The item I wrote a few days ago about upside down funnels has been my most read blog so far. Thank you to all the masses who read it and agreed with 100% of everything I wrote. With that soaring popularity in mind, I’ve decided to add a brief post script to follow up and make lots more enemies in the process.
I’m fortunate that I had an exceptionally safe and healthy up-bringing. My parents and grandparents were generous, balanced, wise and even progressive people of practical faith as I grew up. They loved me and prayed for me and instilled an instinct to think theologically and to live spiritually. Their (our) friends in the church were people who were almost always wonderful and healthy influences so averaging three times a week in church didn’t seem an unusual burden. It is this upbringing that gives me a strong foundation and faith of my own to this very day.
Having grown up in a small conservative church denomination I always thought we were unique in our beliefs but I learned later on that much of what I experienced was common to millions of people around North America. Of course there is a wide spectrum of stories from these people as to how every day religion was actually practiced – not all good.
Unfortunately church culture also brings with it lots of human baggage: expectations, judgements and layers of practice that, over time, evolve into a cheap religion. The assumptions of this shallow orthodoxy judges others based on what they do rather than who they are.
The upside down funnel idolater expects others to act the way she/he thinks they should, applying their values on others and then frowning on them because they don’t measure up to his/her beliefs and doctrine.
The sad result is that people feel judged, angry or inadequate when it comes to spirituality. They rebel against anything God-related or have a feeling that ‘the walls might fall down if I were to go to church’. People defensively move away from God because it is inferred that these judgemental Christian people are speaking on God’s behalf.
They’re not. They’re worshipping idols of judgement and doctrine.
Educator and author Greg Thornbury recently published a biography of Larry Norman titled, Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock. (By all accounts this is an excellent book.)
Larry Norman passed away a few years ago but had an interesting life. During the 60s Norman had played in bands alongside music legends like the Doors, Janis Joplin and the Who when he experienced a powerful encounter with God that changed his life. What followed was a life-long battle with conservative Christians about the legitimacy of using Rock and Roll music as a means of worship. He didn’t fit into the box that was assumed for him when he discovered Jesus.
Can you believe it? The God who created notes and sounds and instruments and voices and harmonies was presumed to be so small as to only speak through a specific way of using them. I’ve personally seen lots of similar stories on lots of other topics so, yes I can.
Look, you can be a believer regardless of the kind of music you enjoy or whether you drink alcohol or say-a-swear or believe in evolution. You don’t have to tithe or accept biblical inerrancy or like gospel music. You can disagree with the pope, avoid church, have a tattoo or forget to read-your-Bible-and-pray-every-day and still be alright in God’s eyes. You can vote Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or not at all. You don’t have to wave your hands in church or know Bible verses by heart or preach at people. You can live naturally and joyfully. You can worship with art or dance or words or work or electronics or mechanics or ….
You don’t have to pretend to be ‘in’ or feel excluded because you’re ‘out’.
I’m not saying our actions don’t matter; they do. Quite a lot. And I’m not saying rebellion is good. But the life of a christian is one of relationship to God through Jesus, not rules. Faith grows slowly and naturally. Healthy relationship breathes. We don’t have to squeeze through those pre-conditions of the upside down funnels that other people set up for us; instead we bring all that we are, good and bad, into the wide end and let it all be transformed in trust and mystery by the God who knows us.
When we emphasize rules we diminish Jesus’ death on the Cross and make it about our beliefs rather than about his people.
So what rules does God have? Maybe the answer is best summed up in this exchange between Jesus and the religious authorities who had upside down funnels prepared for him .
‘Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees [religious leaders] got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’ – Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV)
Oh, and I’ve added an entertaining original Larry Norman song for you because I’m not very entertaining or original…