Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: December, 2010

Up @ Night #10 – Being Called Cool

I have some funny thoughts swimming around my head. I share them when they seemed to have matured enough to stand and fight on their own. So I release them into the world and, of course, they sometimes meet opposing thoughts and enter into battle. I get that. Nay, I expect that. How else can we know if my thoughts have any merit if I don’t let them battle? It would be like having a pokemon stay in his pokeball and never fight. It wouldn’t grow. It wouldn’t get any stronger. Useless.

So when there are conflicts of ideas flying around, I get encouraged. I like it. It means we’re all a bunch of thinking animals just trying to think better. Wonderful.

Until I get called trendy or cool. Then all the happiness dies. Dies hard.

This is how it happens. Someone says, “It seems to me that A=C+B.”
His opponent replies, “I believe that A=C-B.”
The first Someone counters, “Ah, that’s a very trendy belief for you to hold. Many cool and trendy people are starting to hold that now. You must have jumped on board that new and cool and trendy bandwagon to believe such a cool and trendy thing.”
The opponent stutters and withers away, his argument somehow dismantled without any critical thought at all.

There is nothing worse in a debate than this sort of circle. But you see it all the time.
“That’s just post-modern drivel.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re from the conservative camp.”
“I can’t accept that liberal nonsense.”
“I know it’s very fashionable for you to say that, but you’re wrong.”
“That’s not a real opinion, that’s just you trying to be politically correct.”
“Hmph, I guess you’ve been taken in by the Emergent crowd, eh?”

News flash for people who love to discuss: No one believes anything because they think it’s cool! They believe it because they think it’s right. Not because it’s politically correct. But because they think it’s just plain correct.

And when you take part in a discussion and you suggest the other person is trying to be trendy or politically correct or enamored with emergent sexiness, please realize what you are implying. You are implying that your friend has no brain at all. That he’s a zombie who has been spoon-fed and brainwashed. That he is so very weak in the head that he has no business running his own life.

So don’t say crap like that. It hurts.

Come up with a relevant comment instead.

I Stand Alone, I Stand Alone

I heard the tune as whispered on the wind. It was elusive, though familiar. Like the opening theme to a cartoon you watched as a child. It was there, somewhere, but I couldn’t quite hum it. I had to get closer.

I walked across a green plain in the direction I thought it came from. It grew louder as I went, as did the sense of familiarity. It was a tune from my childhood, familiar as water. Off in the distance I saw something grow out of the plain. A hill, wide and tall, the tip of which I could not clearly see. And the song grew louder still and I thought I could grasp a few of the words.

I quickened my pace and saw that the hill was not truly a hill, but a pile of objects. Books. Books of every shape and kind. Large and ancient hardcovered tomes along with magazines and tracts and paperbacks and novels and comics. I stood at the foot of the hill for a moment and peered toward the summit. The song was definitely coming from the top. And it was louder now, though not much clearer. The familiarity tickled and tormented me. I had to know the song.

And so I started to climb.

I caught sight of many of the titles as I went up. They intrigued me. Many of the books I had read and some I had enjoyed. Others I did not know and still others I had read and rejected. I took note of some titles. “In-crowd mentality” by I.M. Choosen. “Systematic Theology” by Goddat Wright. “Western Comforts” by W.B. Rich.

The song grew louder as the air grew thin and I grew lightheaded. I found I could not think clearly at this altitude. I tried to focus my thoughts by reading other titles. “Doing to Others Before they Do to You.” “Choosing Your Favorite -ism.” “Economic Justifications.” “The Individualistic Life.” “Hollywood Drama.” “Democracy” (I liked that one). “10 Days to Blind Confidence” (I think I had read that one). “How to Dismantle Anything.” There was a chart listing the top ten spiritual professions. I had memorized that at one point, I recalled. “North American Values and Their Enemies.” “Capitalism.” And scores and scores others.

My hands grew cold as I crawled through the clouds. Finally, as I reached the top, I found the source of the familiar tune. There stood a man, his eyes closed and his fists clentched in the posture of a child trying to wish something true. And the song came clearly:

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the Book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God.
I stand alone on the Word of God.
I stand alone on the Word of God.

“Oi, friend!” I called out with a shiver in my voice. “I think you’re standing in the wrong place for this song! For I have seen many books, some I like and others I like less, but I cannot help but think that none of them are the Word of God.”

The man stopped singing only for the time it took to open an eye, shoot a hostile look at me, and continue his chanting.

“I stand alone on the Word of God! I stand alone on the Word of God!”

And suddenly the mount we were on heaved and shook. I clutched tight and watched as a few books toppled down to the ground below. But I remained firm for the moment. The chanting man did not seem to notice. I realized that the foundation he and I were standing on was not stable.

“I say!” I called out. “I fear this is not an ideal place to stand. I’m heading down. Perhaps if we both descend together it will be less risky for the both of us.”

Again he did little but curl his lip at me and continue his chanting. I thought to stay with him, but another tremor from below made me certain that I was in a precarious place. And so I descended, slipping and bruising myself along the way.

I arrived at the bottom, still hearing his words in my head. In that moment they reminded me of similar words spoken by others in ages past. I recalled some chanting about The Temple of the Lord. Whatever happened to those people, I wondered.

I was half a mile off when I heard a horrible crash behind me. I turned and saw that mighty tower of books collapsing upon itself. And I wept.

The Case for Idealism

He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did. It’s your father’s lightsaber. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

No one could ever really disagree with the ultimate goodness of the wildly idealistic advice of Jesus and the idealistic way the first Jesus-followers ordered their lives. Here you have a teacher who claims it’s best to allow slap you twice, give aid and comfort to your enemies and to give more than you’re forced to give. Here’s a group of people who sold everything that was superfluous and shared it with one another and with the poor. Here’s a philosophy of life built on that wildly idealistic and, most would say, unrealistic charge: Do as you would be done by.

Idealistic. Unreasonable. Too high.

Because if I am slapped and I allow my attacker to slap me again, I’ll get hurt. If I don’t resist my enemies, they will cause more suffering. If I give aid and comfort to the opposition, I am a traitor. If I sell all I have and share it with like-minded Jesus-followers, I won’t be able to enjoy God’s material blessings. If I do unto others as I would be done by, I won’t have much time left for myself.

And so we feel like we have no choice but to pull back from the ideals laid out by Jesus and the first Jesus-followers. Because they’re unreasonable. Because they hurt. Because, while they look good on paper and make a great pie-in-the-sky ethic, they just don’t work in the real world.

And there is the tragedy. Because there is only one reason that the high ideals of Jesus don’t work in the real world: The world isn’t living by them.

And there is only one reason why the world isn’t living by them: The world does not follow Jesus.

And there is only one reason why the world does not follow Jesus: They do not value his Way as the best way.

And there is only one reason why they do not value his Way as the best way: Those who claim to follow him are not living out the wild, pie-in-the-sky ideals Jesus laid out, which would show to the world how glorious and wonderful and happy and freeing and energizing it is to be a part of the Jesus Movement.

And there is only one reason why those who claim to follow Jesus are not living out his wild ideals: They think they don’t work in the real world.

And we come to the end of a sad and pathetic circle. And we sit in our churches and bemoan the ethical state of our culture and cannot understand why people do not come to seek our Jesus. And we rarely stop and think, ‘Why would they seek a philosophy not unlike every other philosophy they are offered?’

I suggest that if we threw caution into the wind and lived in the manner expounded by Jesus and displayed by the first Jesus-followers, the moral decline of the planet would cease as everyone slowly came to see the beauty of the Jesus-life. It would be hard for the first who tried. But nothing good is ever easy, is it?