Thursday, August 05, 2004

Mundane faith

Over dinner, Ethan was reminded of someone who said, “Christianity is lived in the mundane.” Yes, if by mundane we mean the ordinary routines of life. But if it refers to a life-draining experience of interminable boredom with no surprises and no joy, then we must insist that Christianity transcends the mundane.

Today’s culture celebrates the new, the stimulating, the highs, constantly pushing the ante of excitement to higher and higher levels. New sights, new sounds, new cars, new technologies, new husbands and wives. Old products clothed in new packaging scream at consumers - All New Formula! Brand New! New Look! Super New Action!

In church there’s obsession with newness too: new songs, new experiences, new ways of doing things. All this is good to a point. I mean, I like new things myself. Yet, constantly seeking the new is a kind of idolatry because it disdains the old (as irrelevant?), and forgets that our God is the eternally unchanging God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s like a restless search for something to put off ennui.

There are some things that are necessarily boring - like sticking to appointments, dressing appropriately for occasions, waking up early for church, reading the Bible. How about boring things like saying Please, Thank You, and Sorry? Sweeping the floor, making the beds, cooking a meal, and washing up etc, are incredibly mundane. Not every activity needs to pump up adrenaline.

There’s value in history, tradition, the comfort of order and expectedness.

I don’t mean stick-in-the-mud traditionalism - a sense of timelessness in the 'old time religion' is what we need to learn. After all, the Bible does say that the love of God is “new every morning” (Lam 3:23). What we need to reaffirm is faith in a God who is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, while celebrating the wonder of rediscovery of this infinite God of Wonders in fresh encounters daily. Experiencing the 'old, old story' in a new, new, way is where our tension lies. Marva Dawn wrote in Reaching Out without Dumbing Down that,
“Models in our environment form us. Our behaviours form us – they arise from our character, and repeating those behaviours will reinforce character in turn. Our milieu forms us - that is why we must ask careful questions about how we should allow the ethos of the culture surrounding the Church to affect what we do in worship. Especially because we live in a milieu that bombards us with its false conceptions of the world, of self, and of truth, we must be very careful and purposeful in fostering biblical perspectives.”
Further into the book she warned against giving people less of the gospel (by embracing popular cultural norms) because there would be no reason to be a Christian then. “When we give people an inferior gospel, we also fail to train their capacity for judging truth and for seeking the best expressions of it.“

How well we do as a Christian community depends on how well we communicate and live out the biblical perspectives. In a noisy world that seeks to drown out thought and reflection, and demand conformity, that’s a tall order.

No comments: