Tuesday, September 26, 2006

in search of bad press

ok, it's time to toss something onto your reading pile.  it's an article from salon magazine written by Lauren Sandler about the Mars Hill church community in Seattle.  it's actually a chapter from her new book "Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement".  she did much of the research for the book while writing a series of articles for Mother Jones magazine, and her take on Mars Hill especially has a far different flavor this time around than her original [positive] portrayal.

the reason i'm putting this article up here is because one of the consistent themes that has been coming to me, and that has been inhabiting my prayers, is a musing on whether we [warehouse in general] have accepted a role in charlotte that is just safe enough to allow us to be moderately "successful" as a church - but without actually creating any radical change.  in Mark Driscoll's [the lead pastor at MH] blog, he almost laments the positive press that MH has received over the ten years since their founding.  he seems to be unpleasantly surprised that they've been able to fly under the radar - in terms of the change they are trying to create, and the radical difference they are attempting to BE in seattle.

it seems to me that he is saying that if we are truly challenging the established landscape of a city that is severely broken at its core, there should be people up in arms about it - rallying to call us crazy.

the funny thing is, i almost completely agree with that thought.  and it makes me wonder whether warehouse is really as radical as we think [or would like], or if we have slipped oh-so-silently into the norm that we want to change.

countercultural [american heritage unabridged]
"the culture and lifestyle of those people (esp. among the young) who reject or oppose the dominant values and behavior of society, or with values or lifestyles in direct opposition to those of the established culture."

one of the simply magical elements of the Gospel is that it is so illogical, countercultural and completely non-intuitive.  the Gospel screams for civil disobedience of the greatest kind.  it begs for us to invite others to meet Christ on His terms and to walk away from the life they lived - but promising that in doing so they don't have to sacrifice a life well-lived.  

a crucial and exciting piece of the attached article revolves around a portion of a conversation the author has after an evening spent at a MH member's house for a small group meeting.  The member [Ted Deitz] has been a part of Mars Hill for quite a while, and served as the author's tour guide for a portion of her time spent learning about MH.  The author has already made clear that she [an atheistic Jewish woman] was not interested in Christianity, and was very happy with her current life. 

according to the author, this is how the evening went: 
A few days later, the men in the group pulled up in front of the house with a pickup truck full of lumber and set about building a new fence on the spot. Now whenever the Dietzes look out their kitchen window, they see a proud and solid reminder of the strength of their community, and the unity of their faith in God. Dietz recounts this story sitting squarely in his big chair in the living room, his eyes set on mine over the rim of his coffee cup. I tell him the truth: I have wonderful friends who I have considered close as family for many years now, and I can't imagine any of them helping me lug the wood, much less building me a fence. He pauses and sets down his coffee cup in a motion that is about to put a definitive end to a delightful evening. "Listen," he says. "We have a really nice rapport. But we believe different things. And let's face it, because of that, you're never going to feel like family to me. So, what I'm saying is, this is as far as it goes." Stung at first, upon reflection I can't blame him. I have nothing like his shared faith to connect me to other people. 

ted deitz really lays it out on the table to her - saying that if she is not willing/able to commit to the life-change that Christ brings, she will never experience the community that is deeply intertwined there.  he doesn't apologize for this, and he makes clear the position. when i read this, I'm reminded of a friend's story yesterday morning about how he was looking forward to spending time with two Jehovah's Witness believers that are making a second visit to his house.  

lauren sadler's article is amazing to me, in that she is so clearly filled with disdain for the amazing way that these people live life together.  her unrepentant judgementalism is a real dose of "bad press" for all the right reasons.

so, read this, and ask yourself. what are we [the post-modern church in general] doing to deserve some bad press?

1 comment:

laura said...

have you followed any of the Mark Driscoll outbreak lately? I have to say that I was really surprised by some of his views.