Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Is Your Brain on Western Christianity

In the movie A Beautiful Mind the main character played by Russel Crowe is beset by inner imaginings and imaginary characters that convince him of a world that is under attack, a world that only his mad scribblings mathematical diagrams can save. He spends his life becoming more and more enslaved to the fantasy of what his mind presents him with. In my last post we saw Morpheus speaking to Neo about the mind being enslaved and freedom lying in the truth. And how Western Culture has decided to delude itself on the blue pill of fantasy rather than reaching out for an authentic life. Western culture has presented us with a fantasy that has only served to enslave us to it's own desires. We are Russel Crowe, our minds have become enslaved to the American Dream. We need to wake up, arise, and cast off these temporal bonds that drive us to live trapped within ourselves; enslaved to everything people say or think about us; listening to those voices in our heads that have been programmed by society to be driven to live for nothing more than glitz, glamor, and retirement.  And the even deeper and darker fears that live inside us, that speak to us constantly, trying to get our ears. Some call it Satan, but by and large it is self. Our own greatest enemy is ourselves. Satan's only power is to deceive and he takes what we think of ourselves, our weaknesses and uses them against us. For if we had no weakness, Satan would have no power, nothing to exploit.
So why do we do the things that we don't want to do? Is that just our lot in life? To keep on sinning so that grace might abound? Do we have no power to REALLY change? There are many who have answered this differently over the ages. Some say we have all the power in the world, that we are a blank slate and can freely choose to do right or wrong. Others say we are powerless to do anything good except that God should make us do it. Others take a middle road that I am to work as hard as I can and God will work with me changing me along the way. I think as much as America was built on a strong work ethic we have lost that when it comes to our spirituality and many other things. We are currently experiencing an obesity epidemic across the nation like never before. I recently read a news article that did a study on the growing obese population and how these obese people viewed themselves. The findings were strikingly shocking. Across the board they all felt like they weighed significantly less than they actually did and that they were normal. It seems that as obesity becomes the norm people don't see anything wrong with it and perceive themselves in a false light. I would suggest that we are also experiencing a spiritual epidemic in Western Christianity. We are hemorrhaging out and no tourniquet can stop the bleed. We have become un-radical and been so spiritually lazy for so long that it has become the norm and we perceive ourselves just like the obese person as being normal when in reality we are way off the mark of authentic Christianity. We have written a how to book on how to grieve the Holy Spirit. I will lay out what I think this authentic Christianity looks like in further posts, but needless to say one only has to go back to the roots of our history to see how far off we are. We only need to look at the lack of impact we have on society anymore. Christianity used to shake empires, now the only thing shaking is our boots when we even think of radically sharing and living out our faith. A lack of a changed life makes Christianity a who cares thing. We have believed in a lie. The airwaves carry the curse of easy believeism.   For my next post I am including a paper I wrote on this subject as to how I think we've got here, and how maybe we can get back to a beautiful mind. Towards the end of the movie, Russel Crowe's character chooses to stop listening to his imaginary friends and believe what they would say to him. Though they never went away, they were always present, he ignored them and walked on firmly in what he knew to be the truth. So will sin ever be a part of our condition but one that we don't need to listen to or let rule our lives. We can walk on and become who we were meant to be. More than just an American Dream.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

