Saturday, September 29, 2007

Review of the Wednesday night party, cause the Wednesday night party don't stop, no

And when I say "party" I mean "discussion of the sermon."

The sermon from last week focused on common objections to Christianity, specifically identifying its relationship to both science and violence. The long and short of it?

1. Christianity does not have to work in opposition to science. Realistically they're not on the same spectrum for comparison; science attempts to explain the physical world whereas faith is trying to tell us the meaning/value of that physical world. The problem is that both the church and science act with a great deal of hubris; science believes it can somehow disprove God's existence simply because by conquering certain complications of the physical world. Meanwhile, the church attempts to explain every bit of biology using the Book of Genesis, a document that is thousands of years old.

2. Yes, there have been a number of violent acts committed in the name of Christianity. We can't change that now. We can only apologize. There will always be a certain amount of violence associated with any strong belief (think environmental terrorism) and events like the Crusades (as an example) are not those we should be proud of. Jesus did not preach a gospel of violence. His reaction to violence would be one of forgiveness.

On Wednesday night we added more objections, based on our own conversations and on things that, quite frankly, we have trouble grasping ourselves:

• History -- the Old Testament reads like a fairy tale sometimes. People living to be hundreds of years old? Women having babies at age 75? God physically wrestling with Abraham?
• Authority/free will -- it's easier to live life if you're the one who's ultimately in charge
• Christians not setting a good example for the religion
• Putting off conversion, thinking "I'll become a Christian later", overly valuing the me-centered life
• Just maintaining a diet is hard enough...Christianity asks you to change your entire lifestyle.
• Christianity seems hokey
• Christianity and the church in general does not seem safe. You need someone to interpret everything for you, traditions don't make sense, and it's intimidating to enter a new culture within the same physical area where you already live
• "I'm already a nice person" so why do I need Jesus?
• Stale, legalistic churches for people who are more artistically-centered churches
• Lack of human interaction with Christians (so perception is derived from the media, rather than interpersonal relationships)

Before I became a Christian I remember thinking about how arbitrary Christianity seemed. If I'd grown up in India, I would have been Hindu. In China, I'd have been Buddhist; in Jamaica, I might have been Rastafarian. Somehow it seemed improbable that the dominant religion -- the one deciding the world's calendar, days to celebrate holidays, etc -- would be the "right" one. Of course, little did I realize that God and Jesus work through the improbable. The tomb was empty, after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

1000 Conversations, part one

Last week's sermon (notes available here) centered on the idea of witnessing and whether
a) It's a legit thing to do in a society where truth is relative; and
b) It's legit to convert people in this same society

On Wednesday night we discussed a number of reasons why we have trouble witnessing. Among them:

• General fear
• Seems like most people know the gospel already, so we should really be able to witness simply through the way we live our lives
• The belief that people should be able to think/do whatever they want and I shouldn't push them in any particular direction
• Feeling as if we can't witness unless our life is somehow "complete" and impressive. This is basically saying that we can't witness unless we feel like our life is not broken.
• Unsure of actual motivations. In other words, are we witnessing for God or for personal satisfaction? Are we trying to add a star beside our names because we saved someone when the focus should not be on US in the first place?
• Unable to find the right time/place to bring it up
• The whole witnessing thing feels salesy. Not exactly the word you want to associate with your deepest values and beliefs.
• Lack of immediate gratification/satisfaction. In our now now now society, it's somewhat counterintuitive to simply be a seed-planter

We also challenged each other to think of a deeper reason why we don't witness as much as we "should." People talked about having to shoulder the load of successful conversion, about general fear, about feeling like it's a lost cause. On a personal level, I think my witnessing weakness occurs because the whole idea of having serious conversations is somewhat foreign to me. As I said the other night, I live in a world of jokes, video games and Anchorman quotes. As such, the problem isn't as much witnessing as it is about being serious.

Anyway, if you're looking for an end conclusion...Well, we didn't exactly come to one. I do think if you recounted the night's discussion, though, what we'd agree upon would sound something like this: our most effective witness is one that's based on being relational -- not on "winning" a sale, not on a scripted persuasive speech, but on actually listening to the other person and reacting to their needs. We'll always screw up -- we are human, after all -- but if we're aware of the Truth, we should probably share it. Ya know?


So here we are. It's true.

I begin a lot of sentences with "so" these days. I'm not sure when this whole disproportionate pattern began. When I studied abroad nine years ago -- that was nine years ago! -- I was all about "well" as a sentence starter. I remember sitting around a Tasmanian hostel with some buddies and noticing that they, too, had begun their journals with "well" as in "Well, this is it", or "Well, I'm 30,000 feet up" or "Well I sure wish the guy next to me had packed some deodorant." Sometime in the last decade, I cut the length of that transient word from four letters to two. Score one for minimalism.

Anyway, this is post #1 of hopefully many for the Northwest Home Community at Imago Dei Community Church in Portland, Oregon. Yes, there are churches in Portland and yes, we occasionally try to broadcast our beliefs to the outside world. We're like AM jazz stations in that way.

The purpose of this blog is to allow community members to express themselves on paper (or e-paper) anyway. While many of us live in a world of talk talk talk, there are others of us who function better through reflection. This is not to say that people are either mute and writery or loud but allergic to the keyboard. It's just meant to say that this is a blog for HC members and they can do with it as they please. So there.