February 10, 2010

The Funk

I finally heard someone say it. I've been waiting for these words to come out of someone's mouth because I know we're all thinking it. I heard it at the Mercy Lounge, a venue in Nashville a few weeks ago. The Space Capone was playing "fun funk" music. At least that's how Ben Gortmaker, their fill-in bass player, described it to me in a text when I was deciding whether to go or not. The lead singer and nine others took stage and rocked one of the most enjoyable funk songs I've ever experienced. These were the words of the chorus: "If it feels good..." and then in musical matter-of-faction, they ended the line, "It's alright." I was planning on sitting down for the show--that didn't happen. It felt too good to stand up for that.

I loved the show, so thanks Ben Gortmaker for putting me on the list. The chorus of their song is the modus operandi of our culture--whatever you feel is right and conversely, whatever you don't feel, isn't right. This leaves us really confused the next day from whatever we did the night before.

Here's to a smooth and diplomatic transition: You and I tend to put experience above all else and I think we're missing out on the depths and riches of true life because of it. It wasn't until this last January in class that I realized how much we as modern Christians base our relationship with God solely on experience and not on unwavering devotion of Christ.

I think experience is invaluable and essential to our faith. The Holy Spirit himself is an experiential person, giving us feelings, intuitions, inclinations and desires. These are all very good and I treasure those experiences in my life when the Holy Spirit has cried out, "Abba, Father," on my behalf with a groaning words can't express. Even in Paul's defense of the gospel in his letter to Galatia, he uses experience as the first argument of his probatio (3.1-5). Here's what I'm saying: I've seen many Christians get "experiences" with God early on in their walk but when they stop having them, they give up on faithfulness. As Americans, we love Romance but we hate commitment to long-lasting relationships and we're not alright.

N.T. Wright put it this way in answering a question posed to him in a lecture called "The Language of Life" (part 2 of 2): "Romance is wonderful; a steady worked out relationship is better. Striking a match is very exciting, but it's not going to last long. Use the match to light a candle and it will give a steady beautiful light to the room. Yeah fine, let's have some more matches, that's fine... sparkles, but you can't live off of that stuff. I mean I really do worry about that."

The question given him was: "Do you think that the church is preoccupied with sort of like maintaining the honeymoon period or a crush with God and we're not getting engaged in the marriage? I think that God calls us to more than that."

I'm running a half-Marathon in April. It's in Music City. If I approach this training like a romantic, I'll probably be out of shape, run slowly and injure myself somehow. But if I take it one week at a time, working steadily, I think I'll cross the finish line in shape, with a good time and without injury. I think it's also going to feel amazing to complete this one big step for Chad-kind.

Again, experience is essential (Isa 6; Matt 17). However, if we stay there, we won't mature. And that is God's will for our lives, that we be sanctified (Jam 1; 1 Th 4). Our Christian existentialism, coming from at least 20th century theology and philosophy, focuses on our emotions which is good in part (especially after Plato). The problem is that when we live a merely emotionalized spirituality, we miss out on the joy of a holistic salvation. This kind of salvation takes us beyond ourselves and what we feel to push us into the kingdom of God. I think the question posed to Wright was brilliant--we are obsessed with the honeymoon period even in our relationship with God. What would a Christian look like who started out with all the feelings and kept running and maturing even when feelings subsided? That sounds like true Spirituality to me.