Thursday, August 28, 2008

A family beach vacation

I had a little beach vacation in Oregon a couple of weeks ago. My parents and aunts, uncles, various cousins and such pitched in to rent a house in Lincoln City and we stayed there for 4 days. It was fun to connect with my relatives and spend time with the wife, kids and my parents. The kids wanted to make an action movie, so I built a child-sized stunt dummy the week before we left and we picked out costumes. Justin was disenchanted with the movie-making process after only a few scenes, so we had to cut his character and change plans. In addition losing 1/3 of the cast, the wind on the beach was vicious so we ended up with a massively truncated version. But we did find a really cool cliff to throw the dummy off of for the grand finale. (We got a lot of curious looks from the bystanders.)

Another highlight of the trip was a walk on the beach with my dad and a rambling conversation about various theological issues. I’m really grateful for the parents that I have. I’ve heard plenty of stories from friends and others about parents that get insanely angry with them when they challenge the beliefs that they were raised with. I could have gotten those parents that are so close minded and threatened by other beliefs that they disown me because of my heterodoxy. But I didn’t. My parents are a very important link to my evangelical roots, but they are not so inflexible that I can’t still communicate with them about deep subjects. In other words, we have enough common ground that the issues we disagree on don’t cause personal emotional injury. (At least none that I’m aware of.)

My dad and I talked about what the heck the “emerging church” is. No consensus there. As Socrates famously said, “ One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” To which I add, “about a definition for the emerging church.” My dad says it’s a fad. I want to attach my own agenda to it and say it’s the next evolution of the Church away from institutional corporate structures to a more cellular, small group oriented community. That’s the beauty of a nebulous, undefined concept: anyone can jump on board and pretend to steer! (Here is a link my mom sent me with an interesting look at the subject. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/08/will-the-real-emerger-please-stand-up/ )

The main reason I was prompted to write this blog was something profound that I had completely overlooked due to our culture’s language evolution. My dad and I were talking about hypocrisy, and how so many young people don’t even consider Christianity because they perceive Christians as hypocrites. I noted that yes, all Christians fail to live up to their own standards, but that this is also the case with everyone else with the possible exception of those whose only law is: Do as thou wilt. So yeah, all Christians are hypocrites just like everyone else. But then my dad reminded me that that is not what hypocrite used to mean. When we look at the acts and attitudes of hypocrisy that Jesus excoriated, we see something very different than simply failing to live up to one’s own standards. Jesus’ examples were concerning people who lived double lives and lied about it. Those who could finagle their own interests above other’s through legalistic loop holes they discovered. People who found ways to follow the letter of the law while acting contrary to the spirit of the law. In other words, a hypocrite is one who loves themselves more than others, but finds ways to lie about it and create the illusion that they don’t. This is a purposeful and premeditated posture. It’s an attitude. A thought process. “How can I look like a good person while doing as much selfish stuff as possible?” I think that if you aren’t making such calculations then you probably are not a hypocrite.

Here is what is not a hypocrite. “I really want to do what is right, but keep screwing up and I’m sorry about it and I’m trying to change.”

I think this is a terribly important concept for our culture to understand. And one that has vast story and character potential.

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