Well, it's a good part of the way through this lenten season, and I just ate another oatmeal raisin cookie, but I kinda' needed to, to get the taste of the bologna sandwich I had for lunch out of my mouth, or at least that's what I told myself. I was doing so well for a couple of weeks there, warding off the sweets. What I can tell you though, is that it tends to be my failures more than my successes during lent that give me the greater appreciation for what I believe Jesus did for me on that first Good Friday.
Because I can remember a time, when sitting in the back seat of that independent bible believing Baptist pastor's car, when he casually suggested that we (the tiny youth group in found myself in) go to an ice cream parlor sometime. I had paused, and hesitatingly asked what we might do there. He had said jokingly that we might stop and stare at the sign. Well, I felt dumb of course. But the thought that we might just be kids and well, enjoy ice cream on a summer's day, seemed so carefree, so fleeting, when so many other simple pleasures like listening to my favorite songs on the radio...well, I was going to hell for that.
So, I know about fundamentalism, and I don't care to revisit it. For me, by the time someone finally told me about grace, it was almost too good to be true! But you know the funny thing, is that I don't hold any ill feelings toward the Baptists in my background, honestly, because as sincerely as they put the fear of God into me, they also gave me a foundation. And as a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, where there were dangers in all directions, they kept me on the right track. And they obviously cared enough to take time for a kid, whom very few people did.
So I wonder where they're at sometimes. And I wonder how they're doing. I imagine if we met again we would disagree on a lot, but I think we might find some common ground too, and here's why I say that. Because I've noticed a big change in the church over the last few decades. It's almost as if the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and the larger church doesn't know which end is up anymore. Anything goes, or almost anything it seems. What is the world, and what is the church? Is there a difference? At some point you have to ask, what do you HAVE to believe to be a Christian?
Everybody seems to find a Jesus that suits their own personal preferences. What's that old quote, the deists found a deistic Christ, the feminists found a feminist Christ, the communists found a communist Christ etc. Everyone seems to want to create God in their own image. Most recently, the secularists seem to be finding a secular humanist Christ in the Da Vinci code. I wonder if Jesus saw it all coming when he asked, "who do you say that I am?" Here's my question. Which of those identities gets you killed for blasphemy?
Some time back, I remember hearing someone I respect describe himself as a recovering fundamentalist. I liked it so much I decided to steal it. I'm a recovering fundamentalist too. And for me, my Christian journey has been about trying to balance those fundamentals, those essentials of the traditional Christian faith: belief in Jesus as he died for life itself, for ice cream and rock and roll, for summer days and beautiful people. To avoid the shallowness of the marshmallow Jesus of our present culture, and instead choosing to know and present a relevant Jesus, just as he has always been, relevant.
Thanks for listening,