I remember when I came back from Kenya and I felt like everything Christian in America was fake. I went through the slums on Nairobi and couldn't wrap my mind around why the government wasn't doing anything. It occurred to me that there was no such thing as social services there that the only shot these people had was the Church. Even now when I look around in Indianapolis, some of the best hospitals were started by churches many moons ago when the Church went to the aid of others, not the government.
Heidi and I have been through many stages of revolt of American Ideals. A few years ago, what actually started the blog, we our year without buying anything. We did well for almost 9 months and then we were pregnant with Edmund and had to buy a few things here and there. I have been told my a few of my past mentors that I have a rebellious streak in me, which is probably why I'm a fan of some authors like Rob Bell and Donald Miller.
Regardless of what people say about Rob Bell, I find his teachings encouraging. In fact, Velvet Elvis was used by God to keep me keeping on the path. (U2 songs have also been used but that's another post.) There is some controversy surrounding the book but the ultimate message was so encouraging to me. I found a place where it was okay to ask questions and not have all the right answers. I found that what Rob says isn't some new revelation but the revelation of old. It appears to be what a Jew back in the day would have understood things to mean, not what an American would take things to mean. I obviously appreciate the way he takes those ancient applications and makes them relevant to my life.
Rob wasn't exactly acceptable by many in my circles because he is too emergent for them (which I actually thing he might be to fundamental for them, but anyway). Mr. Platt here seems to start of with a great rebellious message against American Christianity (which after watching a movie like The Book of Eli puts things like Christianbooks.com or Family Bookstores into perspective of how sacred the Word actually is) that is generally accepted among the more 'non emergent friendly' population. (Keep in mind I use the word Emergent like I've spent a million hours figuring out what it means. I haven't. I have better things to do.)
So Chapter 1 Someone Worth Losing Everything For was a great introduction, however everything was lost on me because I kept thinking that his exhortation isn't applicable. All I kept thinking about when he was talking about people selling everything and following Christ was that no one in America could do that. I couldn't, unless by some act of grace all of my debt was paid off. Most Americans could sell everything they 'own' and still not have enough money to break even so that they could take up their cross.
I found myself in this situation with purchasing a house. Its a long story but what was a good plan changed over time and the original plan wasn't good with the changes so we ended up being trapped in a house and lost a spot of money. I don't want to limit God's capabilities but even when we did get out from the house, we still didn't have the financial flexibility to do something 'radical.' God had just the right high maintenance realtor for us and the house sold just before our ruin. I guess my point is that it wouldn't it be radical of Christians stopped borrowing money? What if we only bought houses and cars with cash? What if we didn't use credit cards and finance stuff? That right there would probably cut down on the fancy stuff Platt mentions American Christians enjoying. So now that I am in the position to make real progress on past mistakes, do I do that or tithe?
I heard a pastor from Grand Rapids, Michigan, once tell his congregation that if they were in credit card debt (or other debt) that their service to the church was to get out of debt and to not worry about tithing. Heidi and I have had several rounds on this. We both desire to be generous towards others (like Kyle) but we just don't have the means. However, if we didn't have our monthly debt payments, we could be VERY generous. This is going into a whole other topic of finances but my point is that I wish he would have touched on the area of finances just a bit.
Chapter 2: Too Hungry for Words was much more encouraging. I've been discouraged for years about the Gospel sharing I heard was going on. I was taught all kind of interesting ways to manipulate a conversation so that I could get God in there. If I were truly on fire for God, would I have to manipulate a conversation or would it just be leaking out all over?
Don't get me started on fundraising. Don't even get me started (thank you Molly Shannon)
"The Modern-day gospel says, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved." Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, "you are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do. The former sells books and draws crowds. The latter saves souls..."
LOVED this! I came to God through a very interesting path which mostly was due to my issues and past traumas. Christians were really nice to me and had great intentions on making me feel better about this and that but I wasn't told much about my rebellion. I memorized verses that secured my salvation and focused on getting others 'in' on the wonderful plan.
"...the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling with our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depths of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for his grace. Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender."
LOVED this, too. I immediately thought of the movie Phonebooth when I read this. Sometimes I wish God would put my in a phonebooth situation just so I can rip through all the crap of my life and just be honest. The summary of the movie is a guy gets caught in a phone booth by a sniper who plays with his mind and wants him to confess to his wife and assistant that he is fake. The guy, like most of us, denies the accusations and would rather be shot in the street than confess who we really are to people close to us. The sniper just wanted him to be honest with himself and others. So was he the pro or the antagonist? I am so bless that I have a wife that I don't have to hide; she knows it all. I still find myself wanting to hide myself from God and everyone else.
Jesus is no longer to be accepted or invited!!!! There is no such concept in Scripture!
I could do more on Chapter 2 but I doubt anyone has read this far. Chapter 3, here I come.