Survey Of American Christianity: Musings On Creation, The Afterlife, And A Train

This is the last post in my series “Survey Of American Christianity.” It’s been a long and often grueling process, but I needed to get my thoughts and feelings down somewhere or I was going to explode. I figured why not a public platform because I bet I’m not the only one who had those thoughts and feelings towards church and Christianity.

This brings me to a post that exists more to colorfully sum up many of the points I’ve made of the last 6 weeks:

There is a train that has lost control. They can see the cliff. Some deny it, saying “it only looks like a cliff. You’ll see, it’s merely our eyes playing tricks. there’s nothing to worry about.” Others try to stop the train, breaking the lever, causing the train to increase in speed. There’s nothing they can do. The train will meet it’s demise. Is this the end? 

The World Beyond Yours

I think it’s time to admit some very serious problems in the church to which we have all been contributing. We have been aiding in the spread and infection of many falsehoods within the greater Church that has caused us to look inward, and never out into the world we live in.

I think it’s really hard sometimes to look back on the history of the church, while also looking at present-day Christians, and have much hope for the future of the church…And that’s a fair and valid feeling that I definitely can sympathize with. One of the main issues of American Christianity today is that we can’t seem to see a world beyond our own. We have become entirely self-centered. Nothing matters more than our own comforts, securities, and desires. Its a poison that has been killing the church from the inside out for a very long time. I see it as the source of many other issues going on in the Church today.

At some point, we began letting our country’s culture dictate our faith and how that played out in our lives, and it has dominated the way we express ourselves and our beliefs. America teaches consumerism. Its the only way it can survive, is to keep its citizens wanting more and more and more. This has caused Americans to live inside their own universe where they are the center, and everything orbits around their ego, careful not to touch or interrupt the fragile balance of their way of life.

Jesus is the asteroid that disrupts the cosmos of our soul and bursts through the surface of our world, decimating all we ever knew to be life, giving us an opportunity to be reborn in a new world. A world where we aren’t in control of our faux-universe; some figment we conjured up in the selfishness of our depraved hearts that slowly and deceptively decays our character from the inside out. No, we are born into something much more vivid. Its as though all things look, sound, feel, and taste brighter and fuller. In comparison, we can barely imagine our old world in light of the new one.

This is what it’s like to truly know Jesus. I imagine the afterlife will be something similar, but inexpressible with our feeble vocabulary. We are all going around living in this world as imposters of our true selves, but our asteroid is coming. I think sometimes we forget that in order for God to truly be who He says He is, He has to be entirely against us claiming anything or anyone else being His equal, including ourselves. Yes God is loving, But He wants what is best for us more than He wants to express what we would define as “love”. God knows that what is ultimately best for us, meaning what will truly complete us and cause our soul to find satisfaction in its entirety is, namely, Himself. Our tiny world will be destroyed, along with the one we live on, all in the name of Creation. We should not forget this, for it is patterned throughout our entire life here on earth. We are constantly being destroyed by events in life, only to be rebuilt as something new, forged in the fire of our circumstances and hardships, coming out even stronger, sharper, and smarter.

Eternity In Our Hands

I shutter to think that Heaven or the new Earth will be like Church is now. I know that’s harsh, but I bet you feel the same way. Church has become something of a spectacle, a facade, a shadow of its true self. We get dressed up, and go hang out in our country club churches with all of our in-crowd friends, sing songs that have lost their meaning, hear a mediocre pep talk about how awesome our lives could be, and go home and take a nap. (That last part is more subjective to my own experience)

I find myself often praying “please God, remind me that you’re better than this.” Christianity, and most other faiths, are usually based on a simple concept that if we believe what is presented and buy into the idea of a higher power that is in control, it will ultimately give our lives meaning and purpose. But Christianity has lost its purpose. No wonder millennials are leaving the Church in droves. Christianity isn’t attractive anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it should be cool and relevant or whatever. I’m saying that when someone meets a person claiming to be a Christian, there should be life deep in their bones. Whether someone is a Buddhist, Atheist, etc., It should be obvious something has been radically changed in the heart of someone who has truly encountered Jesus, and that thing is intriguing to even the coldest of hearts.

