January 17, 2014

I Can't Stop Running

My 49th birthday is approaching rapidly. My body tells me every morning that it's not happy to go along with the program of getting up and moving around anymore.

By all rights I should be settling down into a role of advocating for a return to the good old days, with that old time religion. You know, the one where they preach the "Gospel®". The one where you just follow the tried-and-tested Formula™ (Sinner's Prayer, Repent and be Baptized, Get Slain in the Spirit, etc.) and you get your official "Get Out Of Hell Free" card.


Cheap religion, cheap grace, cheap salvation... until it's time to tithe. Then you'd better dig deep.

If that's the snake oil you're huckstering in your mental tent revival, then I don't want any part of it.

And it seems that a couple of generations younger than me don't want any of that nonsense, either.


A couple of nights ago, we were discussing the confession of sins at my church. In the 20th century phenomenon of American Protestant Church, confession of sins has become either an ephemeral concept, a household idol that gets nothing but lip service, or a sideshow attraction of people answering the invitation.

The sad fact of the matter is that confessing our sins has become more dangerous than actually sinning. It's the modern-day version of throwing people to the beasts in the Coliseum. Our confessed sins slake your thirst for revenge, fan the flames of your self-righteousness, entertain you in the amphitheater of gossip.

So, no, I don't want to open up to you, to let you know who I really am. Because you won't reciprocate. You won't allow yourself to be weak and vulnerable with me.

You thrive on your imagined class divisions, the ones that Paul told us no longer exist.


Several weeks ago in a Bible class I commented about looking for the Imago Dei in everyone (I actually said "Image of God" because saying anything in Latin gets you lumped in with "Papist Dogs"). One of the crusties, the Defenders of the True Gospel®, took me to task on that, telling me that you have to focus on the distortion of sin in the Image. Sorry, but I can't do that anymore. I'm tired of the bitter misanthropy that the crusties want to elevate above Christ's redemptive power.

I no longer wish to worship the Bible. Nor Paul. Nor Moses and the Prophets Nor do I wish to relegate the power of the Holy Spirit to a tool that exists only to ensure intellectual and interpretive assent. You've used the Bible and the supposed holiness of your interpretation to oppress and injure people for far too long. It wouldn't bother me very much for you to go on now and enjoy your eternal reward, leaving the rest of us here to find God's grace in the mistakes of our humanity.

And that's why I've come to stand with the young iconoclasts. They're not content to blindly accept the wrongs that the church continues to commit. They're not afraid to simply be human and seek God, even though they may make mistakes along the way. They want to make the church a safe place to confess our sins to one another, not a place of judgment, scorn, and gossip. A place of true community and fellowship. That's what I want, too.


As I approach the half-century mark, some lyrics from songs that I've loved for decades begin to take on a different and deeper meaning. One that has been on my mind a lot lately is Todd Rundgren's "I Can't Stop Running." The line that really hits home is the bridge: "And meanwhile, time marches on and on, and the strength to run may soon be gone. Now I watch the young one coming, and it's on their legs I'm running into the arms of my God."

We've demanded that the young people walk on our old, weakening legs of faith, obey our minds that are closed off in a temple to our own certitude, and submit to the wisdom we suppose our age grants us. And in all of those demands we've forgotten the wonder and awe that a child sees and feels. The same wonder and awe Christ tells us we must have to enter His Kingdom.

Lord, wash away my sins and my crustiness. Create in me a clean heart as I behold You making all things new.

Brothers and sisters my age and older, if we really have the answers, then why haven't we fixed everything yet? We need to quit pointing the fingers of blame at those who haven't listened to our so-called answers, we need to take a hard look at ourselves.

Young brothers and sisters, lend me your legs so I can keep running into His arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment