Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Jesus Way and the American Way

John Frye says it better than I can:
Remember the old joke regarding Ford's Model T?
In what color can I get my Model T?
You can get it in any color you want as long as it's black.

Assembly line wonder brought America a car they could afford.

That same mentality has created made-to-order USAmerican evangelical spirituality. We laugh off being "cookie cutter Christians" and then try endlessly to be just like each other. We are a herd of Xerox-copied sheep, not a unique individual with our name, our fingerprints, our DNA, our life of faith.

Eugene H. Peterson in his latest book, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way (Eerdmans, 2007), wrote a short few sentences that stopped me. Peterson writes, "For faith cannot be learned by copying, not by imitating, not by mastering some 'faith-skills.' We are all originals when we live by faith" (emphasis added).

"We are all originals when we live by faith."

As freeing as that sounds, we evangelicals are scared witless by Peterson's comment. We can't handle such a reality. Isn't it easier to receive the booklet, the 6 steps, the 7 purposes? Like all things American, we get our spirituality pre-packaged, even pre-digested?

American spirituality is made to order: no need to think for ourselves; no need to wrestle with God; no need to cultivate our own intimate love language with God; no need to walk the rough terrain of not knowing. No need to read "the meat of the Word" when daily vitamins will do. And, hey, by the way, the pastor is supposed to "feed me." Baaah, baaaah.

"We are all originals when we live by faith."

Originals? Or cookie cooker? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

It is so much easier to be a cookie cutter Christian... pick your flavour: purpose driven; willowcreek; a particular brand of pntecostal or charismatic; a style of emergent; whatever... God has / is / will always do new things. He is the creator. That doesn't men we need to reinvent the wheel. We can certainly learn from what others are doing, but that is different than copying what others are doing.


michael lewis said...

Does this mean you are advocating non-attendance?

This is particularly one of the very reasons I became disenfrachised and disinterrested in "church".

mike said...

I'm advocating "non-attendance" if by "attendance" you mean sitting in a pew/chair fiddling your thumbs while a performance goes on.
What I am advocating is church where everyone is welcome to participate (appropriately - I'll spell that out some other time).
The prime/key form of church I think is the smaller gathering - the cell/small group/house church - that meets around the table - food & drink (in a house or coffee shop).
We are designed for community / relationship - we really do need each other - it's just that we have turned church into something else... see the post church as third place

michael lewis said...

I like your model.

You are a wise man.

(That's probably on account of the greying beard.)