Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fred, Lionel & Erwin: The "Royal Wedding" Syndrome

I want to add a warning to the beginning of this post... more than usual for me, this is a William Faulkneresque stream of consciousness kind of mash-up. You may not catch all the references (that's OK) but try and follow the thread of my idea(s). If you can't, it's not your fault but mine.

First, you need to watch this video.

The Secret of the Ceiling Dance by bluebird1111

For those of you who are children of the 80's - no, Lionel Ritchie was not the first performer to be "Dancin' on the Ceiling."

No offense to Mr. "Running With the Night" (a good Lionel song, btw, as opposed to the utter inanity of "Say You, Say Me"), but Fred's a lot more graceful than you are.

This amazing effect was accomplished by building a set inside a huge wheel - then gluing or nailing down every piece of furniture & decoration on the set so that it wouldn't move when it was rotated. Pretty impressive stuff, eh?!

Second, you need to read this definition from
The Very Best of British:
Momentarily - As you come into land at an American airport and the announcement says that you will be landing momentarily, look around to see if anyone is sniggering. That will be the Brits! I never did figure out why they say this. Momentarily to us means that something will only happen for an instant - a very short space of time. So if the plane lands momentarily will there be enough time for anyone to get off? Weird!
In a similar vein, I once told Collin (my 4 year old son) that I needed to break him of a bad habit that he had. Tears welled up in his eyes as he said, "Dad, don't break me." Now you're properly prepared for the rest of this post.

I was studying & reading yesterday for my message/talk/sermon (pick your favorite - "long-winded diatribe" is NOT one of the choices) and began searching for an
Erwin McManus quote. Thanks to the joys of Googling, I not only managed to uncover some great quotes, I also found a group of individuals who are very angry with Erwin and have spend an amazing amount of time writing about it.

Now, I'm a part of the online community of boardgame players/collectors, so I've seen obsessive behavior before - the "Eurosnoot vs Ameritrash" argument (don't ask - it's just as stupid as it sounds) chewed up great swaths of bandwidth & emotional energy while generating more heat than light. The Erwin haters, my friends, are some pretty obsessed folks... they'd fit nicely into a discussion of whether Go or Chess is the "deeper" game.

I'm not going to get into a detailed analysis of their problems with Erwin (a pastor & writer who I admire deeply) - that's not really the point today. I will suggest, however, that there are two possible syndromes that explain this behavior:
  1. The "Royal Wedding" Syndrome - lots of folks want their Christianity and/or religion tied up in neat little packages with no rough edges and no sense of mystery. They want everything nailed or glued down so that no matter what happens, they know the rules. These are the folks who deeply love conferences with printed notebooks filled with outlines & sermons with subjects like "7 Easy Steps to a Great Marriage." These same people are flustered (and maybe even a bit angry) at God for not specifically speaking to every potential hot button issue in Scriptures... and since He didn't, they'll do it for Him and pull out proof texts to bolster their point. Erwin, with his artist/philosopher background, is never going to speak their language.
  2. The "British English/American English" Syndrome - speaking of language, the fact that Erwin & the folks at his church (Mosaic) are willing to use terminology not often heard in church to describe Biblical truths is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Erwin says: "The greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity." What I hear is "Christianity as a religious institution has stifled & attempted to channel the power of Jesus Christ in order to reach worldly objectives. Erwin wants to send people back to power & grace & love of Jesus Christ." What they hear is "Erwin wants people to not be Christians but 'spiritual people' who believe anything & everything."
Combine those two impulses with Erwin's love of confounding expectations with his speaking/teaching & you've got the recipe for obsessive website building & the same lovely behavior that Stephen faced in Acts 7:57-58 (NLT):
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
I'm not suggesting that anyone is headed to Erwin's house for a drive-by stoning... just that the same kind of "stick my fingers in my ears & attack" tendency seems to be present here.

Now, I'm not finished yet. It's one thing when folks have "Royal Wedding" Syndrome over an author. It's another thing when they do it with their lives.

I'm convinced that many of us (and I include myself here) want for everything in our lives to be nailed down solid... so that when life sends us spinning, we can dance on the ceiling without a care. Nothing will be broken, nothing will change... and when our life rights itself, when it returns to "normal", everything will be exactly where we put it.

But an unexpected death or being laid off or your daughter getting pregnant or the onset of depression or a hundred other things quickly end that illusion. When the room of your life begins to turn, nothing stays still. Things crash to the floor and you're reduced to hanging on for dear life. No magical dancing through a wonderland secured by roofing nails & wood glue for you.

As I've been mulling this over, I realized that I'm trusting the adhesives & the hardware to hold my life together - my plans, my nest egg, my house, my possessions, my job - rather than trusting Jesus with all of that stuff... and with me. I want those things to get locked in place because I think that I can hold onto them when trouble starts.

I'm not suggesting that you live in your car or pull a St. Francis & strip yourself naked. I am suggesting that trusting in any of this stuff is foolish - because it doesn't have the strength to support you when life gets rough.

The challenge is (to quote the Southern-fried rock band, 38 Special) to "hold on loosely." And we can do that because Jesus promises to "hold on tightly" to us.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
Take a look at that passage (Hebrews 13:5-6) in the Amplified Version... talk about making the point clear!
He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified].
One last question for thought: what if the stuff in our lives getting moved around and/or broken is a good thing? Ask Dave Zener about getting fired 55+ years ago... or offer to buy me a milkshake and hear the story of how closing the church I planted started the deepest spiritual growth in my life. Ah, but those are stories for another time...

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