Friday, May 28, 2010


I am reading a freshly-written, poetic, thoughtful book by Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts. I love Donald Miller's writing. He puts my thoughts into beautiful words, words that, like a butterscotch candy, I can taste long after I have read them. I am going to quote something he said that really makes me think:

"The rising question of why had been manifesting for some time, and had previously only been answered by Western Christianity's propositions of behavior modification. What is beauty? I would ask. Here are the five keys to a successful marriage, I would be given as an answer. It was as if nobody was listening to the question being groaned by all of creation, groaned through the pinings of our sexual tensions, our broken biochemistry, the blending of light and smog to make our glorious sunsets. I began to believe the Christian faith was a religious system invented within the human story rather than a series of true ideas that explained the story. Christianity was a pawn for politicians, a moral system to control our broken natures. The religion did seem to stem from something beautiful, for sure, but it had been dumbed down and Westernized. If it was a religious system that explained the human story, its adherents had lost the grandness of its explanation in exchange for its validation of their how lifestyles, to such a degree that the why questions seemed to be drowning in the drool of Pavlov's dogs...What does all of this mean? Are we animals nesting? Are we rats in a giant cage, none of us able to think outside our instincts, always getting me to my happiness, or is it larger, explaining the why of life, the how a shallow afterthought?"

Well said!

At the risk of making some sweeping generalizations, I will say that our culture finds meaning in outward appearances. If we can look successful, appear happy, and act religious, we are content. The why questions make us uncomfortable, relationship with a God who can't be fully understood makes us  uncomfortable. Heaven forbid that we would ever be sad or struggle with depression. Heaven forbid that we would live without much. Heaven forbid that we would live from faith to faith, not having plans for what will come next.

We need to be careful about the messages we send to our children with our parenting. Are we teaching them that appearances are everything? Are we teaching them to hide their true selves because their true selves, their human struggling, sometimes hurting, sometimes angry, sometimes inexplicable selves make us uncomfortable? Are we teaching them that the "why's" of life don't matter? That there is no meaning to life beyond living day to day, earning money, owning a house?

Are we teaching them that: "Christianity was [is] a pawn for politicians, a moral system to control our broken natures." Our broken natures are broken. They can never be better, though they can be covered with outer shells of good behavior. We use behavior modification to teach our children to do this. We often teach our children to be wonderful hypocrites. We do this in many ways. We only smile and accept them when they appear to be lovable to us. We punish them when they do wrong, so, out of fear, they become sneaky, hiding their sin from us.

I propose that we teach our children that sin is sin, without shaming them. We need to love them even when they sin. Jesus did. He died on the cross while we were still dead in our sins. We need to teach them instead that they cannot fix themselves, that Jesus died so that they could be made new. We need to lead them to the cross where they can live tenderly covered in grace.

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