Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Theology of Adam Ant

As a child, I remember hearing (and being called on occasion) "goody two shoes". This phrase refers to someone who is a self-righteous, smugly virtuous person. Its origin is a children's book called The History of Goody Two-Shoes, written by Oliver Goldsmith, and published in 1765 by John Newbery, who was a publisher of children's stories. The main character, who, of course, was named Goody (this was England, after all), owned only one shoe. When she was given a pair of them, she was so pleased that she showed them to everybody, saying "Two shoes". Thusly, this now-antiquated phrase was born.

You don't really hear this phrase too much any more. But you will if you turn on any station that's playing 80's music. You'll hear Adam Ant crooning about a moralistic prude in his song titled, would you believe it, "Goody Two Shoes". And you'll think of my blog. I'll take it as a compliment.

This weekend, I attended a church leadership conference in middle of the frozen tundra that the middle of Illinois has become as of late. Two speakers discussed how to be "missional", a term which basically means to meet people where they are at; speak their language, play their music, hang out where they hang out, etc. Para-church organizations send out missionaries who eat the food, dress in the clothes, and become totally immersed in, the culture in which they are working. The American church doesn't usually do this. The American church, sadly, creates its own sub-culture and hopes that the rest of the community around it will change their culture to fit ours. It ain't gonna go down like that.

I believe that us church-type people do this, this separation, because we don't want to sin. We want to do what God wants us to do. Without even thinking about it, we cloister ourselves away in our Christian community. The big problem seems to be that followers of Christ seem to forget from whence they came. Those who do come to Christ are assimliated into our church culture, the rest of the world be damned, literally. And as I sat in the conference (as I do in many conferences), I started to brainstorm and write down how I could do what was being talked about, what I've been talking about since I got into ministry.

And what I've been talking about is authentic community. I didn't always phrase it that way, but the deluge of emergent/postmodern Christian authors in the past few years teaches the lesson I've said right along side these writers. I want to hang out and talk about God, and all the subsequent conversations that emanate from talking about God. No pretense. No ritual for the sake of ritual. I want to sit on someone's couch, listen to Phish and Mute Math, and talk about God. I want to go to the Texas Roadhouse, eat steak, and talk about God. I want to play guitar (a lot) with a bunch of other people and break into a time of worship, singing old hymns, new worship songs, and extemporaneous tunes with simple words that express how great God is. I want to go to church and do different kinds of activities, see videos and paint pictures that express something about how we can live better for God. I want to have mind-blowing discussions and long, awesome prayer times with elders, church staff, and everyone else. I want to go to McDonald's and just love people and show 'em Jesus. Not by preaching, but by not getting mad when they get my order wrong. I want to have stuff at church that isn't inherently churchy or civic, like an all-day music festival with local acts, where we're not worried about every word sung or said, but rejoicing that a bunch of people who couldn't give a rip about God or church are in your church. Isn't that something to be happy about?

Sometimes we're so worried about our doctrine that we're losing our heart in the process. We want everything programmed so that no one says a wrong word, or does a wrong thing. We throw out programs that don't reach enough people, cost too much, or don't benefit our organization. I should know. I've been a part of some of those decisions. It's amazing that, as always, the Bible seems to have a different view: "It's not the Lord's Supper you are concerned about when you come together. For I am told that some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Is this really true? Don't you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace the church of God and shame the poor?" (1 Corinthians 11:20-22) I, Lloyd, will now ask you, the reader, to note several things from this passage.

First, Paul isn't so concerned about people getting drunk. Getting drunk is not good, but that's really only a small part of his point. His big-picture, kingdom-thinking is that you can't crowd others out when you are partaking the Lord's Supper. That's not showing love.
Second, Paul doesn't tell them that they better just stop the whole thing. He isn't ready to throw the people out, either. He sees this as a teaching moment, when he can share what Jesus' expectations are when we gather around His table. And all of His expectations have to do with taking care of the spiritual needs of yourself and those around you. That is showing love.
Third, Paul mentions disgracing the church of God. But his concern isn't about how the church looks, but about how God looks. If His people look bad by themselves, that isn't that big of a deal. We're not perfect, and we will inevitably screw something up, and people will see it. But don't make the Father look bad. I say this because God can use your imperfection; He usually has to, because that's all He has to work with. So, even if you look bad, do whatever you can to make sure that God doesn't. God can use even your stupidity to bring glory to Him. Many opportunities to teach and talk about God come out of our imperfection and sin. God is the original guy who could make lemonade out of our rotting lemons.

Paul didn't lay waste to everyone and everything. He tweaked it, and did so in a stern, yet loving, way. He was not interested in a list of rules, but how to love. These two things are so very different that it's hard to believe how many Christians have missed this very point. Especially in light of our history (Jewish Law), and the blatant clash between Jesus and the Pharisees, how do we continually miss this boat?

My life's mission is not to be a "goody two shoes", or a pair of moral Dr. Marten loafers. The point of the song seems to be that people who are so picky about the behavior of others are usually hiding some sin of their own. It gives us a view of how people who don't love Jesus see those of us that do. But, there is a far better way to live. I want to discuss and listen and learn so that people like Adam Ant (even if he is a one hit wonder) won't see me as a preachy egotist, but someone who's trying to live for God and figure out how to continually do that. That won't happen until I hang out with people and live their life. Not the sin part, of course, but I think that's assumed. Most of us are doing this anyway, but doing so under cover of darkness because we think we're not allowed to. We hide our more edgy secular CD's, and are selective about who we talk to about movies we've seen and liked. We order wine with our dinner only when we're out of town. We stay away from "bad" places and events not because we're tempted by a lifestyle (which is a good reason to stay away), but because we're concerned about what our fellow Christians might think. I've got news for everyone: those places need His light. Get your butt in there, already, and shine for God. One of the speakers at the conference said that we should "look like the world, but not live like the world." I couldn't agree more.

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