Back to Basics

Life has a way of getting seriously complicated. In fact, it kind of stays seriously complicated. I’m getting ready to start yet another semester, which means that I’m basically not going to have time to breathe for the next 4 months or so.

I was talking to a friend on the phone just a few minutes ago. Talk about getting slammed…life just nailed him in a big way. Almost makes me feel bad about thinking anything was wrong in my life, because I don’t have anything going on that can touch his. But I’ve just been spending time thinking lately about how complicated and screwed up things can get, and it occurred to me a couple of days ago that, all too often, we make them that way. Like, we almost go out of our way to make things more complicated than it should be.

I think that’s why religion irritates me so much. We’ve taken something very basic, very real, and very attainable, and we’ve turned it into something elitist, something snobbish. I hate that. The farther I move toward my master’s, the more bogged down I get in these abstract theological concepts that just make things a lot more complex than they should be. Honestly, I think they rob us of the closeness that we should have with God, the spiritual depth that we should have to our lives, because we’re so busy worrying about all this other stuff. And to be totally honest, I think that we’re gonna get to Heaven, and God’s gonna slap us all in the head and tell we were all wrong anyway. He’s going to tell us that we all got really hung up on things that don’t matter. I don’t know if I want to say that theology is useless, but it’s close. In case, it’s definitely overdone.

I’ve really been impressed lately with how basic it is. He died for us. He wants us to accept that. Then He wants us to tell others about it. That’s not difficult. That’s not theological. That’s just true. Basic, easy to understand, not difficult or wrapped up in technicalities. Just real. I think He wants us to get back to basics. I think He wants us to stop making things so difficult, and just do this.

Really, it’s kind of nice to think that maybe life shouldn’t be so complicated, isn’t it?

Cyclical Cynicism

I’ve found myself examining things a lot today. Thinking back on things that have happend in the last few weeks, examining decisions, examining myself, examining God, examining how they all go together. I took a real Sabbath day today, something I haven’t done for a few weeks, and just spent a lot of time driving around town and thinking. So I suppose this is going to be some kind of rambling collision of those thoughts, but I actually do have a point that I want to make here.

When I think about the church in Acts, about Jesus when He walked among us, I think of excitement. I think of people being real. He shook up the entirety of the way humans viewed religion. That, after all, is one of the reasons His own hated Him so much. I guess I see the historical Jesus as a revolutionary, someone Who wasn’t contained by pre-conceived traditions and ideas of how religion should be done, and how people should (as seminarians love to say) “do church.” I bet Jesus didn’t get hung up on petty things. In fact, I know He didn’t, because Jesus was focused on what mattered. He came save us. That simple.

Over and over this past week, He has impressed upon my heart that it is, in fact, that simple.

That’s a huge revelation for me, because I have gotten seriously side-tracked over the last few months in a lot of ways. It’s odd, really, because in a lot of ways God has been making a lot of improvements, also. But I think that we lose sight of what’s important a lot. I see so many churches so wrapped up in politics and attendance reports, business meetings, finances, traditions, and other crap that they’ve lost sight of what we’re really supposed to be doing this for. I just left a church that I had been attending for a long time, and those are part of the reasons why. Yet, when I decided it was time for me leave, when I had peace that this was what God would have me to do, I have people in that church suddenly begin taking it personally, making me feel as though as I’ve insulted them somehow. How dare I choose any option other than their denomination? How misguided I must be!

Well, that kind of garbage is exactly why I’m fed up with denominations to start with. When I see “denomination,” I see “carefully disguised way to teach Christians to hate each other.”

I was browsing the television tonight, and I kept coming across this nice traditional Christian programming: Jerry Falwell, Kay Arthur, etc. I guess that works for some, and I’m not arguing that both of those people have important messages from God, but I swear I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few seconds. The tradition seems to have become more important than the Message. The Good News has become the let’s-not-get-too-excited-about-it-news. We do the same thing over and over again, every Sunday, without even realizing the significance of the routine, the meaning of the tradition. Worse, we do it for generations, getting locked into a cycle of “I do it this way because that’s how my parents did it” without even consulting Scripture to see what God might have to say about it. Religion has overcome our spirituality. It has to look a certain way and sound a certain way for us, and if it doesn’t fit those arbitrary standards, then it just isn’t Godly, now is it?

