May 18, 2008

Yeshua and me

My greatest weakness is that I am a simple man. I am not particularly intelligent and my mind only runs one track at a time. Lots of folks multi-task with ease, but I'm stuck in the ancient days of analog brain waves. Total concentration or total neglect, with nothing in between. Life in the modern world is not kind to people like me. Our limited ability to quickly associate discordant melodies means that popular music rattles around inside our brain painfully while complex symphonies absorb us so completely the world around us disappears. People are impatient with us and often feel rejected by us. By the time our attention comes back to them, they are long gone.

When I was young, this was not a problem. I filled the empty hours with Bible study, prayer meetings, Christian music concerts, and endless reading and rereading of my Schofield Reference Bible. At one point I bought a 4-version Bible commentary with the complete textual parallels for John Calvin, Thomas Muntzer, and a couple others, all of them pivotal figures in the Reformation movement. At one point in my life I knew every Hebrew name for God, the name of every disciple in both Hebrew and Greek, and could quote the first ten verses of the Book of John in Greek. Don't get me wrong, I did not learn Greek and Hebrew, I just knew a few names and the opening verses to John. I've long forgotten all of that information. It's been a decade and a half, maybe even a bit more, since I cracked the cover on a Bible. I no longer have my trusty Schofield and I don't even know if it's still available in bookstores.

And that, in a nutshell, is the real problem. I cannot do anything halfway. I just do not have the capacity that so many other people have to live my life on multiple levels at the same time. So when my wife came to me a few weeks ago wanting us to begin going back to church, I nearly died. I cannot be a "Sunday Christian". I either jump back in with full devotion (which at this point in my life will probably drive me to attend a seminary or some such insanity), or I leave Christianity as it has been for the past decade and a half, a footnote in my youth and my own personal version of "sowing my wild oats".

The reality of the way of life presented in the pages of the Bible is seen in today's world in the Amish communities of the United States, the Hutterite communities of Canada, and other similar Christian sects whose primary focus is agriculture and community. The heart of both Old and New Testaments is the preservation of a simple, community-centric agricultural or nomadic shepherd life in the face of a rising mercantilist economy where greed, ambition, and narcissism are considered high virtues and defining values. I'm sorry, but every modern sect focused on urban living, getting rich, being "blessed" by God, and so on, any belief system that puts the individual in charge of God's plan for us all through the power of prayer and faith is at best misguided, and at worst, hypocritical or even downright delusional.

Therein lies the paradox that once again is raising its ugly head to torture me. If I start becoming a regular church member, if I start reading the Bible and participating in church programs, if I throw myself back into the Christian life, I will once again be forced to choose between living a life that I know for a fact is not in line with Biblical teaching or abandoning my family and life to join an agrarian community of believers. The guilt that tears through me when I try to live a modern life while professing to believe the Bible is too real for me. My own inability to multi-task, to balance, to teeter between two worlds and pretend all is normal will not let me be a contemporary Christian with an urban lifestyle. I just can't do it.

So what do I do? I've heard all the many justifications people will try to offer me if I ask for a sympathetic ear. I know by heart all the rationalizations for teetering on that fence and pretending it's okay to amass wealth and prepare for the future. I also know that scripturally none of those rationalizations and justifications have any validity at all.

The one silver lining to all of this is that my wife has begun hinting she might like to retire sooner rather than later, buy a bit of land out in the country somewhere, and live a simpler life. If she's really leaning in that direction, then perhaps all is not lost. Perhaps it is time to sell off my technical manuals, teaching manuals, novels, comics, and computers and start making plans to grow my own food, teach English lessons to country children, and spend my days tending a vegetable patch somewhere. I suppose I'll still need internet access and simple computer of some kind, though. All my correspondence these days is through e-mail.

Is it time to swap Objective-C and X-Code for John Calvin and Cyrus Schofield? I don't know. I just don't know.