America is the pinnacle of western society, an ideology founded by the ancient Greeks. I do not mean in any way that America is superior to other nations traditionally considered “western” (as opposed to “eastern society”). What I mean is that as a culture and society, we have completely bought into humanism and materialism. We are obsessed with everything the ancients were: education, entertainment, sports, media, and religion. And in a culture where people are made into icons because of their achievements (or in the case of President Obama winning to Nobel, for intentions), naturally the society begins to turns inwards. It’s all about me, what I’ve accomplished, and how much attention I can bring onto myself. “I wanna be somebody!” people say. I don’t think there’s any doubt that in our culture, “it’s all about me. Me. Me. Me!”
Eastern culture has traditionally been the complete opposite, focusing all about the community. This is of course changing as the west influences the east more and more. But eastern culture, and especially Jewish culture, is focused on the good of the community. This is seen throughout the Bible and is something we tend to forget or overlook.
I’m going to take a break from my usual theological postings to post something a little different. This post is dedicated to the Haskell Singing School, a church camp I have gone to every year for the past 14 years (with the exception of 2006 when I got my first job out of college and had no vacation time saved up – a sad year indeed).
Now you might be asking yourself: why would someone go to a church camp for 14 years? Aren’t those camps just for kids? It’s a good question. Most church camps are for a certain age group. For instance, when I was in 4th and 5th grade I went to Camp Impact at Oklahoma Christian University which is for that age range (funny enough, Erin, my wife, also went to that camp those years but we didn’t know each other). Camp Impact was great fun but I wouldn’t want to keep going year after year. The same is true for other camps that kids go to like Kadesh, Blue Haven, Cornerstone, Zenith, etc. You actually outgrow going to these camps because they are targeted to a specific age group and thus what you once might have gotten out of them you no longer can.
Singing School is different. How? Well let me explain…
My previous post, The Evangelical Collapse, surprisingly got some good reactions and reviews both from people telling me verbally as well as others in the blogosphere. I had expected people to reject my ideas outright, but of course I might have been still viewing the post like it was written originally. Or maybe people are ready for a real change in the way we do church? I know that I am, and I’d like to think that more people out there are as well. Lots of people read this blog now and I’ve seen many people have the same reaction: I should be a disciple of Jesus, not this half-hearted pew-warming learner I am now. But when I mention discipleship and finding yourself a mentor and becoming their disciple, alot of people struggle with that. Some will ask: “Aren’t we all disciples of Jesus?” Sometimes even someone will bring up Paul in 1 Cor. 1:10-17 where he berates the Corinthians for dividing and saying “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” and etc, and use that as a reason against having human disciplers. But I think that going down the path of “we’re all just disciples of Jesus” has led us (in part) to where we are today. Allow me to explain…
Again there has been a lack of posts on this blog and that’s for two reasons. The first is that the last week this post has been weighing heavy on my heart and I haven’t wanted to post anything else. The second reason was because I was hoping for some replies to my crazy Paul idea, but oh well. Anyway, I wrote up my original post after reading an article linked to by Gordon Dabbs (preacher at my church). I sent my post to my wife because I knew it was written with passion and she recommended I send it to my sister and mother for further review and input, so I did. After speaking with them and thinking about it for several days, it turns out that original post I had written was not something I wanted to post, so I’ve tightened it down into something that I do want to say. I still think the post is rather radical, but try not to take offense at it. Paul wrote in Galatians some pretty strong words, some of which that come to mind are “You stupid Galatians!” (Gal. 3:1, JNT) Yeah, he was inspired and I’m not (at least, in the same sense that he was), but I think as Christians we need to be honest with one another.
The Christian Science Monitor has up a piece called The coming evangelical collapse, written by an evangelical (not some anti-Christian writer). I highly recommend the piece, not only because I share the views posited in it but because I think there is a startling truth: the evangelical movement has lost focus and needs to get it back. The article highlights problems such as youth programs designed to keep kids entertained and help them “feel” their religion rather than know it, and adults who feel at a complete loss for what Christianity actually means to them. I watched a video on YouTube the other night where a Christian youth minister had converted to Islam and he tried to refute Christianity by using Islam. It was the most ridiculous video I had ever seen, and its ridiculousness had nothing to do with Islam, but it was the guy in the video. (Just FYI: Islam is not riduclous and I’m not saying it is) He said at the start he had been raised in a Christian home and had even gone to school and gotten a degree in Christianity, yet what he had was so hollow that he couldn’t answer some basic questions and so he lost his faith and traded it in for one that (to him) had the answers. I’ve heard much better arguments against Christianity before and it was clear to me that the guy really didn’t know what he was talking about concerning either religion. What happened? When did church become so hollow that even our own ministers cannot come to grips with simple issues regarding the Bible and Christianity?
Last night I sat in the evening church service and listened to our new preacher, Gordon Dabbs, instead of what I usually do which is going to help out at Kid Zone (Children’s Bible Hour). First of all, let me say that I really love Gordon – he’s great. He knows his stuff, he speaks the truth without hindrance, and he’s not afraid to metaphysically slap you in the face with scripture (many times as believers, we need a ‘wake up call’) and yet can do it without the proverbial sting. He’s doing a fantastic job and has really stepped into the position with grace and ease.
So I’m sitting about 6 pews back from the front, listening to him talk about why it’s rational to believe in God and that many renowned scientists think the universe is too complex to have just come about that way but that there is a designer behind it. This post will be my reflections about his sermon – the thoughts running through my mind during and after (which if we were in a Jewish setting, I would have just stood up and said right there (and I was tempted to do so), but since we weren’t I had to keep my mouth shut and reserve my thoughts for my blog). (Disclaimer: If you read this post, please read through everything or you might come away with the impression that I’m attacking Gordon’s sermon. I’m not attacking Gordon or his sermon. Far from it, I thought it was encouraging, well said, and got people to think about things that perhaps they might not have beforehand).