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Getting Out Of The Faith Ghetto

Getting Out Of The Faith Ghetto

If I had a video store it would have one section: Movies. I’m not sure what effect that would have on business, but it would certainly reflect a lesson I’ve been learning and relearning from the moment I began thinking for myself. The lesson is this: Life is one category.

It seems simple enough, and hardly earth shattering, but as I think about its implications I find myself awe-struck by the possibilities of a life lived from this mindset.

Do you remember how the books you read in literature courses were always set in a historical context that your English professor often felt inadequate to discuss without the help of a history professor? Have you wandered aimlessly up and down the supermarket aisle designated “Sauces” looking desperately for soy sauce only to discover that it’s actually kept in the “Ethnic Foods” aisle? And have you recently noticed that the most casual of conversations with a non-believer has an alienating “spiritual aspect” to it even though you were trying to avoid being too “Christiany”? The reason for all these quandaries is the same: Life is one category.


Postmodernism has given a shot in the arm to spirituality, but unfortunately, it has been relegated to a spot in our day timer between a stop at Starbucks and the health club. We have made God a category in our life. And we think we’re improving in our walk when we spend more time in that category: “The more often I have morning devotionals, the better Christian I am.” And while morning devotionals are important, the truth is your time in Revelation is as spiritual as your chat with a co-worker over the water cooler. Psychologist Paul Tournier says we have created an image of mankind that is, in essence a list: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Tournier would argue spirituality is not on that list but at the center of the other three. It is the source of our physical, mental and emotional output and the recipient of all input through those means as well. In other words, there is no way to be solely spiritual. Go ahead, be spiritual. Ready? One … two … three, go! What did you do? Trying to be spiritual away from the rest of our life is like trying to eat without any food or like trying to be a really good driver without ever going down the road. We get in and study the steering wheel and gauges then we get out of the car and start walking down the road. It is in the living out of our lives that our spirituality can be exercised. Our spiritual battle is fought a million times a day in a million different ways. It is in the effort we put into our work, its in the way we talk to our loved ones, its in the speed with which we return our neighbors borrowed hedge trimmer.


Within the Church currently there is a strange effort to counteract this effect by bringing our pseudo-spiritual subculture around with us everywhere we go. We turn the world into a large church service full of people who believe like we do and who don’t offend our sensibilities with their sinful behaviors. Opening a phone book, I can find Christian pharmacies, Christian art framing, Christian bakeries and here in my hometown someone has created a business concept out of a cheesy Christian T-shirt. The Lord’s Gym Health And Fitness Centers are dedicated to promoting “Fitness for Body & Soul” and offer classes such as Praise Dance, Body of Armor and Chariots of Fire Spin. Now, some might argue such businesses are a good model of stretching the barriers of our spiritual activity beyond Sunday morning. However, all they are doing is adding spiritual language into things that are naturally spiritual because they are part of the human experience God has created. Taking care of your body is spiritual even if you don’t play the Newsboys while working on your biceps. These “Christian” shops are doing what all the “secular” shops are doing, but to the exclusion of non-believers. Creating places like this completely removes God’s disciples from the world, which doesn’t bode well for the world, and I daresay, ends up hurting the Church as well.

What’s occurring is the creation of a ghetto. The word has long since been associated with inner city housing projects and Elvis’s worst song ever, but the ghettos have been around since the middle ages. Then they were walled sections of a city that a religious group (usually Jews) was forced to occupy as a way of keeping them from the rest of the population. Christians appear to be doing it to themselves. And within the walls of this Christian ghetto we’re not only experiencing death in the Church but in the arts as well. Go to a Christian bookstore. As you walk the aisles you’ll see shelf after shelf of Christians toys (usually of poor quality), Christians music (usually a little worse than the toys) and over on the right side, by the Christian coffee shop called “Jesus Java” you’ll see a shelf labeled “Art.” This shelf consists of a Thomas Kinkade painting, and two photo landscapes all with Bible verses or Oswald Chambers quotations emblazoned across the top right corner. Here we are, the group of people that claims to have the corner market on understanding the First and Greatest Artist and we can’t even imitate His creative nature as effectively as a world that doesn’t know Him.


Again, the problem is categories. We have categorized ourselves out of the world. Life is one category. Good music, good art, good health and good prescription drugs are innately spiritual if they are in fact good. We don’t need to label something Christian to the exclusion of the rest of the world for it to be good and pure. Because all things that are good and pure are of God, whether the name on it is Rich Mullins or David Gray. All truth is God’s truth. If we are seeking God out in everything we do He will inevitably show up. He doesn’t need labels or categories to find us and we shouldn’t need them to find Him. Sure, there are experiences you should stay away from, but He has given us a mind, a body of believers and the Holy Spirit to help us decipher what is of Him and what is not. Our categories have become the lazy Christian’s guide to prudence. “I don’t have to worry about what messages are in this movie, it’s Christian.” Not only is that argument a dangerous fallacy, but it also leads to the exclusion of truth God is revealing to us through “non-Christian” sources. In God’s cosmic video store there is one category: Truth. It’s not supposed to be easy. Every experience, every person you meet and every choice you make is a part of the walk. It takes a lot more work and thinking on our part, but we must at least read the back of every video before determining its worth. The good news is there are no late fees. You don’t have to have all the answers. We’ll have the answers someday, but for now look for God everywhere. And yes, He might even be found in that stupid Elvis song.


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