Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Easy Christ Has Left the Church

Following on the heels of my last post about Christless Christianity I thought it appropriate to post this essay by Dr. Calvin Miller, author of numerous books including The Singer Trilogy and Preaching - The Art of Narrative Exposition. He is currently on the faculty of Samford Univerity's Beeson Divinity School serving as professor of preaching and pastoral ministry. Here is his version of what Christless Christianity looks like:

My Easy Christ Has Left the Church
by Calvin Miller, from his book “The Unfinished Soul”

My easy Christ has left the church. Who can say why? Maybe it’s because His video-logged apostles all read diet-books, travel agency brochures and Christian fiction thrillers on how the world should end. But none read books on what the starving ignorant should do until it does. He left the church so disappointed that Americans could all spell “user friendly”but none of them could spell “Gethsemane.”

Can we say for sure he’s quit? Oh yes, it’s definite, I’m afraid: He’s canceled his pledge card. I passed him on the way out of the recreation building near the incinerator where we burn the leftover religious quarterlies and the stained paper doilies from our Valentine banquets.“Quo Vadis, Domine?” I asked him.“Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church,walking out of town past seminaries where student scholars could all parse the ancient verbs but few of them were sure why they had learned the art. He shook his head confounded that many had studied all his ancient words without much caring why he said them. He seemed confused that so many studied to be smart, but so few prayed to be holy.

Some say he left the church because the part-time missionaries were mostly tourists on short-term camera safaris, photographing destitution to show the pictures to their missionary clubs back home. I cannot say what all his motives were. I only know I saw him rummaging through dumpsters in Djakarta looking for a scrap of bread that he could multiply. “Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him. “Somewhere else,” he said.

He’s gone - the melancholy Messiah’s gone. I saw him passing by the beltway mega-temple circled by its multi-acred asphalt lawn, blanketed with imports and huge fat vehicles nourished on the hydrocarbons of distant oil fields where the poor dry rice on public roads and die without a requiem, in unmarked graves.

Is it certain he is gone?

It is.

We saw him in the slums of Recife, telling stories of old fools who kept on building bigger barns, oddly idealistic tales of widows with small coins who outgave the richer deacons of the church. I saw him sitting alone in a fast-food franchise drinking only bottled water and sorting through a stack of world-hunger posters. He couldn’t stay long. He was on his way to sell his old books on Calvin and Arminius to buy a bag of rice for Bangledesh.

My easy Christ has left the church. I remember now where I last saw him. He was sitting in one of those new square, crossless mega-churches singing 2x choruses and playing bongos amid the music stands and amplifiers with anonymous Larry and Sherrie. He turned to them in church and said “I am He! Follow me!” But they told him not to be so confrontational and reminded him that they had only come for the music and the drama, and frankly were offended that he would dare to talk to them out loud in church. After all, they were only seekers, with a right to privacy.

I followed him out through the seven-acre vestibule, where he passed the tape-duplicating machine where people could buy the “how to” sermons of the world’s most famous lecturers.

He left the church and threaded his way across the crowded parking lot, laying down those whips and cords he’d once used to cleanse the temple, and looked as though he wanted to make key-scrapes on Lexi and huge white Audis and family buses filled with infant seats.

He stooped and shed a tear after and wrote “Ichabod” in the sand. In a sudden moment I was face to face with him. “Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him. “Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church, abandoning his all-star role in Easter pageants to live incognito in a patchwork culture, weeping for all those people who cannot afford the pageant tickets.

He picked up an old junk cross, lugging it into the bookstore after the great religious rally, and stood dumfounded among the towering stacks of books on how to grow a church. “Are you conservative or liberal,” I asked him. But he only mumbled, “Oh Jerusalem…” and said the oddest thing about a hen gathering her vicious, selfish chicks under her wings. He left the room as I yelled out after him, “Lord, is it true you’ve quit the church? Quo vadis, Domine?” “Somewhere else,” he said.

No comments: