit God for all they do.

Christians confess that their works will be tested by God. But they are tested also by time. Rather than proclaiming the meaning of our labors and achievements, we might wait with quiet patience and humility. Good marketing practice is isn’t. But it let God weigh in on topic. God says:

‘Come now, you who say, “today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil’ [Ja 4:13-16].

The Spirituality of Contemplating Uncertainty

Certainty -- Having means you never need to contemplate ... anything.

Certainty

If fundamentalism had a logo, it would be certainty. Fundamentalism might be described as certain people with no uncertainty. And if you have uncertainties, you’d best keep them to yourself. Uncertainty is doubt, doubt is lack of faith, lack of faith clearly means that you are lost.

Yet there are also things about which one cannot be too certain. Are you saved? Do you know that you’re saved? Do you know WHETHER you’re saved? Are you absolutely certain that you’re saved. Is there even the slightest possibility in the darkest recesses of your soul that you might not be saved? Of course enough of this and you’ll be confessing to anything.

Others may have questions and doubts. But we will allow no ambiguity to cloud our judgment about the Bible. And since the Bible speaks to all of life, we won’t allow ambiguity into our social stances. Or our politics. Or our view of science, of economics or anything else. We get to live with divine certainty about pretty much everything.

Meditation

These things said, at least one spiritual practice seems out of place in Independent Fundamental Baptist circles. BibMeditation for Fundieslical and time-honored as it may be, the spiritual practice of meditation seems a poor fit for fundamentalism. IFBs may sing how ‘Jesus bids us shine’ and ‘like a little candle, burning in the night.’ But generally, a little candle burning in the dark is not the image that comes to mind when one thinks of IFB preachers and their trade.

Some reject meditation as a Christian spiritual practice. Some Christians reject Christmas and Easter. Why would they do anything sometimes practiced in non-Christian faiths? Lighthouse Trails ‘ministry’ is built on opposing meditative practices. ‘Got Questions’ courageously declares:

‘True Christian meditation is an active thought process whereby we give ourselves to the study of the Word, praying over it and asking God to give us understanding by the Spirit, who has promised to lead us “into all truth.”‘

Some assumed that when he wasn’t fighting/resisting the devil, Jesus’ 40 wilderness days were spent in meditation. Apparently they were wrong. Jesus was actually studying the Torah, poetic books and the prophets.

Beyond squabbling about what it means to clear the mind or center the thoughts, the real problem with meditation is far more sinister.

Spiritual Practice

Christian meditation presupposes ‘respect for mystery.’ A contemplative life weighs many things and counsels restraint. It prefer questions to answers, and humility to certainty. It prefers breadth of perspective over flat pronouncements. None of these grant room to fundamentalists to influence or manipulate the mind. This means that fundamentalists must resist meditative spiritual practices as a deviation from truth faith.

Meditation on the meaning of life and the struggle to find Biblical and redemptive import in it will always be part of our Christian existence.

Fundamentalists as much as anyone face a world that sometimes makes little sense. Like the ‘preacher’ who authored Ecclesiastes, fundies will be drawn into the quest to find meaning in life. If nothing else, the flat, one dimensional answers fundamentalism offers will drive them to it.

When Pretending Doesn’t Cut It

By the grace of God, some fundamentalists will learn that there are things better than certainty. One is the ability to be honest with ourselves and with others. Another is to live with doubts and questions with grace and confident trust in God. That is a good place in which to be.

 

Blessed Christians

Blessed Christians
Christlikeness — receiving with one hand to give with the other…

Christians are Blessed

Christians are a blessing. They are a blessing because having received freely, they give just as freely. In this way, Christians follow Jesus’ teachings who taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

God lavished his grace upon us. God in Christ reconciled the world to himself. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world. Therefore, when God sends us into the world, it is not to condemn the world. That is why Christians everywhere are known for passing on God’s grace and forgiveness as lavishly as God gave it to Christians themselves!

Christians are a Blessing

So it is that Christians are known to forswear all hatreds and bigotries. Instead they speak grace and peace in a world torn by war and strife. They are not warriors but healers. Just as Jesus stood above the fray, so do Christians. And when caught in the crossfire, they accept wounds without offense or retaliation. Like Jesus, they answer with blessing.

Christians recognize the brokenness and weakness of the little people of the world. Christians bind their wounds, stand by them and defend them. But Christians stand far from slander. They know slander is the Satan’s work. And when prejudices do lead to slander, Christians are the first to stand beside the afflicted to bear Satan’s lash with them. Christians take seriously Jesus’ admonition to love their enemies, and to do them good. Moreover, Christians do this in consistent, loving and concrete ways.

Counter-Cultural Living

Christians do these things all the time. They expect nothing in return. They live simple, sacrificial, counter-cultural lives for the good of others. Christians have no scores to settle because they keep no record of injuries received. They just do their deeds and are blissfully unaware that they are doing them. As followers of Jesus, this is the only way they know.

This is why Christians are highly regarded in our society.