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« Mark Galli, Author of "Jesus Mean and Wild", Here Tomorrow! | Main | It's Where I'm Chillin' »

July 26, 2006

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Mark,

While I see a lot of the "nice" in the general culture, it seems to me that there is a very strong "mean streak" in the culture of American Conservative Evangelicalism. The main charateristic I see of "Evangelical Red State people" is that they are angry. The "demand my rights, get out of my way, let me speak to your manager, cut you off in traffic, lobby for the ten commandments" kind of thing seems to me to be extreemly prevalent. So while I am all for a Jesus that can kick my butt I am concerned that a picture of a Jesus who is "not nice and tolerant" could very easily appeal to the flesh of the typical American white Christian male who never liked being tollerant anyway. Would you care to address this? How does a "wild" Jesus help us die to pride and love our enemies? How is a mean Jesus differnt from an angry American?

Chris:

Re: "How might the full-bodied "Mean and Wild" Jesus help emergents to not fall prey to "niceness" (as you've written about) and to "care about what God cares about"?"

This is something I think emergents indeed need to wrestle with. I'm your typical suburban evangelical, and I have some ideas how I need to incoporate the 'mean and wild' side in my life of faith. Other than my general suggestions in the book, it would be foolish for me to try to apply it to emergents as such. Maybe this is a cop out, and maybe I need more 'mean and wild' boldness!, but I don't know that I've earned the right to speak specificially to the emergent community.

I did supply discussion questions in the back of the book, so that people coming out of different traditions can discuss just these sort of things in their context.

Mark

Mark...

Good stuff. I agree that the problem is "me." I'm reading Don Miller's book right now and his chapter on he being the problem was very convicting...and it echoes the sentiments of several forefathers...of which Chesterton is one.

I'm an evangelist...although not an overly effective one - but it's in my DNA I think regardless of the numbers I have to show thus far. My concern with an emphasis on the mean Jesus is the effect this view often has on believers as we relate to the world. I don't reject the mean Jesus - it's not really mean - more accurately - he's the Jesus that calls us to the carpet. I've been called to the carpet and I'm in need of that call again.

But the voice of Christ to my friends and family is not that same voice in my view. There needs to be the "matter of factness" that Jesus pervades...but it must be coupled with grace and mercy. We (I) seem to have trouble living out that tension in reality. I'm either too heavy on grace or too heavy on judgment. It's a hard line to walk. This has been a problem for the church since the beginning - we're not Christ but we're trying to be like him...and we fall far short.

May God grant us the ability to walk that fine line...

Sharktacos,

Re: the mean streak in some arenas of conservative evangelical culture.

Uh, an uncomfortable amen. This is a problem, and one thing I fear is that these people will take 'mean and wild' and run with it--yikes! I've already been on a couple of conservative talk shows that made me feel nervous for just this reason.

My "speech" in such settings is this: one reason the religious right comes across as obnoxious and unloving is because so many of them have not earned the right to be 'mean and wild.' Jesus ministered to people day and night for a couple of years before he let the Pharisees really have it (in Mt. 23, for instance). By that time, it was clear, he really loved the people of Isreal, high and low. And when he got angry, people simply knew it was driven by love. I'm sorry to say that some of my conservative brethren (and it is mostly brethren) have yet to demonstrate any sort of sacrificial love in the culture. Until that happens, their 'mean and wild' pronouncements will simply alienate the larger public.

Mark

Sharktacos,

I see that same mean streak in liberal America...the line of division in American seems to become more evident every day. My problem with the division is that both parties are deeply flawed. Criticizing Bush doesn't make us better people or better Christians.

I'm a new parent - the father of a daughter - and I am concerned about raising a daughter in our current culture. Living in a democratic society - where every vote counts - I certainly understand where some of the angry evangelicals are coming from. Not that I agree with tact or approach - but I understand the underpinnings of their viewpoint.

My question to Mark would then be "how do Christians vote in a democratic society that really isn't all that democratic - we are constrained to two choices - choices dictated by dollars expended on campaigns?" What does the mean and wild Jesus have to say about politics, voting, and the role of the church in a democratic environment?

