When I look at American culture, I see a broken world deprived of hope, depth, and peace. We have unfortunately not learned how to deal with our wounds. We came to this country looking for freedom. We got it, but we had to take it away from the people who originally had it. We are wounded by wars, so we start wars. We as a culture have not learned to hold the tension of pain, frustration. We have not learned the meaning. We have not learned a better way. This is the value of true great spiritual teaching. The only way to hope, depth, and peace is to hold the wound long enough so it becomes grace. We hold onto it long enough, before we release it. This is what true forgiveness and repentance do.
I can’t say that Christianity has done much better. Unfortunately, I think America has transformed Christianity more than Christianity has transformed America. Somehow, the American agenda becomes the Christian one. This is why the Prophets of our time always get killed, they speak a message of hope, depth, and peace, and that disturbs the false hope, depth, and peace of others. The only people who understand the prophets are the people who are truly thirsty for hope, depth, and peace.
A friend recently said that Christian media is like the Porn Industry. Most Christians watch Christian movies for one thing, just like people who watch Porn watch it for one thing. While Christians and people who engage Christian Media, and people who watch Porn enjoy quality production, they mostly desire the singular fix that it provides. Unfortunately, this reveals a real lack of depth. In a country that worships Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (and I am one of them) as their news anchors, they have forgotten that real news exists. Just as American Christianity, especially Evangelicals, have settled for empty spiritual teachers instead of true prophets. We go to Church, buy books, listen to things to have people agree with our teachings.
Before we cling to despair, we have to remember that there is always Prophets among us. Christianity has the ability to change the world. This is the hope of great spirituality which leads us into greater personal transformation, and sends us out into the world. This is the great reminder of Henri Nouwen’s, “The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it” One of the truly great movements in American faith over recent years has been missional Christianity. This is the Church that goes out into the world, that believes in not only its own religious community, but the community around them. The Church that goes out to the world, will transform the world. The American Church has grown to comfortable in making the world come to us. In trying to increase numbers of Christians, we offer sexy worship services. We have light shows, worship bands that sound like Arcade Fire, and a speaking pastor who cusses, has a tattoo and wears hipster glasses. This is nothing more than religious consumerism, where we try to buy our “Jesus product.” The Church will never be able to compete with the world. When done right, the world will never be able to compete with the Church. We offer something that gives life, hope, peace, depth, and peace. We offer God. Evangelicals like Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Alan Hirsch are leading the way. They see the beauty of incarnational relationship, the service of the least of our brothers, rather than claiming an institutional Church.
Before we understand how we can change the world, we must understand, generously, how we have been changed. We must understand how we have been living of the world, but not in the world. We must find where Christ is needed. We must find where we can do the work of reconciliation. We must be permeated by God, then bring this to the world. As the Philosopher Blaise Pascal reminded us, “God made man in his image, and man returned the favor.” Does man need to have more of man revealed to them, or do they need God?
This video displays this type of Christianity well: