In 1917 a recovering opium addict wrote a poem called “The Hound of Heaven” in which he describes God’s relentless hunt for our attention. All week I’ve felt hot breath against my skin and the snapping of gleaming fangs just behind me. It feels like something has changed. Is changing? I think it might be me.
Ever since the Great Silence ended I’ve been taking slow and deliberate baby steps toward a faith that feels genuine and authentic. For the first time in a while, I looked around and realized those baby steps had led me to a gaping chasm. Twilight has fallen and all I’ve got to illuminate the way is a weak lamp. There are only two directions: I can turn around and walk through the same damn path I’ve been meekly treading through for the past three years, or…
The chasm is pitch black. I’ve kicked a few pebbles over the edge, and the darkness swallows them up immediately. In the fading light I can see that things look different on the other side. It’s alive and thriving; like a jungle compared to the sparse woods I’ve been making my way through. There’s a mountain in the distance, and the setting sun sets the sky on fire as the pink clouds and electric blue sky shine their brightest.
There’s a slight breeze, carrying with it the chill of the evening. It brushes past my ear and sends a trail of goosebumps down my neck. Within the wind is a wordless whisper that sets my heart on fire and makes my blood run cold at the same time. The inaudible but unmistakable voice is clear: “It’s time. Jump.”
We have to face the possibility that as American Christians we are wrong. About a lot of things. The fact of the matter is that Christianity in America today has as much to do with our own culture and history as it does with Jesus. The Christianity we know today has been subject to thousands of years of the “telephone” game. Interpretations are made, and then passed down to new believers. The fact that one understanding is simply an interpretation isn’t expressed, and so the new believers grow believing that the interpretation is an absolute fact. The real trouble arises when our faith is more about collecting and putting our faith in these convenient bite-sized interpretations rather than reflecting and meditating on the original Source.
For a long time now, I’ve felt a tug pulling me in a direction I’ve refused to walk. I love the Church. I believe Christ does too. But I’m going rogue.
I can’t fight it any longer. I can’t continue to put my fingers in my ears and pretend that I don’t feel God asking more of me than I’m giving. The fact is, I’m not content with hearing interpretations and understandings and philosophies. I want Truth. I want a Jesus that isn’t tempered by the American Dream. I want God, and it feels like praying as I try to walk over a gaping chasm on a perilously thin tightrope made out of faith is the only way to find Him.
I’m starting over. I’m demolishing the walls and towers I’ve built to contain the Gospel in simple and manageable units. I’m letting God out and allowing Him to populate and build whatever he wants across my beliefscape. And as the horizon of my beliefscape changes, the circumstances of the lifescape I exist in are required to change as well.
For the past week, God has been picking on Leah and I. He got to Leah first. She watched a few documentaries that forced her to start asking hard questions. When she asked me, it became a week long conversation that seemed to lack a beginning or end. For the past week we’ve existed in this strange in-between state where we just keep bouncing questions and thoughts and ideas off of each other. We can both smell the scent of change on the wind; like rain in the distance. The snippets below are the things we’ve been looking at and talking about, the things that feel wrong with the world. We’re not experts. Most of these were just pages we found after a few minutes of Googling. We don’t know what the answers are, but we know that these questions can’t be ignored.
There are 246 million Christians in America. Their median annual income is $42,409. So why are there 50 million people without enough food in our own country? If we tithed the ten percent the Bible asks of us, we’re looking at giving our churches $1,043,261,400,000 annually. It feels like if even a shred of that amount were devoted to the right places and causes we could live in a country where no one was starving.
How is it that one of the most overt Christian for-profit businesses out there is still mired in a pile of ethical quandaries? And for those of you rolling your eyes, I’m not even talking about their stance on homosexuality or birth control.
Basic human needs aren’t being met. Animals aren’t just consumed, they’re destroyed so we can eat what we want any time we want it. Life as we’re currently living it is bad for us. Bad for the environment. It’s bad for everybody except the people that are profiting from it.
Leah and I have begun to feel the daunting realization that we can’t keep living like this in perpetuity. The world can’t sustain a planet full of Americans. Profit can no longer be our reason d’etre. We have to change the paradigm. We have to become willing to see less money in order to see more good. It all boils down to demand and supply. It’s time to start demanding alternatives.
I feel like a Christianity that allows us to remain Christian in name but do nothing in action is worthless. If Jesus were here right now, would he be okay with Chik-Fil-A purchasing chickens that were genetically modified, tortured and packaged for our consumption? What would he have to say about the wealth disparity in America? Would Jesus justify spending hundreds of dollars on new gadgets that were created in sweatshops after the supplies for said gadget were embroiled in conflict? How would Jesus handle our largest sporting events getting co-opted by the child and sex trafficking industries? Maybe Jesus didn’t call us to a life that follows all the cultural norms and is punctuated by leading others in a “sinner’s prayer” that Jesus himself never made use of?
I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.
But I do know that he called us to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth, and that’s a pervasive, life altering goal. It requires more than going to church on Sunday and shouting “God Bless America!” while doing nothing to bless anyone else.
God has been after us this week, forcing us to look in all of the dark corners of our ideology. I’ve reached a point where in order for me to continue to call myself a Chrstian, I have to face these questions. Ignoring them would result in my becoming a fan of Jesus rather than a follower.
I don’t know what my faith is going to look like a year from now. Hell, I don’t know what it will look like tomorrow. Maybe this is selfish, but I’m typing all of this in a public forum because I’m hoping that by saying it out loud you’ll recognize some of the questions you’ve been ignoring. Maybe you’ll see us and this struggle and realize you’re not alone. And maybe, if we give a damn, we can change our lives and eventually the world… together.