On Brokenness, Part 1

I've noticed the church in America has a great many problems. I've noticed this sometimes while I was personally contributing to them. In the process, however, I think I may have realized a central root cause of these problems. With any luck, you'll agree with me wholeheartedly and then we can all go out to Gennaro's for fettuccine alfredo. (If you don't agree, well, maybe we can still eat alfredo.) Consider the problem of legalism - defined (by me) as the self-righteous clinging to doctrines and practices that flagrantly don't matter to God, with all the useless arguing, divisiveness, and toxic pride that goes with it:

 Or maybe they had a problem with ochre.  I would sympathize.

Or maybe they had a problem with ochre.  I would sympathize.

Or consider the other side of the coin - a pervasive complacency that turns American subcultures into the same subcultures but with more God language.  That is to say, people's lives with the Holy Spirit look an awful lot like their lives before:

 Maybe God hates both GM foods AND slovenly clothing on Sunday mornings...

Maybe God hates both GM foods AND slovenly clothing on Sunday mornings...

 I might be paraphrasing a bit here.

I might be paraphrasing a bit here.

For a lot of us in the evangelical world, this starts to look like something called "Game of Life" Christianity.  A lot of us tend to perceive life as a generally linear pathway - a few deviations here and there but largely taking us past the same milestones, towards the same end goal - fulfillment, comfort, success, lots of little pink and blue pegs in the back of our plastic minivans.

 I've been around that circle quite a few times already...

I've been around that circle quite a few times already...

We expect God to help us out a little bit along the way, perhaps...

 I feel like this whenever the Red Line runs express to Harvard.

I feel like this whenever the Red Line runs express to Harvard.

But we'd rather God not interfere with the general flow of the game...

 Harsh.

Harsh.

 I actually can't whistle, but I think I would fake it in this event.

I actually can't whistle, but I think I would fake it in this event.

We're all perfectly willing for someone ELSE to draw that card - "spend themselves" on the poor, the hungry, and the lost - but not us.  We're content to lead lives of utter self-serving mediocrity, as though we can take the spiritual equivalent of "the gentleman's C" and still get to retire to Millionaire Estates.

Or consider the state of evangelism.  Our strategies generally take one of two styles, and while they can sometimes work out fine, the results are frequently tepid.

 That's supposed to be a city block in the background.

That's supposed to be a city block in the background.

 This is not intended as a slight against donuts.

This is not intended as a slight against donuts.

So here's my epiphany, for whatever it's worth.  All of these problems are caused to a large extent by the same thing:

Deep down, regardless of the language we use, a lot of Christians believe ourselves to be perfectly good, decent people.

And it's a huge problem.  I'll go into more details in later posts, but I believe we won't get our lives or our communities straight until we allow ourselves to be entirely broken and defeated at the feet of God.  Until then, we'll keep singing choruses to our favorite hymn:

 I once was found but now I'm found, could see but now I see.

I once was found but now I'm found, could see but now I see.