Monday, November 24, 2008

Cultivating Goodness by Shane Claiborne

Community is about surrounding ourselves with people who remind us of who we want to become, people in whom we can see Jesus...and hopefully those people rub off on us a little.

Certainly God loves us as we are, not for who we could be - not in spite of our shortcomings but with them. And yet being a Church of and for the broken doesn't mean we stay in our brokenness. We are to be wounded healers. As with Christ, it is from our own wounds and brokenness and humiliation that we are empowered to heal others. And we need to be healers, communities where people can heal. As Dorothy Day says, we have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.

For many of us, the judgmental, arrogant, legalistic Christianity we knew growing up has created a suspicion of discipline and order that can lead to a pretty sloppy spirituality. By reacting to the institutional sickness, we can easily find ourselves with little in place to help us heal from our wounds, create new disciplines, and carve out a space where goodness triumphs.

I just read an article that spoke about one of the parenting gurus who died a few years back. He was one of those psychiatrists who pioneered the movement that taught parents not to discipline their kids but to allow autonomy as kids make mistakes and decisions on their own (let them touch a candle so they learn what "hot" is...). On his deathbed this doctor confessed that the social scientists were wrong, saying, "We have raised a generation of brats" Much of the seeker sensitive, postmodern church is in danger of making the same mistake. We can raise up a generation of spiritual brats, that do whatever we want and no one can tell us otherwise. People come to the altar singing "Just as I am" and leave just as they were - a church that teaches what to believe but now how to live. A church that is scared of spiritual disciplines like simplicity, fasting, solitude, and chastity will not produce very good disciples.

Community is pretty hip these days. The longing for community is in all of us, to love and to be loved. But if community doesn't exist for something beyond ourselves it will die, atrophy, suffocate. "Discipline" and "Disciple" share the same roots, and without discipline we become little more than hippie communes or frat houses, we fall short of God's dream to form a new humanity with distinct practices that act as contrast culture to the rest of society.

Like any culture, we who follow the Way of Jesus have distinct ways of eating and partying, different from the culture of consumption, homogeneity and hedonism of the world around us. There's that beautiful passage (Luke 14) where Jesus tells us when we throw a party we are not to invite our friends but to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind...all those who might find themselves on the margins of other parties. Our homes, our living rooms, even our parties can become places of solstice and hospitality for those with addictions and struggles. But it doesn't happen without intentionality.

I long for our community houses to be known as safe places for folks to recover from the temptations we face, for the momentum to move away from substances that are so destructive, or at least numbingly unfruitful, to ourselves and to our neighbors. We are a recovery community, for sinners recovering from all sorts of addictions. Our community should be a place where people can detox - whether that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping, or gossip - where there is a tipping point towards goodness rather than away from it. And may we catch each other with grace when we fall short of who we want to be.


Marty said...

I read this - then I read it again.
I have to agree.. I do not even have a but to raise --- at the moment. Good work

MikeT said...

Regardless of what happens in the present economic situation, eventually I think we will be left in the place where our culture will be radically more violent. I once read you guys said maybe we aren't as violent as places in the Third World because we have more stuff to keep us mollified. Truthfully, many non-Christians can do good and noble things when they have their needs taken care of. But what happens when the Great Whore, the Babylon, we have made of our market system is destroyed? People suddenly might get a lot uglier if they can't get their stuff anymore... and some might just realize that it really didn't matter that much anyways, only Jesus matters. I speak about myself as much as everyone else.

todd said...

Great to hear from you Mike! Thanks for the insightful comments. I like the use of the whore of Babylon, its a theme that has troubled me lately, especially the need for the people of God to come out of her. Too often I'm too comfortable where I am.