No wonder people get bored with Christianity. If I weren’t a Christian, and I were looking in from the outside, I’m not sure I would want it, either.

I guess the point I’m trying to make with all of this disconnected banter is that we need to be real. Religion is fake. It’s lulled us into a stupor. It’s killing us. Worse, it’s killing others because it’s inhibiting our witness. There’s barely a pulse left in us, and I can’t think God’s happy about that.

I think one of the reasons people rushed to Jesus as they did when He was here was because He was real. Think about it. You know when you’re talking to someone who’s real, and when you’re talking to someone who just knows what to say. Jesus didn’t use pre-programmed answers laden with tradition. He was real. In fact, He couldn’t be anything else, because He was God. And God is real.

Maybe we should live by example?

Just a thought.

Crisis Hotline

I was praying yesterday for the miners who were trapped in the West Virginia coal mine.

Coming from a journalism background, I understand the importance of getting various perspectives on a story. I bounced back and forth between CNN, MSNBC, and Fox during this tragedy. Much of the footage came from this small country church where the families of the miners were staying, praying, singing hymns, and so forth. Much was made of the “miracle” for which they were praying. When the news broke at about 11:45 last night that 12 miners were alive, there was a lot of praising going on. Then, through some completely monumental screw-up that I cannot even fathom, I awoke to the news this morning that there had been “miscommunication,” and in fact, there had been only 1 survivor. 12 were dead.


Yesterday afternoon, I was praying for those miners and their families. It occurred to me that all too often God is our “crisis hotline.” We believe that He’s up there, but we can’t seem to make the time to talk to Him until something horrific has happened, either in our lives, or in the world around us.

CNN posted an interview with one of the family members, who said that the event had shaken her faith in God, that she didn’t even know if there was a God any longer. They made a big deal out of the tag line they took from her words, “a miracle taken away.”

Then why in the world were we calling out to Him in the first place?

I mean, cognitively speaking, if we’re talking to Him, then we believe He’s up there, right? And almost everyone does call on Him when all hell breaks loose, don’t we? So much for the illusion of atheism. But then when it turns out that He didn’t spare us from our disaster, we choose to say that we don’t think He’s up there any longer. Sour grapes. He wouldn’t allow that to happen, right? He wouldn’t put us through that if He were a God of love like we believe He is, right?

God said, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15, NKJV). Don’t misunderstand me, I’m far from being a Calvinist, and I’m not attempting to overplay the sovereignty card. But sometimes, God permits evil to happen. We don’t understand that. We can’t understand that. The “problem of evil,” as seminarians like to call it, is one of the great apologetic issues of the human condition. We haven’t, and we won’t, be able to solve it. I’m not even going to attempt to do so here. I will say that, as I’ve carefully attempted to unpack this issue in the past, it does always come back to a loving God in my mind. But there is no suffering worse than existential suffering. Never is it more painful than when it comes to your doorstep.

So when this woman said what she said, it brought tears to my eyes.

Because I can understand her words spilling from her broken heart. I didn’t sidestep, expecting lightening to strike her. Given time, she’ll unpack this for herself. She’ll be bitter for a while, of course. God is big enough to handle that. He’s patient. And He reveals Himself through the most tragic of circumstances at times. I know that tears came to His eyes, as well, when she said this. I’m begging Him to love on those families, as I know He will, during this time.

And it’s my hope that He will not just be their crisis hotline, but that they will remain with Him in order to get through this, and dependent upon Him in the future. It is that closeness, that blind faith, that effort of believing even when the belief surpasses logic, that keeps us close to Him.

Even when the horror comes to our doorstep.