-Pastor Melissa Fain-
(Before I begin. With the help this week of Bruggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, this is my theology. If you discuss it somewhere else, just remember to cite this post with links.)
This is a series where I take apart an unhealthy theology to show it for what it is. I’m working through Bryant Wright’s “Right From the Heart” ministry. I’m doing this because it’s not these bad people picking up God’s mantle. It's bad theology.
Last week I talked about hollow hope.
This week I want to jump into peace.
Dismissing Ravi Zacharias before I delve into Right From The Heart.
It really made my brain hurt reading Zacharias. First, because he gave commentary for scriptures he wouldn’t even cite in the text. (His commentary was absolutely trash, by the way.) Secondly, he built this idea of one Truth on one scripture: John 14:6
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 CEB
There’s a lot to unpack here, so bear with me as I get it all out and piece it together.
Zacharias is probably one of the main reasons we have so many evangelicals not trusting science. He walked this very fine line in his books. He went right to the edge of suggesting science was false truth because it came from atheists, but wouldn’t say it directly.
As science was pushing against Genesis and hitting against the Biblical literalists, the Biblical literalists desired a way to ignore the scientists and keep their faith.
This is where Zacharias made all his money. They didn’t have to think about the authenticity of his words, only that it allowed them space to keep their own beliefs. He cemented faith that was always called to movement. Nothing good can come from that.
What if… peace only in Jesus?
First, the video.
This is clearly something pulled together to capitalize on the “What if…” Marvel show on Disney+. I actually appreciate drawing from modern and secular forms of media for sermon analogies, but I’m not sure this was the right way. This was something I went into over a year ago with a church parody of Hamilton’s I’ll Be Back. I don’t want to delve too much on whether this video gets the source material. I do want to talk about real and fake peace.
For over a year now, I have ended almost every single worship with, “Go in Peace.” Oftentimes I explain that peace. Always, I say that peace is work. I’ve called it “active peace.”
We think peace is some kind of break, or stop. When we see Godly peace in this way, it can weaponize peace. See, seeking peace can be very uncomfortable and chaotic. It will not feel very peaceful. A few years back, I compared it to building a road. The finished product should lead to a peaceful drive, but the work to that finished road is a chaotic mess. Sometimes, churches are confronted with brokenness and trauma. The only way back to peace is to deal with the chaos. Peace is weaponized when it is used to not deal with chaos. It shuts down healthy change by forcing those who are broken to shut up.
In this brief little video I see a few things that bother me:
Play the commercial game with me
I’m a master at ignoring commercials. They come on, and I tune out. This means sometimes people ask me if I’ve seen a commercial, and more than likely the answer is, “yes,” but I say, “no” because I don’t remember any of them.
Then there’s the commercial game that draws me back in.
I purposefully watch the commercials to answer two questions:
These two questions are almost always different.
Like alcohol commercials are almost always trying to sell the promise of relationship, while really selling alcohol.
Like household cleaners are often trying to sell the promise of family love, while really just selling something that cleans.
What you discover is that many commercials are promising an illusion, while selling a product.
Are you feeling uncomfortable knowing where I’m going next? Good.
For centuries faith traditions have been sharpened by other faith traditions. We have books from the early Church, because the early Church believed Christianity was important enough to get right.
Today, I physically feel others' anxiety just typing all this out. I can mentally imagine the words, “Hey! I’m comfortable in my faith. Leave it alone!” “My faith is the only place where I can find peace and joy!”
That brings me to the real problem with this 30 second spot:
These churches are “maintaining temporary utopias beyond their tenuous shelf life.” The promise is ease and existence. Meanwhile, Churches must cut themselves off from the world to maintain these false utopias. Warning: Perfection is not compatible within a community. If your church is perfect, something is wrong.
This spot screams “fake utopian bubble.” While not saying it directly, it alludes to Christ being in the church, not of the world. In reality, Christ did all the important stuff in the mess of the outside world. Sat right outside the temple as the widow gave her last bit of money to the temple! Know God, know peace? My God has left the building.