I used to be a Young Turk.
I reveled in bitching about the church, about the world, the evils of the system and anything/one else that I felt was in my way. I looked for the highest rock where I could beat my chest with the self-confidence that only comes with the idealism and passion of youthful rebellion. I had great ideas to fix the church and bring back all that made God’s wondrous creation true, pure and holy. I looked down upon those who I felt had sold out to the various forms of the “The Man” and justified their actions by falling in line with the system and sacrificing their passions for the “greater good” . . . whatever that is. Politics, church, society, . . . nothing could escape my bold and prophetic ideas.
Yes, I was a Young Turk.
Maybe not so sadly, but inevitability, at some point I felt like I had no contextual justification to be the Young Turk. Sure, you can be an old Turk, prophetic and rebellious, but not young. I have changed, not necessarily grown up or matured, but changed.
I think back to my more rebellious days and even with good intentions, many of us at that time where rebelling for the sake of rebellion. We struggled with discovering who were were in response to knowing what we do NOT want to become. Worldviews were shifting, technology was exploding and globalization was becoming more evident. Yes . . . I am THAT old.
With that said, I still have this urge and compulsion to engage in the process and struggle of systematic transformation. From where I sit now in this particular stage of life, ministry, etc. my perspectives on how I engage in the work of systematic transformation has shifted. I fully understand that this may just be justifying my own particular choices to make me feel better about becoming a big sell-out, but I think there is something to embracing one’s role within the process of systematic transformation.
I have posted on this before and I understand that different people discern differently. I also realize that some folks are just wired to be rebellious and we NEED people who are constantly reminding us of our edges and tendency to circle the wagons in times of anxiety, but I think many of us need to embrace our calls to transform ourselves and move from rebellion for the sake of rebellion and into a posture of transformation for the sake of body. Sure, we may gave helped push some edges, but at some point the rebellious posture has stopped feeling genuine to my own journey.
Damn I sound old.*
Why this posture of systematic change works for me.
Forces us to define ourselves by who we ARE rather than who we ARE NOT
To be defined in the negative does not work. In age of postmodernity and globalization the false dichotomies that are set up by “us” / “them” postures are bankrupt ways to fool ourselves into thinking we can control the chaos. There is no depth to being defined as “We are not . . .” because the stability that is offered by this way of thinking is wholly determined by a set understanding of that to what we are trying NOT to be. On the flip side, to move to a place of being defined by what we are, there is a richer more appropriate and contextual understand of self and community.
Embracing the past unleashes the future
To ignore our history and tradition simply because they are old is a grave mistake in so many ways. American individualism begs us to forget our past and think that the newest way, or ways WE think of are the best and only ways that God speaks to us/me. To forget and ignore God’s movement through those that have come before us and the struggles of discerning God’s will and call on their lives . . . well that is just crazy talk. Remembering the past is not just about blindly following what has always been done, but more about letting the past inform how we are TO be or NOT to be in the future.
Every system needs a structure
I personally don’t believe in anarchy. Anarchy is not Biblical, but more the height of arrogant individuality and an “every person for themselves” mentality that allows us to forget and turn away from the “other” in our midst. Yes, some institutions can be oppressive and unwieldy, but that does not mean that institutions/structures need to stay that way. The challenge for the church today is to help transform and create systems that offer just enough structure to make sure ministry can happen effectively without moving to a place where the system becomes more important than the ministry it is claiming to support. We can certainly turn into the institution that we have been fighting, the kind that makes Jesus very sad. But to discard the wisdom of some structures of life that actually help move the forward kingdom work is just plain irresponsible.
So there you have it, my MANIFESTO OF A SELLOUT! Let me also say that depending on the context I feel like more of a sellout than in others. In one arena I am the uptight denomination middle class jerk and in another I am the whining, never happy youngster. Trip. That is why I love the complexity of God’s people.
* I have been called on using the “D” word in my posts. Not to trivialize one’s concerns, but God will only damn those things which are truly deserving of damnation, and I am pretty darn sure I am on the selection team.
Just for fun: Young Turks Radio Show on Air America