By nature I’m inclined to follow the rules. My teenage rebellion was quiet, internal, and not against my parents or institutional authorities. Conformity seems like a good way to keep the peace. And “being good” seems easier than getting in trouble. So I grew into adulthood, with plenty of sin but little worldly rebellion. No sex, no drugs, only my father’s rock ‘n’ roll, and precious little fun of any other variety.
Then I went to college, decided to stop rebelling against God, and started attending a fellowship which is sometimes accused of being a cult. People smoked, cussed, had a beer after Bible study, and talked about radical grace. What’s more, they actually loved each other. They formed deep friendships, spent most of their evenings together, and spoke into each other’s lives. No wonder people thought such a tight-knit community of biblical love was cultish. It makes for a strange phenomenon in our individualistic society.
While I still whisper in the library and stop at yellow lights, I’m learning that many rules are in fact made to be broken. So many orders are issued by The System in order to keep life running smoothly, with cold efficiency that avoids the messiness inherent in close community. For example, the rules of political correctness and so-called tolerance require that faith be a private matter. It is forbidden to ask an acquaintance about their spiritual beliefs and so risk offense! Such social rules keep people at an arm’s length, oiling the machine of The System.
In response, the American church has retreated into their sanctuaries, agreeing to follow the rules as the culture defines them. Instead of impacting the world around them, they dream up odd efforts like the “30-Day Leviticus Challenge” during which a congregation followed portions of the laws given to Israel in Leviticus. I’m assuming no one chose to sacrifice animals, but somehow they arbitrarily and individually selected specific rules and rituals to follow for a month (Christianity Today, August 2008). Spiritual disciplines represent a new set of Protestant ritualism. And major Christian magazines advertise cover topics like “Racing for Jesus: the inside story of NASCAR ministry and the spiritual of speed” and endlessly conjectured about “Election 2008: Whom will evangelicals choose?” Others create websites like “idontcelebrate.com” to protest the phrase “Happy Holidays.”
Here is my rebellion: I refuse to withdraw and spend my days in spiritually useless endeavors. The church should not have a vague and vapid presence in the world. Neither do we need to “reclaim the culture for Christ” by simply becoming more influential in politics and media. We need to rebel against The System and instead fight for The Kingdom. “And our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, we’re not fighting people, or the police, or the education system, or Washington D.C. or any other earthly institution. We’re supposed to fight against the lies and schemes of the devil and his System and his hold on human hearts.
Keith and I have been working on a little booklet about leaving the System and joining the Revolution that is God’s Kingdom. I can hardly wait for it to be ready. I hope lots of high school and college kids read it and see The System for what it is: slavery. I think they already sense that it’s a cold, hard System which doesn’t care about them. But the only useful rebellion is found in God’s love, grace, and truth. I hope they see this and accept freedom in Christ and join the Revolution!