Mark Steele: Man on a Christianish Mission
- Tuesday, August 04, 2009
So whether we want to be or not, we’re ministers. And whether we want it to be or not, ministry is surgery. We’re wielding blades. But the problem with modern Christianity is that we don’t think we’re wielding blades. We act like we’re wielding pencils—that our actions and our words can be easily retracted. But they can’t. Our modern actions and our modern words and the American Christian subculture has done a lot of good—a lot of surgical good—and a lot of damage. And it’s not just an issue of intentions.
So when my wife was grooming [with scissors] her sweet little dog Scout, she had all the best intentions in the world. But because of the distractions that were besetting her at the moment and because of everything else that was on her, the scenario of damage is what arose instead of the scenario of prettying him up. He was irrevocably harmed and to this day, though a lot of his tongue has grown back, there’s still this snake-like wedge right in the middle of his tongue. It always causes people to say, “What happened to you?” And that’s the result of our lives.
This book wasn’t meant to be a condemning book of “Oh no! Look what we’ve done. Nothing can be done about it!” But it is a call to more accountability. I’m no theologian. All I know is that I’ve messed it up a whole bunch, and if I’m honest with myself I see these eleven things that the book goes into. I see how I’ve been Christianish. And I want all of us to recognize it and try to work out of it.
In the journey from Christianish to Christian, you talk about exposing “the rough stuff” and how Jesus had a scandalous history in his lineage. Why should that encourage us and how does it show that we need to deal with our own rough stuff?
Well, I do think that this is changing a little bit in the modern church, but in the church that I grew up in you were definitely supposed to put on your Sunday best. And I don’t just mean your clothes. We all know that that means the persona of your own life and your family. There was a real pressure to feel like everything was just right. Now we don’t have those pressures quite the same way in the modern church, but everyone is still trying to seem like they have their act together.
I loved the fact that Jesus was born into this world with this scandalous history. And then, talk about the fact that it’s the very first passage that we get in the New Testament that is the preface into Christ’s life. This is the lineage of all the people in Christ’s history who came before him, and it rattles one name off after another and it only stops when it talks about David and Solomon. And it interrupts their story to talk about the fact that Solomon’s mother was originally the wife of Uriah—the man that David had killed.
So it throws this big reference to this huge scandal and this huge sin instead of focusing on all the other wonderful things David did. And that makes a point of saying, “But wait ... let’s stop for a moment and recognize in Jesus’ history there’s that huge mistake.” And I love that the Bible goes to the work of doing that, because all of us have huge mistakes in our past. Sometimes it’s in our family line. Sometimes it’s our own issue. But that passage makes the point to say that Jesus did not shy away from his own scandalous history. He didn’t disguise his rough stuff. He made it clear, because when you really look into what does that passage do to us … wow, the Savior of the world was able to come from that. That changes me. It does something to me to realize that the most transformative force in the history of the universe came from some of the same rough stuff that I come from.
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