State of the Race

Why do we live lives that always seem less than better? Why are there parents who can’t help that they hit their children? Or not physically hit them but destroy them in other ways? Why are their so many overweight Americans who honestly try and lose weight but can’t? Why are there so few true success stories that last? Why not more success stories? Why do the rich get richer, and given the freedom to speak openly would say they are only lonelier, more dissatisfied than ever? Why do the poor just get by or not at all when they try harder than most? Why is getting your head above water seems harder than at least keeping it there?

Life questions. Not just simple, why do good things happen to bad people, and bad to the good. General state of the Race questions.

There are as many voices that want to try and give answers that “sound” right, or make logical connections, as there are questions to be asked. There are philosophers, and academics, theologians, and mystics, scientist and analytics all with their version of an answer. The school that I have lived on the edge of for some time would say the reason for so many areas where all of humanity falls short is because of this cancer like thing in us that keeps us from choosing life over death, a “rebelliousness against God’s way of doing things,” depravity (if you want to get all Calvinistic). And that is a simple answer, and seemingly true at one level. But that doesn’t answer the questions; it only gives context for the questions. The questions are less about “how did we get here,” and more about “why aren’t we going elsewhere?”

Well, again, the tribe I’ve been around for sometime would say it has to do with a relationship; a particular one – one with the One who made us; that in order to go to “Elsewhere” (and I am not referring to a hit 80’s tv hospital) you and me, and every other person in these questions must enter a relationship with this One who made us, admit that we are lost and frustrated and let him take the lead. In general, though, I must ask then: how many overweight people in church are getting slimmer? How many sick in church are getting well? For all the rich people in that relationship with this One, how many are any less lonely and dissatisfied as they continue to grow richer? How many of those poor have to strive less to keep their heads above water?

Is Jesus just medication to get us through to the end? Is being a Christian simply a matter of endurance till “better days?” Are we only supposed to cope?

In the words of Speech from Arrested Development, “’what you pray for God will give to be able to cope in this world we live.’ The word ‘cope’ and the word ‘change,’ is directly opposite, not the same. She should have been praying to change her woes, but the pastor said, ‘Pray to cope with those.”

We often hear it from the religious types that Jesus will be with us in our suffering, that he is there for us, that god is not finished with us, etc. That is dandy but if Jesus is just here to help me cope there are plenty of alternatives, more tangible than him. When I look at what Jesus did while he was still tangible in the flesh and bone, he didn’t teach people to cope. He didn’t just endure. In fact, he did the opposite, he brought change. Even when someone wanted to just endure their suffering – (see john 5, the guy at the pool sick for 38 years) he didn’t let them. More than that, he got in their face for trying to think like that. He didn’t give a walking stick to the blind, he healed them. He didn’t put gel on the leper’s sores; he got rid of the leprosy all together. Or to put it more modern, he didn’t just give out a diet plan to the fat that can’t get healthy, he healed what was holding them back. He didn’t let the poor just get by, barely swimming, he gave wealth to meet their ends and give to others. The dead came back to life; they just weren’t given up for dead. The list goes on.

So, back to my questions, only with a twist. If Jesus is who Christians say he is, who the bible says he is, then why are their so many fat people in church who can’t lose the weight? Why are their so many failed marriages amongst Christians? Why are their so many rich people in church so depressed? Why are so many poor people afraid to go to a church at all? Why is the average Joe moving on from the Sunday dance party that Christians call “church” to find life elsewhere?

If Jesus is real, then there shouldn’t be the 430 years of silence and inaction that Israel experienced before he showed up. Things should be changing.

Are they?

Are the sick getting well?

Are the poor being taken care of?

Are the AIDS dying becoming the AIDS-free Living?

It would be easy to ask these questions as another one of the jaded masses. Throw a rock and you will hit one. I ask them because after years of being with people in their suffering, watching marriages fail, kids die, the poor and rich neglected, I wonder if we have convinced ourselves that all Jesus is after is to get by, endure, survive. It’s not about having enough faith, folks. That’s like equating faith with enough box tops to get a little Annie decoder ring. It’s not how it works. It’s gotta be about something else. And it’s not about promises. They are only as good as the paper they are written on – ask the Jews. If it is about a relationship then that should mean when I push, I feel something resist, that when I cry something should embrace, that when I am lost some One should be more than a thought in my head. It might be American of me, but for Christ’s sakes, shouldn’t there be more than just questions and words? Shouldn’t there be results?

Maybe Rich was right when he wrote, “You’re up there and you are just playing hard to get.” Shouldn’t it be the other way around?