Thursday, April 19, 2007

Heart for the religious

I've been in a place of vulnerability and extra-sensitivity lately to the "plight" of those who are bound up in religious bondage. I'm not so much talking about those who teach and preach legalism, although they're not excluded from my thoughts and prayers, but more about those who are under that type of teaching and preaching, and who are feeling the guilt, anger, depression, hopelessness, rebellion, etc, deep within them, and also showing outwardly, because of the never-ending condemnation they receive from the teaching of "religion."

Those of you who know me, know that my heart's "mission" (call it "God's ministry" in me) for the past 12 years has been towards these beautiful, loved, free people-in-Christ who just don't yet know how beautiful, loved and free they are. But you know how, over time, you get kind of desensitized when you're doing basically the same thing all the time? Your heart kind of loses its "edge" towards even what is precious to you. I'm not saying in any way that I've lost my heart for those trapped in religion. Not at all! I'm just saying that it's sometimes easy to "go through the motions" of caring for others and speaking the truth of the good news, whether or not your heart is actually connecting with others and their plights.

A "real world," classic case of desensitization to tragedy is with the Virginia Tech massacre of a few days ago. You see so much on the news these days about death and destruction, that unless you were close to someone involved in this tragedy, it doesn't really affect your heart in the way that it probably should. It might grip your heart a little, and you may worry, if only for a second, "what if I were in a place where this happened?" But you can easily change the channel or turn of the TV and have a good night's sleep anyway.

The "religion" tragedy that is going on within the church today is also easy to overlook when you're not deeply involved in it in some way or another. I have fortunately "escaped" much of the effects of religion - and I'm still escaping - and while I do meet "the religious" every day, I don't come face to face with it in such a way that truly gives me an understanding of what's really going on today in the church. But I do know that there are deeply, deeply hurting people "out there" in this world, living in fear, guilt, shame and depression - which isn't really "living" at all. And there are those who have been left bitter, angry, cynical, sad, rebellious, you name it - all as a result of "religion."

I guess what I'm leading up to here is that I've had a "wake up call" of sorts lately. In addition to a wake up call that God is giving to my heart in the area of removing the masks and being genuine with others - and this is really a whole 'nother wonderful story of God's always-active grace at work - God has also been renewing my heart in regards to having deep care and affection - not just doctrine - towards those caught in religion. It's what I've been about for 12 years, and now seems to be a season of intense growth in my heart.

One recent example. Remember the other day I posted the Twisted Sister video? I did it mostly for a laugh. I grew up in the 80's, and that video was nothing more than comedy for me during that time. When I came across it the other day by accident, while searching for something completely different, I laughed as I watched it, and at the same time it did strike me as perhaps hitting close to home with what goes on in the church. In my heart, though, I didn't really carry that too far. But then I saw that Steve McVey had posted it on his blog, and while he said he saw it as funny on the one hand, he also used much stronger words than I did to relate the idea of how the video "is a fairly close metaphor showing what happens when people are subjected to constant attacks by preachers who get excited by condemning and judging instead of sharing the good news of the gospel." I know Steve meets face to face with a lot more church folk than I do, as he travels to share the good news, and I'm sure he is far more in tune with what really goes on in churches today.

So I watched the video again, a few times. Tears came to my eyes. I sank down as I watched the boy's (the "congregation") hopeless look as he shrunk back while listening to his father's (the "condemning preacher) merciless, nothing-short-of-condemning diatribe. This may have simply been a well-scripted shock-rock & comedy video from the 80's (based on a scene from the movie "Animal House"), but there is a lot of truth in it. And it re-reminded me of another song I've thought about sharing, and I think I'll do it after this blog is posted.

I have much more on my heart to share about what is going on in my heart, but in order to keep this from getting too long, I'll end here. And I'm hoping that whatever I do share, it doesn't come across as if I'm in some "dark" place. :) This is really a "bright" time for me.

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