Monday, November 21, 2011

no hard truths, please, we're Christians

What is missing in Christian writing is the dark side of the moon, the Psalm 88 stuff. Everyone has gone through some of the same losses & disappointments and it is so beneficial for us to identify with those who admit to the struggles and sufferings. It would do the Church a world - a heaven! - of good to embrace this. But even though the Bible is that real - look at Saul's tragedy - look at some of the grotesque kings and queens in the OT and NT (Herod in the New, Jezebel and Ahab in the Old) and the hurt they inflicted on others - Christians, it seems, are not that real. At least, not when it comes to the fiction they wish to purchase (nonfiction seems to fair better with this sort of life honesty). What a shame. Can't you see how a writer could help us by telling stories where people are hurt in churches, disappointed when God doesn’t answer certain prayers in the way they expect, are lonely and afraid even when they are believers? Hard times don’t go away just because we have faith – no matter what some preachers and Christian movies try to tell us. I think we do the Church an injustice by not being as honest about life as the Bible is – and gives us the liberty and affirmation to be as well. But, alas, we stick to Psalm 23 & 150 and ignore 88 - it cripples us.

Which points out to me that the problem with Christ's Church today is not a need for more dogma and purer doctrine - the need is for more empathy, more compassion, and more reality - all of which are in short supply. If we could be as real as the Bible we could discuss our hard times in light of all the people who had hard times in the Bible, including and especially those who never experienced instant healing, or easy resolution to inner and outer conflicts, or answers to prayers that made sense to them.

My first novel, Mizzly Fitch, has as a main character a gnarly old fisherman who feels his life is a battle between himself and God. The seekers and the secular crowd loved it but much of the Christian crowd didn't know what to do with it, even though it's full of Christness. The book was taught in Canadian high schools for about 20 years (published in 88). To show how God is in this stuff if we give him a chance, a teacher at a college that wasn't a Christian school told me how many students had started to read the Bible for the first time after reading the novel. It actually crossed all kinds of boundaries and I even have a heartfelt letter from a Jewish woman who bought it from a bookstore in New Jersey. It's still in print so I imagine it may come up some day in the next few years in an interview - in which case I'll talk about its place in my writing of other gentler and more upbeat stories. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Or should we cut Psalm 88 and Job out of the Bible along with quite a few other painful and difficult sections?

It drives me crazy - I feel like we've shrink wrapped God and his gospel and that many millions who would believe don't - due simply to our narrow-mindedness about writing and speaking about the hardships in Christians’ lives – in all people’s lives! – that aren’t resolved by a quick prayer or a 30 minute sermon or a five minute quiet time from Our Daily Bread or The Upper Room.

Pretending we do not have these struggles helps no one – the lost or the found. For those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. If the truth is diminished by pretense, how real are we before God and how real is our worship? How can a pretend gospel redeem people from real darkness?

1 comment:

Bill L. said...

How can an understanding of any life that cannot generate the dynamo of amazement and thanks that powered the cry of the woman at the well to all in her town over what God has done for it hope to stand beside the reality of "who is forgiven much loves much"?
Such a situation may, by-and-by, be revealed as a quite serious problem in a universe built on, empowered by, and governed in LOVE decorated with heart-deep thanksgiving.
This is the problem within the people who say they are of God when they let themselves be told where to pasture by folks who view themselves as professional elite, and whose highest values and methodologies, of "tools of the craft of life," are a subset of those of this present world-system. How can such be recognized? Quite easily, no way will they allow themselves to be thought of as one of the congregation's ordinary people.
If this view is correct, perhaps we should expect a God Who loves His Bride to raise watchmen to the walls of our culture to warn the individuals who are invited but in terrible danger once again of mistaking form, with its cultural rewards (and its emptiness, vanity, disappointments and pain), for substance, with its unexplored beauties (and its utter requirements for honesty and courage).
Is it still allowed to say something along the lines of "man-up"? In my less than polished military past that phrase was usually accompanied by something I will amend for sensitivity, "____ or get off the pot."