Tuesday, August 30, 2005

ginger bread men

Poor Allison. She comes over to have lunch with me and she ends up having to listen to me rant. Right in the middle of the day. Friend pointed out to me a new mobile graphic representation of contemporary cultural chrisitanity and look out, here I go. Clones. Cookie Cutter. This is what the ideal of the Christian and the Christian family looks like. What message are we sending to the greater culture? Isn’t this who you want to be? Or do we just assume that is who they are, and therefore are inviting them to join our team.
Of all the cultures and subcultures on the face of the earth, ours should look the least like this. Of course, this is the only way we can know we belong. Look like everyone who does belong. This is the only way I can know that you belong. You look like me. Act like me. Enjoy what I enjoy.
Why, we continually ask, are the 18 to 34 year-olds absent from our churches? Could it be because they don’t look and act like us? And we still expect them to grow up and be us. Sometimes we offer them temporary, age oriented, specialized, stylized enticement ministries to keep them interested until they grow up and dress like us and listen to our music, and process life in the same way as we do. Even these create a narrow swath of culture that is usually designed by outsiders whose expectations don’t entirely jibe with reality. So it ain’t gonna happen. Who among your generation has grown up and then started wearing bobby socks, saddle oxfords, poodle skirts, and listening to the Big Bopper?
And then, right in the middle of my rant, it hit me. Aha! Epiphanissimo! Oh, the irony of the rampant suburban individualism, and the clone, cookie cutter individuals. As long as I look just like you, only a little better and a little happier, I don’t need you at all. (except to measure myself by). The American Suburban Adult practicing life in precisely the same way as the American teenager. In desiring the freedom just to be and express ourselves, we exercise that freedom by expressing a cookie cutter norm that is the same as everyone else is expressing. Who am I? Just look at everyone else to find out. This is fearsomely ironic.
So bring it to the church. The church expresses what Christians look like based on our suburban collective cookie cutter individualism, and so only those cut from the same mold are interested. Of course it is much easier to man ministries if everyone’s perceived needs, desires, and interests are the same. One size fits all. It fits so well that we grow and grow. It fits so well that our diversity and therefore our reach, narrows and shrinks.
Of course it doesn't matter if this is not really me. It is who I wanna be. You! I wanna be you!
The bigger we get, the more we become unlike what we were supposed to be - various members of the body of Christ. The bigger the body, the more we become like a big foot, stepping all over the legs, arms, hands, and hearts that are intended to be our members.
The more we pretend to have in common in our hidden individualism, the less we realize that what we truly have in common is our need for one another.
So we desperately strive all to look alike, alas, be alike, while needing absolutely no one, but what we desperately do need each other for is our God-given unique manifestation of His image in each of us.