Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Book that is Yelling at Me

Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions In A Consumer Church by Paul Louis Metzger, forward by Donald Miller, afterword by John M. Perkins.
This starts with my going to a conference on Writing And Culture at Western Seminary in Portland. The keynote speaker is Paul Louis Metzger. I buy his book among others at the book tables there. I wonder if I should spend the money; one of the things he says is that his wife told him not to idolize Jim Wallace (Rich Christians In an Age of Hunger?) who is a spiritual advisor to President Barak Obama. That particular author had influenced us mightily for years until my husband read him misusing Scripture, and we had read and experienced how economic systems truly work (and I went from dem. precinct committeeperson of district 32-32 in Seattle to a rep. in Texas) So I figured that he would say a lot of stuff I would disagree with. That's okay. I like to know how other people think. Who knows what argument will change my life?

All the way through the book I felt like he was yelling at me. He spit out homogeneity and upward mobility like curse words. And I don't understand. I happened to grow up in a small town that was close to 100% Scot, English, and Nordic ethnicity. Historical accident caused that. My church had to import the three blacks that lived in the town over so we could hold hands and sing, "We Shall Overcome Some Day". My dad often slept with relatives because there was so little room in the two room shack of his parents. We four kids shared an 8'x9' foot bedroom until Dad added onto the house and then my sister and I shared a same size bedroom, in a house with a living room, basement, kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms. Then I married and we lived in a variety of basements until moving on with the AF, and now we own a house that I think might be 4,000 sq ft. I don't know what's wrong with that upward mobility. And upward mobility is what we want for the poor, or so I want. Why is he so angry about that. I keep going to my husband who tells me he is not talking about me. But how not? I wail, and my husband patiently explains again that he is talking about people who expect to get richer and richer and for their children to surpass them in getting more richer and richer. My husband asks if I think my children are failures. Of course not! They made decisions to follow careers that make them happy and make them less money than my husband's does. Exactly, my husband says. And so I go to read some more until I go back to my husband to say, He's yelling at me again. And he's yelling at, uh, Warren, Purpose Driven Church. I loved the 40 day thing we did at our church with that book.  And I know his church people are doing incredible works in Rwanda.

In the book he tells a man in a homogeneous neighborhood to move. Uh, like that's so easy. Just move. Sheesh.

Then I read where he is complaining about the prosperity preachers. Oh, if that is what he means by upward mobility, then we agree. I despise the name it and claim it teaching, for it ignores God's mighty sovereignty and the suffering of his Son, whose footsteps we are to follow.

It seems to Dr. Metzger that the biggest sin of the American Church is racism. I don't know that is true, for we are guilty of many, many sins. And he claims that Sunday morning is the most racist hour in America. I can't tell that from my experience. And if we aren't actively fighting racism then we are scum. I guess I'm scum. I have no idea how to fight racism. I don't think he would give me any credit for the two black kids I adopted because I didn't do it to fight racism. I did it because I wanted more kids. I would have taken Somoans or Asians or anybody. My two are what became available when I was looking. Maybe he would give me credit for becoming friends with some African pastors and hosting them in my home when they came over here to preach. I don't know. Maybe not. What I am more focused on, or was at one time, is access to the churches by the physically and developmentally disabled.

Oh, and he is angry that Americans go church shopping and go to the church they want instead of being forced to go to church with people not like themselves. What mechanism would he use to change that?

He has the interesting idea of wealthy people buying two outfits with one to go to the church for those who are embarrassed to go to church because they don't have nice clothes. I would like to see how the church would let the people know those clothes are available. Hmm, like the wedding feasts in the Bible where garments were provided. Oh, I know how I would feel if somebody came up to me and told me there were better clothes for me to wear in the church closet. Burn........

He is deeply offended by churches that do not have an altar in the front and do have a coffee bar in the back. He goes into a long, poetic song about us consuming Jesus and Jesus consuming us and beautiful results. He seems to say but cannot have meant that the church that has weekly communion will be following God into Glory and Righteousness. Or he might have. I know that I am so glad to finally be in a church that does have weekly communion. For decades I have attended churches that did monthly communion and in each church I would tell the pastor once that I thought weekly communions were more Biblical, and then I would let it drop. It was not my job to arrange the church or complain about it. Oh, our church also has a coffee bar in the back.

I found out he lives in Vancouver, WA, where I am! I look him up in the phone book and mapquest how to get there. Why would he be living in vastly more white Vancouver instead of in North Portland across the river? I drive there to see if he lives in some McMansion, and if this Paul Metzger is the same as the author, he lives in a middle class neighborhood of okay kept up yards in a house that seems smaller than mine. I don't examine it closely because now I am ashamed of trying to catch him in an amusing hypocrisy. I don't know that his house isn't crowded with unwed mothers or people in drug rehab.

He is angry about focus groups, which I also don't get. When a missionary is planning to go to a new tribe, they try to learn the language, the customs, how to make the Bible understandable. So if there is a group near your church you want to influence for Christ, why wouldn't you focus your efforts? But that leads to homogeneity! Well, no, it does not need to, though I'm sure that it has in some churches.

The book goes into politics and social effects and things that go far above and beyond me. I can't understand the dynamics of small groups, let alone big groups. I have no idea how to influence anybody to do anything.  Perhaps this book was not meant for me. Perhaps it was, and I couldn't hear through all the yelling. I have ideas about societal change, things like not starting high school until 10 am, and stopping the drug war and legalizing all drugs so American users can stop financing terror all over the world; and prison populations could shrink to house those who are damaging other people or property. (And no, I do not think recreational drug use is victimless; I have seen it tear families apart) Treat drugs like tobacco and install truly tough DUI etc laws. And do not interfere with churches setting up rehab clinics. so forth and so on. Get us out of Libya and Bosnia. Change the Electoral College to a popular vote. Have a waiting period and counseling before marriage. But I have no ability to change anything except perhaps the small ecology of the park behind my house. So I garden.