Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Are you a modern day caveman?

Recently, a friend of mine, Brian O’Connell of REACT Services, gave me a book to read. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of it but little by little, the author has been getting through to me. The book is Wholly Jesus by Mark Foreman and its call to embrace a holistic faith in Jesus, one where Christ truly impacts every part of one’s life and world, transforming all within our grasp.

Many of us start our life with Christ in this way. But, as Foreman describes in his book (pages 170-172), a lot of us end becoming, in effect, modern day cavemen, cut off from the modern world. Here is an excerpt from the book. Yes, it’s a bit lengthy but I wanted you to get the context.

Before becoming a believer, I had worn a black armband protesting the Vietnam War, I ate fresh ground wheat and other health foods, I cared about the planet, I fed the poor and believed in civil rights. Mine was the generation that distrusted the establishment of power and we were destined in our idealism to change the world! Now with Jesus at my side, there was no telling what might happen.

Unfortunately, little happened socially. Just as the hippies became yuppies, I became a modem day separatist. Although I kept my rock-n-roll for Jesus and wore my hair long, I followed the previous generation, retreating into the safe castle of the church.

I didn't worry too much about war; after all, there "would be wars and rumors of wars.” I didn't fret too much about the poor; after all, "the poor you have with you always." And I didn't care about justice issues; after all, there were injustices and slavery in the 1st century as well, and the early believers lived through them. Besides, Jesus would put it right at the second coming, not now. I didn't care about culture in general. I ignored the arts, unless it was making mugs with IXTHUS's on them. I ignored music unless it contained lyrics that were preachy or worshipful. I ignored politics, until abortion became an issue. Then I started voting and the Moral Majority guided me. The only issues that were moral were abortion and sexual preference. Somehow other issues such as justice, civil rights, poverty, the health of our planet and war were neither moral nor important.

How did I and entire generation who believed in saving the planet, defending civil rights, helping the poor and stopping war, unplug and give society away to others who had a different moral compass? It was a combination of the hippie "drop out" mentality and separatist religion. My generation was primarily concerned with saving souls, protecting our children from the world and leaving the society to fend for itself. I was not responsible for the world. In the name of "not loving the world," I and my generation gave the world away. I studied my Bible, taught my children and waited for the rapture. If whatever concern I previously had for this world was lost into cultural fundamentalism.

J. E. Orr, the famous historian on revival, challenged a few of us in a small meeting in Forest Home near the end of the 1970's, telling us that the Jesus Movement wasn't a revival because there had been no significant change in society. He rattled off statistics and antidotes from the First and Second Great Awakening to show us the difference. From those revivals cultural institutions were drastically transformed. But with the Jesus Movement, while, we had effectively evangelized, we had only accomplished the opposite, withdrawing from all cultural institutions and leaving no mark on the outside world. My understanding of the integration of Scripture and culture was underdeveloped, but I meant well. And though we may not have been a revival according to J. E., Orr, many lives were transformed. Souls were saved, many were delivered from drugs, marriages were restored, and morals were shaped. My life and my family were changed. There were many standout exceptions to our separatism such as the Salvation Army whose approach to a person's salvation was holistic. And brave men such as Chuck Smith reached out to the hippies, while the rest of the church was unwilling to touch them. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse and other Christian NGO's began holistically serving the poor around the world. But in our daily lives, we just didn't know how to exist in this world. To our credit, many souls were saved and promised heaven, but to our shame, we restricted our role as salt and light to the world. We were products of our time.

Mistakenly, we were modern day Amish. Although we thought we were relevant with our long hair and music, still we withdrew from the world just like the Amish. Although there were exceptions, for the most part we solely focused on saving souls. To our credit, many souls were saved and promised heaven, but to our shame, we restricted our role as salt and light.

When I began to wake up, two entire decades had past. Like Rip Van Winkle opening his eyes, I soon realized society had moved on. I didn't know any of the hit songs, any name or issue in Washington, any sports figures, any trends in business, the arts, philosophy or literature. I was a modern day caveman.


Ron and Jeanette said...

Some of the leadership at our church are currently working through "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch. He compares the 1st century church, and the underground church in China, with the post-Constantine church - and finds that in many instances in becoming institutionalized we have lost the spark of what he calls "Apostolic Genius", and the ability to really be relevant our communities. There's a lot more to it than that - it is a very thought-provoking (and, hopefully, action-provoking) book. It think you would appreciate it.

Glenn Penner said...

Poor old Constantine gets blamed for so many things. Sadly, there is a lot of historical reconstructionism going on in some circles with authors claiming that the early church believed this or that (usually, to match what they believe). I can't say that I know anything about either this author or book, but I am increasingly cautious about books that claim to have rediscovered some lost truth about the early church. This is why I appreciated Foreman's book so much. He makes no such claim.

Barb said...

I'm confused that he seems to downplay the fact that souls were saved and lives were changed. Isn't this the Great Commission? As for Christians being involved in politics, it seems that Christians have been widely criticized for bringing their faith into politics (because faith is supposedly something to be kept to yourself). As for not helping the poor, there are a multitude of Christian organizations, large and small that exist to help the poor. Certainly we can all do more and should be challenged to do more, but I do not see that Christians have simply withdrawn from society.

Glenn Penner said...

That's where the context of the whole book comes in. He is simply saying that Christ is Lord of more than just people's souls