The American problem

I posted the following at a great little blog run by a great priest whose easy-to-understand contrasts between Orthodoxy and every other form of Christianity has had great impacts on my family members.

He wrote a blog post about the need to go local, to learn to take care of one’s self, to be sufficient and able to go it alone because the need may arise someday, particularly for those who try to actively live out their faith in a way that is meaningful.

He took some of his arguments from this guy, who is a friend of some friends and who I disagree with a good 95% of the time. When I do agree with him, it’s usually the core of his argument but rarely with the way he makes it or his conclusion. I’ve wrestled a bit with him at his own blog, and my priest tells me to stay off of it, so I try.

But it comes down to this one thing (and I have to be very careful because some of these issues about religious freedom and whatnot are very prescient and completely relevant to my paying gig): what do we think we mean when we talk about practicing our faith? I think, and this is just me talking here, that because so few American Christians practice anything that remotely resembles historic Christianity, we really have little room to argue.

And, because most of what passes for American Christianity bears a very keen likeness to the culture around it, we have no legs to stand on when it comes to how to order the national house.

We, as a culture, applauded and cheered the Facebook IPO last week. We cheered for money. Did anyone’s pastor say that was probably not the best thing we could be doing? We, as a voting block, tend to be more skeptical of climate change and resent any attempts to be told that we shouldn’t be able to run willy-nilly with environmental scissors in our hands. Yes, I’m talking about one particular political party. This one particular political party which has promised religious conservatives in this country the moon on abortion and unauthorized use of sexy-time, as long as we look the other way on a whole host of other issues that have damaged our communities and families much more than “the gay agenda” or Planned Parenthood.

I don’t think God is a Republican. I don’t think He’s a Democrat either. I don’t know if He worries too much about “Obamacare” and its mandates, because He has seen the Church undergo a lot more in the way of oppression.

But I think He was in the room the other day when my mom took out her own wallet and paid to keep a cancer patient’s lights on b/c the woman can’t afford her electric bill AND her chemo. (Reason #2341 why I LOVE my mom.) And I think He worries a lot about my particular salvation, why I get so mad so easily and whether I’m making the choices in my life based on the Truth I claim to possess.

Anyway, here’s a chunk of the comment I posted. I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts about it. I think this has been on my mind lately (usually). I do worry about  American Christianity, but that’s more due to its internal health than any external pressure it may be facing now and in the future.

American Christianity sold its soul to that political devil a long time ago, and now is complaining because the fire is hot.

And at the same time, our particular cultural brand of Christianity (I say this as a former mega-church Evanglical/fundamentalist Baptist before that and now Orthodox) has been unwilling to address any of the real issues facing our communities and the people in them. And the powers that be — Big Pharma, BigAg, BigMilitary, BigBusiness, BigOil — spend a lot of money helping good Christian-types get elected who promised to give them everything they’ve wanted as long as they promised not to be pro-abortion. We’re not really pro-life and the culture around us knows it. We’re pro-comfort, pro-money, pro-IcanberichifIjusttryhardenough, and now we’re reaping what we’ve sown. We sign the Manhattan Declaration, but we don’t stand up against the corporations eating our families alive and breaking up our communities. We holler against “Obamacare” but don’t really do anything to help the poor cancer patient who has to choose between keeping her lights on and paying for chemo (my mom had one of those this week).

Part of me thinks we can’t really complain or allow ourselves the luxury of fretting. We have the government and the culture we have chosen, by being on the wrong sides (as American cultural Christians) of most of the arguments and issues. For the rest of us, who truly want to live out the Gospel of Christ, this doesn’t feel like anything new.

We haven’t had a home here for a long time now. And we’re just trying to work out our own salvation… and show the world the Light of Christ.

And the Orthodox will do what we have always done: We’ll pack up our icons and go to the woods, to the caves and the caverns. We’ll love our neighbors and we’ll fight the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

On holding together

Michael Plumadore pleaded guilty yesterday. I’m not going to tell you what he did, because I’m tired of writing about what he did. I am so incredibly grateful for a guilty plea, I cannot tell you how much. That trial would have been hideous. There are no other words for it. And I fear our community would have reveled in all the gory details, right up until the sentence of death. They are outraged now on various webpages and social networking sites, feeling cheated out of the promise of an execution. I am embarrassed for us, I confess.

I, however, I am doing surprisingly alright. I awakened this morning to the sound of birds instead of sirens. I drank my coffee while walking to the barn to retrieve the errant pup. After that, I took him for a run in a nearby state park and I thought as I ran about how whole I feel.

I’ve lived in Fort Wayne now almost my entire adult life. I finished school here, found a faith here, and built a career and reputation here. But most importantly, I found me here. I’ve seen glimpses of the person I want to be. Through God’s matchless grace, I’ve been able to put back together something I thought was hopelessly damaged and broken.

Which brings me back to Plumadore. As I jogged through the woods, I thought about how just a year ago, I would have struggled more the day after writing that story. I would have struggled more the day I wrote the story. Don’t get me wrong, it was especially horrifying to hear someone say, with their own mouth, how they did what he did. And it was physically difficult to figure out how to put that into words for the reading public. But I know a year ago, I would’ve struggled longer to put myself back together afterward. There was little less of the “post-traumatic” stress about today.

Two years ago, I reached the end of myself as a solitary person. I felt like I finally found something in myself worth handing off to someone else, something worth sharing beside my inclination for protecting others. But I didn’t know what to do with it. For some reason, I found myself driving around and around, Sunshine snoozing in the back seat, listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You”, and Sufjan Steven’s version of “Come Thou Fount” over and over again, tears streaming down my face.

I don’t know what happened that day. I talked to my friend, one of the truest I’ve ever had, and something about that conversation made me feel like it was OK to put myself in a position to meet, to date, to fall in love. Four months later I did. Now, I type this with a ring on my left ring finger, our dog napping at my feet, and the birds singing still outside the windows of his home.

I know that A’s not the only reason I feel OK today, after Plumadore and his mess of a life. But I think the reason’s I was able to be open to A–to trust, to risk, to love, and to be loved–are are all part of it.

This used to be me:

I spend my life
Becoming invisible
It’s hard to maintain
And it’s hard to get by
I don’t recall
Fight or flight setting in
I have no introduction
I just breath it in like the air
And there’s nothing to remember
There is nothing to remember

I owe you nothing
That’s all I’ve got for you
And you’ll borrow nothing
That’s what you expect of me
So send me a lot
Out of thin sailors knots
And I fear underneath
Your radiant thoughts
My footsteps now
They will echo loudly
All I owe, all I owe
Strides I spend to the finish line
All I owe, all I owe
Strides I spend to the finish line
I’ll give you those

You told me something
That scared me to death
Don’t take me home
I can’t face that yet
I’m ashamed that I’m barely human
And I’m ashamed that
I don’t have a heart you can break

I’m just action
And at other times reaction

All I owe, all I owe
Strides I spend to the finish line
All I owe, all I owe
Strides I spend to the finish line
I’ll give you those
Just don’t make me go home
Give me something to remember
Give me something to remember
Give me something to remember (Neko Case, “Nothing to Remember)

It’s not anymore. For that I will be eternally grateful.

Sorry if this was over-sharing.