Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Imperfect Sainthood: Normality and its Evasion of Christians

Before I break into my half-baked discussion, let me just say that I have been given some of the most thoughtful "commenters" around. To all you who read this blog and write in with a comment, thank you. You often add a bit of brightness to my day, and you consistently make me and the other four people who read this blog think. Both of yesterday's comments--from the newcomer Brian, very insightful, and the original Consumed commenter, Al, always erudite and clear--alluded to the need for Christians to own their "of-heaven" nature. Today's topic is quite different. We Christians need to be normal. Somehow, normality often evades us.

Now, wait. Hold on. I am not talking here about any deep theological need to be normal. I'm not even talking about contextualization. I'm not talking about church services. I'm not trying to make some piercing, broad-level point by way of a harmless suggestion. Nope. I'm actually just talking about Christian living. In the everyday passing of the hours, we should be normal. Trust me, we're already weird enough. Let's think about this. We have staked every ounce and drop of our lives on a collection of documents from multiple authors and cultures written over thousands of years that includes the need to make blood sacrifices, dunk one another in water, and believe in a conception without the male's contribution. This is incredible stuff. Of course, one's incredulity is set off by the reality that this book is entirely true and somehow, inconceivably, makes coherent sense and teaches one common message, that of God's absolute rule over man and desire that He worship Him by a separated, Messiah-adoring life. But forget that--we are already voluntarily claiming wacko status by our belief in God's word. Why make ourselves any weirder than we are?

But what exactly am I calling for? Good question, perceptive and slightly prickly reader. I'm not calling us to anything outside of the Bible. No, no, no. We need to do everything the Bible says and do all we can to bring maximal glory to our Lord and Savior. With that foremost in our mind, then, we should set out to be normal people. We should do normal people things. We should play sports with non-Christians, listen to good music, and read interesting blogs (ahem). (Just kidding.) We should go to Starbucks, have hairstyles that roughly conform to normal societal patterns, and speak language that non-church people readily grasp. We should be able to talk about the weather, the Red Sox, the merits of sweet vs. sour barbecue, and the difficulty of raising children. We should always be ready to make a defense of the faith--but also always be quick to make people feel welcome and appreciated in our conversations with them. We should not smile blankly and blink when people talk about the local mall. Even if we don't like malls, car lots, and shopping centers, we should know what's in them, and be ready to make a bonding quip about them when conversationally necessary. "Yeah, you could hold the Winter Olympics in that Dick's Sporting Goods, eh?" Or something silly but normal like that. We should walk our dogs where other people do. We should be good teammates. We shouldn't get overly excited about normal things, like touchdowns or pizza. We should be excellent but grounded employees. Excepting our bold moral and verbal gospel witness, we shouldn't be known as "the Christian wacko" because we ask everybody in the office if they've seen "Omega Code 2" or eaten a "Bible Foods Granola Bar." When your Christian-culture synapses start firing like Gettysburg riflemen, take a few deep breaths, and sit in a darkened room for a few minutes. Then, emerge normal. Repeat as often as necessary.

In matters where we can advance, demonstrate, and stand up for the faith, we need to go all out. We need to boldly and clearly proclaim the awesome--and scandalously weird--gospel of Christ. It is the absolute, world-defining truth, and we must demonstrate its truth by our unrelenting willingness to speak it, live it, and defend it. However, we should not repeat this behavior for the ideosyncracies of cultural Christianity. If you find such a person, soothe them. Tell them it's okay to know who's leading the Pacific Division and what book is number one on the Times best-seller list. Assure them that foods not found in the Bible are not illegal to eat. Encourage them to name their children whatever they want, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Bible names (my middle name is Daniel, and I love it, cause I love Daniel), but that Melchizedek may seem more promising in the glow of young parenthood than it will for the one-day junior high student. Take every opportunity to point such things out. You see, we are an of-heaven people, but we are also a this-world people, and while we have a mandate to be weird and strange and alien as far as our beliefs and our moral lives, we are not so called when it comes to our clothing styles, our hairdos, and our granola bar choices.


Anonymous Jed said...

"We dunk one another in water..."

You should qualify that: some of us dunk one another in water. Others among us prefer to leave the mutual dunking to county fairs (you know, the dunk tanks where one hits the target and the victim falls in?).

2:48 AM  
Blogger Dad said...

Owen, Amen. At my 'fundementalist' Bible school being a 'preacher boy' was the highest and best calling. Going into business, or teaching, was okay, but - at best a distant second.

I 'bet' there are a lot of 'preacher boys, or seminary students or even 'preachers' out there that should be living mornal lives, but are following the calling because it was/is more spiritual. Amen to saying it is good to live a life doing anything - for the Lord.

But even this life is abmornal (not like the world) because we are heavenly minded - doing all we do for the glory of God, or we are striving in that direction.


3:45 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Just a brief word, this was an excellent post! I must say though, I don't know and don't care who's number one in the Pac 10 and I love my college football, basketball (both men and womens) and soccer, I just couldn't care less about the Pac 10, everyone should know about the SEC though, plus how the Sox are doing, and how long it's been since my beloved Cubbies have won it all. Please, keep the posts a comin'. For the commentors, how can you still be up at 2:48am and 3:45am, please, get more sleep!

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Jed said...

Brian, I live in England--5 hours ahead. I read Owen's blog first thing in the morning as I eat my tea and crumpets. See Owen is a blogger with an international following.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, a feasrt for the thoughtful soul. We should remeber that our Puritan friends had their fun side as well. Every Christian,especially any preacher of the Gospel, should find their place in the time-space contnuium that can be "normal".

Even in normalcy, God teaches us and gives us grace. Tonight, God delivered to me a lesson in humility - a thorn in my flesh, named the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. He reminded me that our hope is not in wins and losses, but in Him.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Dad said...


I live in Downeast Maine, yes, further east than a lot of people in the USA, but still in the eastern time zone. And I usually read and post comments between 6 - 7 am. I have no idea why the posted time is so early.


3:42 AM  

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