I’m that guy that looks at celebrities’ Wikipedia pages, goes straight down to their personal life, and looks for the nitty-gritty spiritual beliefs.
I don’t know when or why the whole fascination with who’s in and who’s out happened. Growing up, my aunt cut the world in two. You got your believers on one side and your unbelievers on the other.
At first, I didn’t care because I was seven, and when you’re seven you don’t give a rip about Jesus unless he happens to be a billionaire bachelor moonlighting as a caped crusader. When I became a Christian in high school, cutting the world in two was pretty convenient because then I knew how to be to each of them.
Just recently, cutting the world in two doesn’t seem unfair as much as it seems scary. I’m a Christian, but lots of times I feel like anything but. My surgical tools cut me in half as much as they cut the world in half.
Cutting the world this way betrays something huge: subtly though not consciously, ‘Christian’ often means adjective, not noun. And between these two is a world of difference.
When I creep on Wikipedia pages—ask me about famous athletes’ beliefs sometime, and it’s actually kinda embarrassing—I’m not looking for Christians who are good at their craft. Instead, I’m looking for Christian moviemakers, athletes, musicians, novelists, etc.
To find Christian movies—again, the adjective version of Christian—you wouldn’t look for a beautiful cinematic effort made by Christians, but a movie that is Christian-flavored. You’d look for the gospel to be wrapped up in a resolution so predictable you’re not sure where the conflict stage was. Same thing with Christian athletes: you wouldn’t really look for Christians committed to their craft, but for what they do before pitching and after scoring touchdowns. The classic kneels and kisses to cloudy skies.
It doesn’t matter how good they are at their craft—lookin’ at you, Tebow—but that their craft is Christian flavored. ‘Christian’ becomes an adjective, a category in culture that certain people enjoy. It’s like the liquid on top of organic peanut butter, except it doesn’t taste positively delicious when you try mixing it in. Often times it actually tastes artificial and inauthentic.
When we switch from Christian people to Christian things, we trade substance for ease of access. Looking at a person for hard-and-fast categories is difficult if you’re after nouns and much easier if you look for adjectives.
That doesn’t mean the who’s-in-who’s-out fascination has no substance. It’s still magnetic to me. Even to this very season. Even to this very moment.
I want to see somebody that isn’t like me. I want somebody who isn’t stuck halfway up Maslow’s hierarchy. I want somebody who’s met a God more real than a concept in psychotherapy. To glimpse whether or not their God lives and moves and breathes in them. To hope that they’ve caught light of a God at play in the world, bringing us all back from our stupid divisions, our one-upping, our introductions of ‘un’ to fair and ‘less’ to love.
In a surprising if still embarrassing way, I creep on people’s Wikipedia page ‘cause I wonder if being a Christian of the noun variety has brought any good into the world. I might just submit to that supreme authority. I’d wait for the arrival of that Ruler ‘til I die and wouldn’t call it duty.
I wonder if a Christian is just someone who lives in the reality that Jesus is now supreme authority over everything—Lord, if you will— a life marked not primarily by platitudes and preset political positions, but joining with Jesus to restore all things. Not a commitment to four things about God, sin, cross, and eternal life, but compelling a watching world to God’s Story by rewriting the stories around us where they intersect with ours.
I’m a Christian with a growing passion for writing. I hope I’m never a Christian writer. I don’t feel obligated to write about ‘Christian things’ any more than I’d tell you to stare at the lenses if you were trying on a new pair of glasses. The point isn’t the lenses themselves, but the world they free you to see.
Similarly, as a Christian—a human being with Jesus as supreme authority—I don’t want you to stare down my writing for its biblical references and its allusions (or lack thereof) to the gospel.
I want my writing to invite you into dissonance, that terrible and hopeful difference between things as they are and things as they’re meant to be.
I want it to make you experience a beautiful Reality that brushes up against you at every moment and at varying degrees.
Then I want you to wonder what the hell that was and send you searching, jumping on alternating lily pads of questions and answers until you bump up against the One who was only brushing ‘til then. Hear that still muffled invitation to join a restoration project headed up by an awfully good God who’s reclaiming God’s world again.
And then shoot you back out into your ordinary life, the meeting place between God and fracture.
I am not a Christian writer, and—if you’re a Christian—be the noun kind, not the adjective. One of them makes movies into extended sermon illustrations. The other—at its best—gives you that feeling that life itself is cinema, possessing a larger-than-life quality and inviting you into a Story taking place in all of us everywhere.
photo credit: kelsey sagen (kelseysagen.com)