The reality is that all of us are living out a part of eternity, literally and figuratively. I imagine our life here is somehow suspended in time, all of humanity captured in a fractionally fleeting blink in the eyes of eternity. But while we are here in this suspended existence, our purpose is to effect eternity with our life. In the process we create for ourselves the future of our own eternal existence. I believe we all do this, whether we believe in God or not. I believe Heaven and Hell are real places, but I think they look very different than they’ve been portrayed to us in church. I don’t believe Hell is a fiery place where the unsaved burn forever. I believe Hell is a prison of isolation from God and all that is good. Heaven is communion with all that is good and of God. Maybe it’s foolish of me to think, but I can’t help but speculate that maybe the life we create for ourselves here on earth is a sliver of a glimpse into what awaits us beyond physical death. What if the decisions we make, good and bad, reflect the Hell we choose or deny for ourselves? Like we are creating our own worst nightmare, to which we all can recall at any time, and that nightmare played over and over again is what hell would be for us. I believe plenty of people are already trapped in their own hell in their life now, and God offers them the chance to escape. The Bible says our good deeds are rewarded in Heaven in God’s own way and by His hand alone, so wouldn’t that mean that at least our good deeds, decisions, and the giving of ourselves to God and other people has some sort of effect on how we experience Heaven and, ultimately, the new Earth? I don’t see why Hell would be any different.

So I return to my former prayer: ” Please God, remind me that you’re better than this.”
To which He replies: ” Do things with great love, and you will see that I AM”

We make the difference for ourselves and everyone around us, good or bad. Choose to make a difference for good. It’s there that you will find Jesus in the midst of those we love, the times we give of and die to ourselves, and when we choose light over darkness. God gives us a choice. He knows us well enough to know what we will do, but the choice is ours nonetheless.

Stand For Something

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

This quote was in an Iowa newspaper in 1926 by a Methodist church.

It’s ironic that this statement was made by a church. Another statement can be made in the same fashion that says “If you don’t stand for something, then you’re against everything.”

There are a lot of blog posts beginning to circulate around right now. In the wake of the “Caitlyn Jenner” buzz, the legalization of gay marriage and so forth, we are seeing another fantastic opportunity for people to rise up out of the woodwork and scream from the rooftops how they are against something. These days, we hear a lot of acceptance going on in the greater population. Sure, there are always people who bully, slander, and hurl insults. But generally, if you aren’t accepting of all people, all lifestyles, and all decisions made, you are labeled someone who is unloving, judgmental, and unworthy of being heard. Though I disagree with this viewpoint from our mainstream culture (because in order for someone to label another person any of those things, they are also labeling themselves all of those things and are therefore hypocritical), I believe that Christians have responded to culture in an entirely self-defeating way.

The Christian response to culture has become a growing epidemic within the greater Christian community. This is more than a problem, it’s a cancer; a deadly disease that is killing the church from the inside out. And just like cancer often does, it has gone mostly undetected until it has grown to be such an evidently large growth of poison that it threatens the entire health of the church. This disease is that of “hate”.

“Love the sinner, but hate the sin”, you may tell me. “I’m just trying to save lost people” you might believe. But you are wrong. The reality is that Christians have defeated themselves by believing a lie so great that it could have only come from the lips of the enemy himself. This lie is that it is better to stand against the things we disagree with than it is to stand for the things we have been called to fight for. We have forgotten the simple truth that to stand justly is to fight for those who have no rights, to feed those who have no food, to clothe those who have no clothes, and to love all people with all we have. We are to stand against oppression, tyranny, and the mistreatment of any people. We are called to stand for the least, the last , and the lost. We are called to stand for them, but also to accept our place as the least and the last, but not lost, but rather found. For it’s the least and the last that are first to inherit the Kingdom of God. How quickly we have forgotten…

Jesus never intended for His followers to stand against people that disagree with them or don’t live up to their standards of religion. That was left to the pharisees! Today, nothing has changed. Jesus has called us to love. Jesus stood against things, but what we see Jesus doing the most of is loving people that the church of that time had deemed unlovable. How differently the church would look today if we followed suit.

