10.26.2010

Call Me a Fool for the Right Reasons


Evangelical Christianity has taken a beating in the mainstream of late. Pundits and their audiences have jumped all over Tea Party candidates for viewpoints deemed hilariously primitive, like that evolution and climate change are hoaxes and masturbation is wrong. Though a majority of people in this country claim the Christian faith, many would qualify their affiliation as "but not like those wackos."

You may be surprised (or not) to learn that what I wish for Christians in America is not that we are not called fools, but that we are called fools, but for reasons that are consistent with lives that are consistent with the Bible. Consider what the typical person considers a reasonable life: striving for physical and material comfort, doing right by one's children, having some sense of moral decency and fairness and love and charity. If only Christians would fall neatly within those agreed upon norms, it is thought, we wouldn't have such strife, such zaniness, such bigotry.

To be sure, we Christians can be guilty of beliefs and behaviors that are truly destructive, from the standpoint of strife and zaniness and bigotry. Worse, we can claim that our foundation for such beliefs and behaviors is our faith, further cementing our intolerable and hard-headed attitudes. I am not excusing us when we are in the wrong in those ways.

However, would that the world see more Christians who look at the description above of the reasonable life and say instead: "Seems to sound good. But that is not the standard set for us in the Bible. That standard presupposes we remain the center of our world, and we make choices to do good deeds and maybe even practice a little religion along the way. But the Bible presents a far more dividing fork in the road. The Bible describes one road in which we continue on our way as our own lords, and a second, far narrower and less traversed road in which we forsake lordship of our own lives and call someone else Lord, ordering our thoughts and desires and actions and words until they are perfectly in line with his plans for our lives and this generation."

To be sure, Christians can follow this line of thinking to the extreme, until we are no better than the jihadists, cultists, and militia men who have had their identity swallowed up by someone or something else in a way that is dehumanizing and violent and detrimental. What I am describing does not cause us to vanish, but paradoxically fulfills more fully who we were meant to be: creatures made by God for great pleasure and great purpose, pointing not to trivial things but to a grander mission and a more glorious name. For those of us who have made that choice (though we fight against our own desires every day), it is indeed a freeing and exhilarating and life-giving way to go.

And yet it can look like utter foolishness to the world. Fools who are otherwise well-credentialed people choosing into inglorious lives in order to fulfill whatever arena of service they feel they have been called to. Fools who risk life and limb, family, status, and comfort, and not only so but considering it an honor to so suffer for what they chosen to commit fully to and to so affiliate with those in our society who society heaps scorn on but God has a special heart for. Amid a sea of self-professed Christians who continue to be the lord of their own lives and simply clothe themselves with the trappings of the Christian faith, fools choosing to say that this is no Christianity at all and instead subsuming their agenda for that of their Maker.

The world has plenty of examples of easy-to-ridicule Christians, fanatical Christians, and self-professed Christians whose faith is bland to the point of having no taste. Would that the world see some examples of Christians who could be properly called fools, but for the right reasons.

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