Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Genuine Article

The world is yearning for real Christianity. Paradoxical statement? Maybe, but two conversations I had last week make me think that there's something to this.

I have a friend who's an unbeliever. I've been discussing Christianity with him since high school. His beef with my religion was never about its morality, its tenets, or how I lived it out. He believed in strict science, evolution over creation.

I talked with him again the other day, this time about Christian music. This friend is one of the most talented musicians I know. He can play anything he tries - drums, guitar, piano - anything. But what sets him apart even more than his talent is his passion. The drive to hear, play, and especially create music consumes him.

So imagine his disgust when he hears some of the saccharine Christian music of the radio: affirmation of faith after affirmation of faith. Encouragement after encouragement. There's not enough art in it, not enough struggle. Every lyric is just dripping with assurance. It's all so literal. He wonders how they're all so convinced.

Truth is, we're not, and my friend just wants to hear us admit it.

I talked the other day with another friend who is a believer. He recently went to a church he just didn't really enjoy. There was a lot of worship, a lot of music, but he felt that it was more a pep rally than a place where a fledgling faith could truly grow. To some, I'm sure it was an encounter with the Spirit of God. To him, it was a gathering of disparate souls, brought together by nothing more than the need to convince each other that what each of them believes is actually true.

On that last point, he's right. Just as Friend One didn't enjoy affirmation of faith in music for its own sake, Friend Two saw it as superfluous in the church setting. But I'd say both of them are wrong to condemn speaking to one another in encouragement. We need this in a world where we're beset on all sides with attacks on what our faith suggests.

But aren't they right to ask the church for a shred of authenticity and vulnerability? If music is expressive of the desires of our hearts, and Christians have found the deepest secret to the universe, shouldn't our poetry be multidimensional enough to impress the outsider with the beauty of what the idea of God implies? If worship is how that awe and devotion is put on display, shouldn't those outside be enraptured by the exhibition?

What both of these friends want is authenticity. They want to know that they can be a believer and still be themselves, failures and all. God has accepted us, just how we are. Outsiders need to know this, so they can know that he'll accept them too. They need to see the genuine article.

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