Andy

Hi Mark,

Excellent answer. I think you are spot on about "earning" the right to be harsh. Last week our pastor told us a story about a friend of his who was pretty high up in the Moral Majority back in the 80's who was speaking at a college where Mother Theresa was also speaking. People were picketing him and really against his message. Mother Theressa when she spoke to a packed hall said the same kind of things he did - she spoke out against abortion and euthanasia and encouraged abstinence. But the people's reaction was the opposite: they talked about how profound she was. Why? Because she had, through years of caring for the unwanted and the abandoned, earned the right to say that and the crowd new it and loved it when she "told it to them strait".

I think we conservative Evangelicals need to get a reputation for being scandalously loving to the freaks and unholy and broken, to the point of getting a bad reputation like Jesus did as a "friend of sinners" and a "blasphemer" rather than our reputation now as "defenders of righteousness". It seems that there is a "harsh condemning voice" on one side and a "wishy-washy accepting voice" on the other. Both are bad. What needs to be developed, like you say, is a voice of tough wild grace. I really like the idea you had about not having Jesus be just a reflection of ourselves (whether we are pushy or wimpy) but him "turing our tables" as it were. Good stuff.

Sharktacos,

I love that illustration of the Moral Majority speaker and Mother Teresa. It's perfect.

And this as well: "I think we conservative Evangelicals need to get a reputation for being scandalously loving to the freaks and unholy and broken, to the point of getting a bad reputation like Jesus did..."

Amen.

To all: I appreciate the questions and feedback today. It's prodded me to think more deeply. Blessings to all as you seek to follow the mean and wild and gracious Jesus in your own way.

Mark

how do Christians vote in a democratic society that really isn't all that democratic - we are constrained to two choices - choices dictated by dollars expended on campaigns?" What does the mean and wild Jesus have to say about politics, voting, and the role of the church in a democratic environment?

Andy, I know you addressed this to Mark.. but I'd like to offer an answer.

Some Christians believe that the only way they are supposed to be 'political' is as Christians - living lives of radical transformation in their communities as Citizens of Heaven and not of USA -- and they refrane from voting and being involved in the political process completely.

They are in this world but not of it.

God's peace

Seraphim

First off, let me say that I really really enjoyed the book. The writing was just so strong and the care in which Mark conveys his sense of a Jesus our culture has lost is wonderful.

On the WILD side of the equation, I think Mark does a fabulous job of capturing how domesticated Jesus - in success Gospel, in mega-church preaching and in the liberal church.

The MEAN side of the equation - well, I think I understand but it really lowered the book for me. Here's why - mean is defined as:

Selfish in a petty way; unkind
Cruel, spiteful, or malicious

In this definition, I fear that Mark was playing into the stereotype of Jesus that is actually VERY popular nowadays. While it makes for a swell book title and fits in with FOX-TV soundbite world, it is seems to be much less of the total book is conveying.

What I would have wished to read more of is how Jesus is mean - that is to say:

# Common or poor in appearance; shabby
# Low in social status; of humble origins.
# Humiliated or ashamed.
# In poor physical condition; sick or debilitated.
# Extremely unpleasant or disagreeable:

The book certainly covers some of this, but it is a thread that actually circumvents the polarized turf that so often keeps Jesus followers in a small & controllable box.

Even with that concern , let me say that I've sent 5 friends copies of the book already - 2 lib mainliners, 2 churchplant/success gospel folks and one Catholic social justice nun.

Great work Mark - and thanks for spurring the discussion, Chris !

bob

Excellent addition to the conversation about Mark's book. I'm not sure if/when he'll be commenting, but I'd like to slip in here and respond to your thoughts regarding Mark's use of the word "mean". After reading the book, I understood "mean" in terms of:
-intense
-stern
-strict
-critical
-indignant
-demanding
-offensive
-angry

Of course, Jesus isn't always like that, but at times people witnessed as much or more.

Bob, I wonder if Mark played around with "other" titles before settling with this one?

I so angry with what seems like the core premise of the book - that we should be anything but comfortable with Christ. What troubles me is that a great part of the global church is very comfortable with a cruel, spiteful & malicious Jesus. I know that nuance is hard, especially for a book title, but the soundbite just seems to play to a deeply engrained POV that the book actually tends to argue against (from my reading).

I so agree, not angry

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