Who am I?  It seems like such a nebulous question. I feel as baffled as Alice did when the caterpillar asked her the same question; lost down a rabbit-hole in my own life. I could say that I am Andrew. But what is in a name?  It means strong and manly. And I often joke that I was named very appropriately. All joking aside I am left with the same question.  When asking ourselves that question I think many of us have chosen to take the blue pill rather than the red pill for fear of what we might find down the rabbit-hole of an authentic life not lived in fear.  We swallow the blue pill of forgetfulness and create our own truths which are only but a dream; an illusion, much like the matrix. I don't know about anybody else but I am tired of taking the blue pills and sleeping life away. Western culture has become synonymous with laziness, lethargia, and obesity. We have an epidemic on our hands. Not only is a major portion of our population physically obese there are also far more who are spiritually lazy. We have a spiritual epidemic on our hands. We have been lulled to sleep by the Gods of greed and gluttony. What has happened? Fundamental Religion has told us that we suck which doesn't inspire anyone to change. The world and liberal theology has told us that we are great just the way we are. Didn't Lady Gaga just release a song like that? Yeah, well the danger with that is if we are great just the way we are then there is no need to change. Frankly, I need to change a lot, I want to change a lot, I want to be more than what I am right now. I want to not be afraid, I want to walk boldly in this life, I want a real authentic relationship with God. I want to love people better. I want to use the gifts I have to make a difference. I think if we want a different life we have to be willing to lose the one we think we have. We have to, like Neo, choose to leave this behind; because the reality is that we are slaves to it. We are all slaves to our fears, to our desires to have a nice safe life. But it's false, just like reality TV. It's not real. Sorry for those of you who think it is. It's even worse than the world. It's a fake show about fake life. So it's twice the fake. When are we going to stop trying to be filled with junk? When are the dreamers going to arise and wake up and start living a radical life of a Christ follower. I mean, think about it. How many hours of our lives have we spent being programmed by the world. If any western Christian had to measure their time spent walking and talking with God to the hours of TV they watched they would be embarrassed. I know I would be. So how do you expect to be any different if you don't live differently. What is going to come out of you is what you put your time into. If we are to ever be different we have to become radical and start saying no to western philosophy and yes to loving the Lord our God with all our heart mind body soul and strength. This is not just a philosophical idea like we have made it. It is not just a proposition or something we say, it is something we live or we are nothing at all but a bunch of hypocrites. When faith is only a proposition there is no truth in it. The truth is in the life that follows. The life that knows the way, the truth, and the life and lives like it. Like Jesus. The reason why you know he's true and real is because nobody would make up such a ridiculous story about God who was birthed out of an unwed 16 year old virgin, grew up, and was framed as a terrorist and hung on a cross and rose again though you only have our word to take for that. I mean, it's crazy. But this story continues to captivate because the truth will always win, it will always break down the walls of our hostility. It is a beautiful magic. Let this magic take hold of your heart and create you anew. Be who you are, who God created you to be. Your life matters. Christians seem to think that it is all about the next life. That is heretical. God is at work restoring this creation, this life, this place. It starts here, with us, right now. If you think that you are a messed up sinner and that is all you will ever be then that is all you will ever be. 
Life will never be perfect, but you can live life well; waiting for the time when there will be no more pain and sadness.  It can be done.  Life can be lived well.  I never would have thought my life would be like what it is.  I have bad days and good.  I struggle with trusting God and allowing him to work in my life.  I feel angry at times and confused because some days nothing makes sense.  I want to run and hide from the world, but I can’t. We don’t have to be afraid of these feelings.  But we do need to acknowledge them and why they are there. 
How well I know what’s hiding inside the caverns of my soul.  And yet I think there is still more to come as I continue to unravel the twisted tapestry in which I exist.  Our dark strangers that lurk within us are free to seize control without our realization.  They are the shadows in the backseat of the car whispering in our ears where to turn and when to go.  The fear and pain of which the shadows are formed take on a life of their own, as they slowly become the master of our souls.   I can say I have been mastered, yet I say no more and begin to walk in the light.  I don’t have all the answers nor will I ever, but I do have hope.

I have wanted to forget my past.  In my forgetfulness I have lived as a practical atheist, believing that I was in some way more capable than God.  I have done so much damage in my relationships through this hypocrisy that always quickly crumbled.  Only in my brokenness can I rise again.  I keep coming back to my brother’s memorial service when I said, “I’m going to live.”  The truth is that I had no flipping idea how to live.  I didn’t live, I just kept building sandcastles on the shore only to have them swept away when the tide came in.  You think I would have learned my lesson, but there again the next day I would be out at the same spot building up the turrets and walls of an inevitable breakdown.  I am a little child shaking his fist at God wondering why everything always has to come crashing down, shouting that this is my life; it’s not a game to me.  I always thought it was enough that I believed I could survive.  But I realize that survival isn’t any kind of life if it means living a shallow distant life from everyone. We need to realize that our chaos and hurt is a gift in that it unfastens our death grip on self-reliance and self-trust shattering our illusions.

It is comfortable in chaos says the victim of hurt and pain who has known no other way of life for so long.  How should I leave what is comfortable?  The myth is that my life is comfortable now.  It is anything but.  I spend my time searching for things to fill my time and thoughts so that I forget just how uncomfortable I am.  I find people to tell me I’m wonderful so that I can forget how messed up I am.  I do everything and anything to avoid having to face reality.  The reality is I’m not the man I thought I was.  I think this is the curse of our culture.  The drive to be something other than what we are, desire things we don’t have, and envy those who have what the media says we should want.  I have fallen prey to this mindset and lived my life in a daze of self-medication and pain avoidance.  The opium dens of the new millennium are our own living rooms lit up by the constant blast of images from a glowing television set where we silently tune out the world and our lives pass us by as we take the blue pill and turn out the light…