Monday

Tim Tebow, Dallas Willard and the Failure of Christianity

My husband Mike wrote this on his blog and I wanted to feature it on mine because I thought it was really good. We are both reading the Dallas Willard book (I highly recommend this author):

Here is an interesting excerpt from "The spirit of the disciplines: understanding how God changes lives":

... Christianity can only succeed as a guide for current humanity if it does two things.

First, it must take the need for human transformation as seriously as do modern revolutionary movements. The modern negative critique of Christianity arose in the first place because the church was not faithful to its own message -- it failed to take human transformation seriously as a real, practical issue to be dealt with in realistic terms. Fortunately, there are today many signs that the church in all its divisions is preparing to correct this failure.

Second, [Christianity] needs to clarify and exemplify realistic methods of human transformation. It must show how the ordinary individuals who make up the human race today can become, through the grace of Christ, a love-filled, effective, and powerful community.


Author Dallas Willard wrote that in the preface to the book.

It strikes me that Willard's 'many signs' are embodied in large part in the emerging church movement. Author Scott McKnight says of the emerging church movement:

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.

I thought that was what the church(es) have been supposed to be doing all along, but clearly, they have not, as we see by the declining numbers in America's conventional churches. There is too much hatefulness in these conventional churches; they have too much in them that is contrary to what Christ teaches. They may 'welcome the stranger', if the stranger is socially acceptable; they say they identify with the life of Jesus, but the most cursory examination shows they do not.

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has ignited the flames of controversy with his public worship and praying. It even has a name: 'Tebowing.'

Personally, I think young Tebow is sincere in his faith, and his demonstrations are merely a manifestation of that sincere faith. I cannot find any reason to agree with the multitudes of sports writers, analysts, announcers, and so on who have ridiculed him for his demonstrations. These are the same characters who have no problems in ignoring or winking at the criminal shenanigans of any number of professional athletes who, were it not for their favored status, would be candidates for a good stretch in the local prison system. Their ridicule of young Tebow is, however, another manifestation of the failure of Christianity to show '... how how the ordinary individuals who make up the human race today can become, through the grace of Christ, a love-filled, effective, and powerful community.'

Nonetheless, through his public displays, Tebow is divisive. First, how does he reconcile his demonstrations with Matthew 6:5: 'And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.'

In that statement, Jesus is not questioning the sincerity of those whom he is addressing. Rather, he is telling them not to behave like those who lack sincerity. That's how it reads to me. So why does Tebow go against the teachings of Christ? He is, isn't he? I don't think he is a modern-day Pharisee, so why would he want to demonstrate like one? What's the point? What is he hoping to accomplish?

How is this creating division? Most of us have seen the chain emails flashing around the 'net, like the one that has a picture of a group of Muslims praying in New York City or some other American metropolis, captioned, "Why is this OK?" It isn't a photo of crazed Islamic fundamentalists hanging dismembered bodies from bridges, or beheading a bound and gagged hostage. It's a photo of Muslims in America, praying peacefully. A second photo is of Tim Tebow 'Tebowing', and is captioned, "And why is this not OK?" At best the message is that Muslims, simply by being Muslims are committing a wrong by the simple act of praying, and at worst, simply by being Muslims, are evil, murderous creatures undeserving of the freedoms inherent in those truths we Americans supposedly hold to be self-evident.

Why is it OK for Muslims to pray in peaceful manner in New York City? Could it be because this is the United States of America? Why is it that the Christian Right just doesn't get this?

And who says it isn't OK for Tebow to 'Tebow'? A collection of media maggots? Has Tebow been stopped? Has anyone dragged him off the field for his demonstrations? Has he been imprisoned for it?

It's Christians passing this around.Evangelical Christians. People who claim to 'identify with the life of Jesus', yet who in their pathetically childish question, 'Why is this OK but this isn't' put the lie to Christ's New Commandment, in John 13:34-35:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


How do these emails and their ignorant hyperbole fit in with John 13:34-35? The short answer is that they do not. And so the senders and forwarders of these things are hardly 'identifying with the life of Jesus', so when they get up at church on Sunday morning professing to be one with Christ, they may have credibility with their like-minded brethren, but they do not have any credibility with the unchurched, or with those of the church who ask, 'how does this fit in with a commitment to living a life for Christ?'

It doesn't, and that is why we have an emerging church movement, and a continuing drift away from the established church. Embracing Christ and his lifestyle is without doubt one of the greatest of human transformations, yet by using Tebow's public demonstrations of faith to take cheap shots at other 'ordinary members of the human race' who have done no one any harm is certainly no testimonial as to why one should become a Christian.

It also demonstrates that the church has a long way to go in correcting its failure.
What do you think?