“And early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:35
I’m ready for Lent.
Because Lent is a time of “retreating into the wilderness with Jesus”, I say bring it on.
I’m embarrassed by what Christianity is becoming in the west:
Individualism is touted, at the expense of deeply committed community, through rap and poetry about love for Jesus, but hatred for religion, failing to mention that in spite of the church’s colossal failures over the centuries, it has been the church working together, rather than “spiritual individuals”, that’s ended slavery, cared for the poor and marginalized, advocated for justice, strengthened marriages, and fanned the flames of the renaissance which allowed art and science to flourish.
Authoritarianism in the church is debated, with the primary voices seeming to advocate for either no accountability whatsoever, or total control. It’s a great debate. It generates lots of conversation on the internet. It elevates dysfunction to the limelight. And it distracts people, I fear, from reading their Bibles, praying, loving their neighbors, and enjoying intimacy with Jesus.
We Christians seem to spend more time online not liking each other, than encouraging each other by talking about the matchless beauty of Christ and His reign. Christians are hurling doctrinal grenades at one another, with more explosive charges than I’ve noticed in the past. Again, we seem to love this because of the readership generated by controversy. Sure, we need to have conversations about what constitutes orthodoxy, and whether gay marriage is a good or bad idea, and the merits of Reformed and/or Anabaptist theology, so please don’t misread. We need these conversations. It’s the proportion of these conversations that bothers me. We’re saturated in the side show to such an extent that the primacy of loving Jesus and one’s neighbor is lost in the screaming.
My best preparation for Lent is the super bowl. After all, the super bowl is ultimately a game of football. But increasingly, the football game is sort of a side show, a post script, to the ads, the halftime show, the parties, the food, the blogs about the ads, the blogs about the halftime show, the 3 day pregame show on TV with all the heart wrenching stories, and back stories, and human interest stories, the post-game show, the parade, and of course, the finger.
Really? It’s as if the teams are incidental. The game is lost in the billion dollar carnival. Those of us who genuinely enjoy pass patterns and blocking schemes would much rather watch a good high school or Division II college game in October because their pursuits are closer to the real deal. The super bowl reminds me of how easily we’re distracted from the game.
This winter, the evangelical world has felt a bit like the super bowl. Saturated with glamor, hot shots, pot shots, back stories, in-fighting, trash talking, and uber-advertising (you should see my senior pastor “inbox”), I’m sick of it all — and praying about how to meet Jesus in the wilderness for forty days as a way of purging my soul from all that causes unbelievers to post the bumper sticker: “Jesus save me – from your followers”
I’ll be writing throughout Lent – from my encounters with Christ in creation, and the Bible, and people. I won’t be writing about church politics, or American politics, or hot controversial topics like sexual ethics, gay marriage, global warming, church growth, the glories or evils of Neo-Calvinism, or any other conversation generating topic. For Lent, I’m fasting from writing about anything other Christ: where I’m meeting Him and what He’s teaching me.
But I’m taking a break from both theological, political, controversy and church leadership topics, so that, after Easter, I’ll be able to engage again with a less cynical and jaded spirit. I want to have some good conversations about gay marriage, presidential politics, sexual ethics, church health, consumerism in Christianity, and hope to write about these things throughout the spring. But not now. I’m heading, metaphorically, to the desert with Jesus. I encourage you to do the same thing… or something similar.