Dear Young Jesus Lovers,
Could some of you move to my city, or one like it and just be? It is true that just existing is not the same as proclaiming the gospel, but it might just prepare the soil. It’s true just being won’t transform the culture but it might go a long way and preserving a bit of it. One of the horrible things that happened earlier in this century for Christians was a posture of abandonment, we abandoned cities and schools and even Disney World (well that was a boycott…but you know what I mean)… The interesting thing is that these moves did not make our culture more Christian, though it may have made us less so. All alone in our bubbles and not forced to interact with our surroundings in a meaningful way has produced in us a myopic and stunted faith, a faith that serves self and parrots and absorbs the culture we supposedly left behind. Christianity was not a faith meant to be lived in cloisters, it is a faith that is meant to be lived out in public spheres, not through left over Constantinian legislative actions and power moves, but as real people living real lives as salt and light in dark and bland places. That is the missionary charge Jesus gave us while on earth and at his ascension.
If our retreat has been bad for the church I can’t even begin to tell you how bad it has gotten for those outside the church. The removal of the presence of the people of God from a society functions as condemnation on those we leave behind. When we remove our influence, our love, and our care, the society, not well equipped to give love and care on its own, is doomed.
I am praying that some of you will join me in going back in. You don’t need to be a pastor, you don’t have to be a preacher you just need to be there. 1 Peter, which I think of as the instruction manual for believers in our post-Christian era tells to be prepared to answer when people ask about the hope that is in us. Yet if we never live among them in such a way that the see that hope who would they ask, and more than that why would they ask? We need men and women with hopeful lives!
The truth of this came home to me several times when I was picking up my boys from school recently. On one occasion I noticed little eyes watching as my 4th grader and I strolled out of the building hand in hand, on another I noticed a quizzical look as I bent to kiss my 3rd grader on the head before dropping him off at his class. On other occasions when I stop by their class rooms it is common for my boys to rush to hug me and receive a kiss on the head. This is our normal. Yet in the boy’s school this is a complete anomaly. Most have never seen anything like it. In our urban areas where the majority of homes are headed by single mothers, positive, physical male affection does not even have a category in their psyche. You know intuitively that a generation growing up without any concept of a loving father can only result in total and complete societal chaos. How much more a generation that can’t even put words to the natural longing for a father? How does that generation seek a God who himself is called father? I know my presence can’t change the world, but perhaps, just perhaps it can give words to a positive longing, maybe it can give sight to an affectionate hope…Maybe it can cause one or two boys to see and long and hope and find. Maybe it lays the ground work for finding the true father of the fatherless or maybe it just causes them to strive for a future different than the one they have. All I know is this, I can not abandon these children or this neighborhood to their own condemnation…I have to be there.
Please young Jesus lovers, come, be, love.
“The ….Christian …. will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural ….”-Flannery O’ Conner