From Scripture we have been apprised of two underlying truths about the human condition and the temporal existence assigned to us:
"the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." 1 John 5:19
Wherever God lets us live after rescuing us from destruction, our presence there is vital.
DEMYTHOLOGIZING THE BEATS…
What a difference a decade makes. In the mid-1950's, I was happily growing up in what sociologists defined as a NUCLEAR FAMILY: dad, mom, son (that would be me) and daughter. Dad worked, Mom was the homemaker, my sister and I went to school.
Our TV was black and white. We watched all of the cool stuff that we were allowed: Howdy Doody, Mighty Mouse, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Mickey Mouse Club, The Lone Ranger. Everybody was in bed by 10:00 o'clock. Partly, that was because there was nothing on... I don't mean, "we surfed 657 channels and there was nothing on". I mean, "nothing on" as in just a test pattern and a monotone signal.
At the same time that I was growing up in this wonderful, insulated world in Menomonee Falls, WI (Thank you, again, Dad and Mom!), the scene in San Francisco was roaring and catching fire. Pivotal moments were happening, like the SIX GALLERY READING in October, 1955. That was where Alan Ginsberg read his infamous poem, "Howl", for the first time.
(Fast forward to the late 60's... I was reading, among many other things, a little Ginsberg, some Kerouac, more Gary Snyder and Alan Watts... the energy emanating from the San Francisco scene... a pantheon of literary giants... Zen Buddhist scholars and devotees... music like we had never heard before.
The Beats of the post-war 40's and 50's were an influential catalyst for at least two generations, theirs and mine. Although far from a universal occurrence, homosexuality was present and did not appear to be residing in anyone's closet. It merely felt like part of a broader philosophical picture.
I would have characterized the Beats as passionate about living, discovering, experiencing, expanding. They were erudite, intense, bold, extreme. Ginsburg, for example, was openly gay, enthusiastically Buddhist. Kerouac couldn't tolerate people who were not "mad to live":
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh... ON THE ROAD
Looking back now from inside the grace of God, they serve as a healthy reminder of what it means to live decisively and passionately "without God" (Ephesians 2:12). What I was drawn to was not new; it just seemed new to me at the time.
DECRYING LOT'S DECISION...
The sun rose on Sodom for the last time. Lot knew this, and yet he lingered. The angels grabbed him and his family and rushed them out: “Escape for your life… Escape to the hills,…" (Genesis 19:17). Lot stopped to negotiate! He needed a town closer than the hills for refuge. Amazingly, his request was granted (Genesis 19:20-22).
From the ancient writer, Jerome:
Zoar is spared, not for the unworthy reason which Lot suggested—because its minuteness might buy impunity,[...] but in accordance with the principle which was illustrated in Abraham's intercession,[...] that the righteous are shields for others.
Our presence on earth counts for more than what we appreciate at times. This is not an uncommon truth in the Bible:
But Lot being Lot, he was not thinking about the welfare of the citizens of Zoar. He was saying, "my daughters and I are a minority sub-culture in Zoarian society" (ok, he probably didn't say that). And, for sure, he was not talking about how to "contextualize his Hebrewness" in the city that God had given him. He simply never got past being afraid (Genesis 19:30). Subsequently, he and his girls moved up to a cave in the hills. And we know how well that turned out...
Wherever God lets you live after rescuing you from destruction, your presence there is vital. The place may strike you as ungodly, degenerating, overwhelming, even dangerous. But rest assured:
There is nothing new going on; it may just seem new to you.
God has already anticipated every contingency. We need not panic about losing ground as an increasingly godless society careens out of control. It would be healthier to view current trends as simply "more of the same"... or, "it's what was expected".
Regardless of the extent to which its founding principles and freedoms may have produced spiritual fruit, the phenomenon that is the United States must be viewed as an historical anomaly. For so, so many throughout history, basic human rights and freedoms were at best a pipe dream: a fair trial by a jury of one's peers: what was that? the rule of law: are you kidding? freedom of conscience: what are you smoking? Ask a panel of persecuted, destitute, and martyred saints from nearly any period in Church History about what "normal" meant.
But wait: maybe getting back to "normal" is a good thing. We have abundant historical precedent for believing that in the darkest times God's people shine the brightest. The Gospel lives! The testimony for Jesus Christ marches on!
I have actually heard more urgent discussion these days about how to "contextualize our Christianity". Of course, that is precisely what has been expected of foreign missionaries in the modern era. We admire people like the THE JUDSONS who built their first zayat in Burma in 1819. Along the way, they had to lose shoes, chairs and pulpit. But it was through a zayat that their first real convert appeared.
I almost want to say, "It's about time!" American Christianity would benefit from a serious reality check. The Apostle Paul declared: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22) What should that look like today in your family, your neighborhood or your city?
Wherever your Zoar is, it is time to dig in and make a home there. Whatever its cultural makeup, your presence is a force to be reckoned with. How does that verse go again? “If God is for us, __________?” (Romans 8:31)
As we analyze and reflect, let's not forget: talking about how we should talk about Jesus is never quite as fruitful as... talking about Jesus. If we did that above all else, I think a lot of the other wrinkles would get ironed out along the way.
(first posted 7.10.2013)
Yes...! As of July 5, 2020, my book is now available on Amazon.com.
It's a new book about an old problem: the cross and the crown… the Gospel and politics… do they mix? Should they mix?
If my words generate some reflection and healthy conversation—as in more light and less heat—I will be satisfied.
For feedback or questions, feel free to use the email link below.
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 37 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
GREG'S other BLOG
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6