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Us and Them

I've looked back across some of my blog archive lately and I notice that I'm not posting as much or as lengthy as I used to over the past couple of years. My first reaction to this is that I'm not in full time grad school anymore so I don't have nearly as much to complain about. And, I'll have to admit, even with the vicious trials of "real" ministry in the "real" world, it's much easier to be optimistic because I at least feel like everything actually is real and much less pretentious. I honestly do feel like I've broken through the surface after having been held under for a long time, and the air is really quite fresh. But enough bashing on GST... I did two years of that.

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One thing that my brain has been churning on a lot lately, and I have written some about before, is the relationship that Christians and Christianity have with the world in which they exist. Dan Kimball has done a lot of great work in identifying the glaring existence of a separated Christian subculture, one that I believe has naturally formed because of the way that Christianity has long thought about itself. Over history, this seems to be one of almost two totally different ideologies: either it is totally separated from the world or it is in complete control of it. Interestingly, what we have in a large movement of Christianity in America today seems to be an effort to be separated from the "sinful" secular society yet control it at the same time.

Nevertheless, what I am most interested in right now is how this shows up in the small things. Being involved with an active state school campus ministry that is both closely tied with a traditionally "separated" Christian movement (Churches of Christ, or, really just conservative Christianity in general) and the world of the large secular institution lends itself to witnessing some sometimes very subtle clashes of the two.

What I mean is this: our campus ministry has lately done a somewhat halfway good job of reaching out to people, or at least connecting to "outside" people who have crossed paths with us in one way or another. What this means is that we have people connected with us who have one or more of the following characteristics: 1) a faith background very different than that of Churches of Christ, 2) no faith background at all, 3) some kind of faith background but fairly dark life histories and have sought to reconnect, 4) some kind of faith but little to no "Christian life."

I consider this a great situation because it forces everyone (or at least those conscientious of it) to consider not only how Christians relate to each other but how they relate to those who are different than them. One thing that the Christian subculture has generally prided itself in is a separation and general frowning upon the classic worldly "sins." Drinking, smoking, "cussing," sex, etc. etc. Those are things that "sinners" do that "we" have no part in. But, whether this is well-intentioned or appropriate or not, what happens over time is a deeply-rooted subtle judgmentalism that takes place against those who happen to participate in these things that just happen to be pretty common to those outside of this Christian moral bubble.

Here in Manhattan there is a business district next to campus (as there is in most college towns) named Aggieville. Aggieville is where all of the bars are and where a lot of the heavy drinking takes place just about any night of the week. It can get pretty rough, especially on game days. So, to many upright, righteous-living Christians, Aggieville is the Sodom and Gomorrah of town and where Satan and his minions are roaring. To the mind of many Christians who have been informed by the entrenched Christian subculture they have been raised in, Aggieville is the land of depraved, immoral, disgusting people.

But, unfortunately, what doesn't get considered in that mindset is the question of how many people are in Aggieville on any given night who are lonely, wandering through life, looking for an escape, or unloved? How many of those people would connect with a life and community of faith if only they didn't have the darkness of their lifestyle hanging over them in a Christian world? What if they were loved by Christians rather than judged? What if every Christian who drove by or through Aggieville was overcome by compassion for people? And then what if this happened not just in Aggieville or Manhattan but was the standard across the state, the country, the globe? What if Christians stopped separating themselves from the realities and people of the world and actively sought to engage them with love and compassion? When will Christians stop letting their faith be threatened by things that have no power over God?

I like to follow the activities of people that seem to be living this out just to see what it really looks like. One collection of people I have been interested in is the ministry of XXXChurch.com, which was started as a way to address the prevalence of pornography among Christians. But one of its most powerful ministries year after year has been its presence in the largest pornography conventions in the nation. And I mean in, not at. Christians are typically always at these shows, standing outside with picket signs calling down damnations upon those inside. XXXChurch people set up large booths in these shows and mingle among the people of the industry, developing relationships with people at letting them know that they are loved. Their mission is to demonstrate that Jesus actually loves porn stars, which I believe wholeheartedly is true.

I believe this because we believe that Jesus loves us, right? I believe that Jesus Christ loves me. But if we look at the reality of this situation, I am no different than a porn star. Not one difference. Both me and the porn star on the screen are broken, sinful, prideful people. I don't star in porn, but that's not why Christ died for me. He died for me long before I ever decided to exchange sinfulness for grace. So, the same is true for porn stars, and alcoholics, and atheists, and anorexics, and drug addicts, and tax evaders, and murderers, and... hmm... looks like the world. When will we learn to communicate this love? It's already there!

What this comes down to is that there is no "us" and "them," because we are all "them."


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Blogger Gabe - 11:46 PM

Great post. Here in Sin City, both in the suburbs and on the Strip, people really just want to connect and have a genuine relationship...to be refreshed. I'd like christianity to become more genuine and less showy, or worshipy, or fakey, or whatever. How about just genuine people, no pretentions.    



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