Saturday, October 8, 2011

Christians and Community

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

"One cannot prove anything here, but it is possible to be convinced."

"How? By what?"

"By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly."

--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I had a dream last night where I was at Mulberry St. Bar in downtown Fullerton and we were having some kind of church service. It was some pastor's idea. I was supposed to give a "sermon" but instead I got up on the microphone and poked fun at the absurdity of having a church service in a bar.

Afterward, the pastor got angry, and we got into an argument outside. He told me I was going to hell.

"Really?!" I shouted, "You're going to play the hell card?! How do you know I'm going to hell?! How do you know?!"

The dream reminded me of a recent episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" where Mac, a Catholic bar owner, puts a giant crucifix in his bar, much to the horror of his partners.

The dream hi-lighted something that's been on my mind for a while. I have some friends who are very sincere Christians. One thing they struggle with is how to contribute to and engage with their community-at-large. In my view, the thing that often cripples their efforts is their evangelistic zeal. Most ideas they come up with center around one main purpose...How can we tell people about Jesus?

The problem with this approach is that people already know about Jesus. You cannot live in 21st century America and not know about Jesus. A better approach, I think, is to strive to show people Jesus through your actions. Be selfless, generous, compassionate, follow your heart, get to know people without any agenda. Remove the evangelistic zeal and you could probably make a real contribution to peoples' lives.

My friends Brian and Kristy Prince are good examples of this. They are Christians but don't go around talking about Jesus all the time. They own an art gallery in downtown Fullerton. They give people a voice to express themselves freely. They often partner with non-profit groups to help raise money for charities. They are the real deal.

Of course, if you are a Christian and someone asks you, "Why are you doing that selfless thing?" you might respond, "You know that Jesus guy that everyone yaps about? Well, it turns out he had some pretty fantastic ideas."


PAS Gallery, 10/7/2011

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