I found myself doing a very rare thing – walking down the aisles of a bookstore with no specific book in mind. Almost every religious person (as well as the non-religious) has written a religious book. A catchy title and a new twist on sex, marriage, the rapture, miracles, Armageddon, health and wealth, or raising children without pain will make you a lot of money, because there are millions of folks out there just waiting for the answer. Our quick-fix, fast-food, ask-the-computer, TV intellect has created yet another dragon which must be slain. But where shall we find Sir Lancelot, Sir Giles, or Don Quixote?
Christianity has been reduced once again to a formula, a “new, improved” formula, one which leads to instant spirituality and other-worldliness. This combination of theorems and postulates is based upon the foundation of “issues.” What is the “real issue” of the day?
In the midst of all this hoopla we begin to think ourselves to be very spiritually minded. We swallow huge mouthfuls of Turkish delight, we gorge ourselves on angel food cake, we develop insatiable appetites for more and more of less and less until our bloated digestive tracts strongly resemble those distended stomachs of the malnutritioned children of Ethiopia.
Even grace has become an issue. For years it was relegated to a position of relative insignificance, but it has burst upon the religious scene with all the dazzling effect of a meteor. Why this overwhelming attention? Simply this: it has taken on issue proportions. As long as we can dissect and torment it, we will remain interested. Experiencing grace is not the thing of primary interest; it’s taking a new and dramatic stance, being aware of the theoretical possibilities, and being fluent in the most rakish and innovative approaches. Thus, we do not search for the peace which can be translated into our lives only by the personal experience of grace, but rather we seek new arguments to fuel the present conflagration caused by another issue.
If we want to be Christians, is it so difficult that we have to write instructional manuals, host seminars, and have long dissertations of the implications? “Let me explain how simple it is” followed by a three-hour oral presentation of “basic strategy” and handing out a 347 page instruction book. We pursue simplicity with the mindset of a computer technician and a heart transplant surgeon. We fail to be “just Christians” by complicating the simplicity with issue smoke-screens.
Hosea accused Ephraim of feeding on the wind. I am concerned that we may be guilty of attempting to duplicate their attempts by nourishing ourselves on that which has no substance. The results will probably be a duplicate as well.