Yet, Christians are called hypocrites. We are called judgmental, pompous, arrogant…anything but “loving”. The reality is that, yes, there is some sliver of truth to “love the sinner while not accepting the sin.” But what we forget is that we are also the sinner. Jesus chose to love us despite our sin, and continues to love us despite our sin every day. He never accepted our sin. He died for us to close the gap between us and God because of our sin. If we fully embrace this as truth, then we must be forced to realize this as a staggeringly devastating reality that should reshape the way we see not only ourselves, but the entire world! The way I see it, if Jesus could really love me, and not just who I was, but who I am right now, then how could I not extend all the love I can muster to all people in the hope that they could know even a fraction of the love I have experienced from the Creator of the universe? Yet we fail at this so often.

I think the problem lies more in the fact that we forget who God is. If we even half realized who God is, It would be more difficult to focus on the wrong things…Or I’d like to think so at least.

We have become ambassadors of hate. We’ve forgotten what and who we represent with our words, our actions, and our life’s purpose.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s particularly difficult to imagine the future of the Church and what that will look like years from now. It’s difficult to have faith in an institution built on the shoulders of paganism and deemed holy acts by pagan rulers for the people of God to embrace as the only means of worship. it’s difficult to maintain optimism based on the last two thousand years, and see where we are going from our past and current trajectory.

I think that whether we like it or not, we are heading for our own demise.
That may sound really dim, but I’d like to recall the overarching message of this post: Destruction in the name of Creation. Or to put it another way: Death to life.

I believe we will see the death of the church as we know it, so that God can do something great in the hearts of believers around the world in order that we might return to a time without all the pretense and religious institutions. God has made a pattern throughout the history of the universe of creating something, giving it over to itself until it ultimately destroys itself, and creating something new from the rubble. He did it all throughout the Bible, He does it all throughout our life now, and He will ultimately do it with our bodies, the world, and the universe itself. It changes the way we look at God, I think, to see Him as a Creator that created everything to die, only to rise as something better. All of creation groans to be made new, and God is in the business of creating and giving life. He laid the foundation of all things in six days, but He didn’t stop there. He continues to create masterpieces out of us on the canvas of eternity, with the brushstrokes of time, and the paint of our circumstances.

I believe that in order for the Church to return to its first Love again, it will have to experience death. I haven’t seen anyone else make this claim, and I may be totally radical and completely off to believe this. But I honestly don’t see how the Church can continue existing the way it is currently. The only thing the Church at large is producing are people who don’t know Jesus, but do know religion, good works, false living, and empty worship to a God they know nothing about.

People continue to plead the Gospel through books, sermons, videos, and all forms of creative streams in culture, but no one will hear it. We’ve lost ourselves in our own religion.

There are countless books, blogs, and magazine articles discussing the great debate of the future of the Church. Some are doomsdayers running around like their on the Titanic post-iceburg screaming that the ship is sinking. Others are dressed in their finest, sipping whiskey and assuring everyone that the ship is strong and it will hold, while living in denial that there was ever an iceberg. But they all miss the point, I think.

I continue to try and remain optimistic that God will cause true revival in His Church, but It seems to me that God has more or less given the Church over to her desires, but maybe there is hope. Maybe there is life beyond death for the Bride of Christ. Maybe we can return to our first Love and be made new in the presence of the One whom we were made for. But will it happen in the current state of the Church in America? Or will the church of America die first? Time will tell I guess. It’s all speculation, of course. There’s no way to read the mind of God and know what the view looks like from eternity. But all things created are on a pendulum that can only swing so far.

The world seems dark. It appears there is not much hope to be found in the Church today, but I believe brighter days will be upon us. We just might not get there the way we thought we would.

There is a train that has lost control. They can see the cliff. Some deny it, saying “it only looks like a cliff. You’ll see, it’s merely our eyes playing tricks. there’s nothing to worry about.” Others try to stop the train, breaking the lever, causing the train to increase in speed. There’s nothing they can do. The train will meet it’s demise. Is this the end? 


2 thoughts on “Survey Of American Christianity: Musings On Creation, The Afterlife, And A Train

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s