Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jesus

This post was written a couple years ago but is indicative of the type of instruction that happens at NCS.

So, today. I was teaching my Bible class. We're going through the gospels. Once again, I found a space to relate pop-culture and education.

So, Jesus performed miracles. This we know. This we laud. We read them as flippantly as if they were bread in a toaster. Those "miracle stories" and "parable fairy tales" pass under our eyes as quickly as the toothbrush on our teeth or the shampoo through our hair. I think those of us reared in evangelical circles let the mystery and enchantment of Christ and his works pass by us.

Today's objective in my lesson plans: Allow students to understand how much of a bad-ass Christ was. Now some are probably shocked at the fact that I put "Christ" and "bad-ass" in the same sentence. Others are immediately "navigating away from this page" because the word "ass" appeared in it at ALL! Others will read on for either a good laugh, a chance for a more critical comment, or a furled brow trying to figure out what I mean.

We began class with a BASIC discussion of philosophy and it's reactions. We started with classicism (straight-laced/symmetrical
l). We brisked over the architectural principles mostly, as today's students demand visuals. Then we ran to the Gothic (bright, crazy). We talked about how the children of the Gothic age cursed its ornamentation. They ran for Neo-classicism. They wanted that symmetry and order again. Then came Romanticism. It screamed of emotional vomit. Countless poems expressed some gushy emotion or another. Quaint, Victorian cottages were filled with knickknacks, overstuffed chairs, tacky wallpaper and towering spires. The reaction? Modernism. We discussed the Great War and its follower. We talked of architecture, art, philosophy, science, etc.

Then we tried to figure out how a philosophy, whose whole design rested on the pinacle of absolutes could have spun the pot of Christianity. What effect did it have? How was Christianity different because society was begging for absolutes, scientific measurement, empericism, and precision?

Students were brave enough and even smart enough to come up with ideas - of course not using the jargon, of:
higher criticism
doctrinal "boxing in" of God and Truth
eliminating the mystical nature of God
belittling the Holy Spirit

Okay - here's where it got good and my objective was coming into play.
We headed BACK to the classical world. We took a journey in time that led us to cheating tax-collectors, as if that aspect of history were much different than our present situation, self-righteous and reputable pedagogues called the Pharisees, and an emperor with as much a self-aggrandizing mentality as the "redneck agenda."

Was Christ a subtle, robed gentleman that would have knocked judges' socks off at a Fabio look-alike contest? Was He a well-groomed Swede with soft hands? With minimal direction students began to see that Christ was not the model on the center insert of our "first Bible" holding dozens of children under a tree in a grassy knoll. He was a go-getter. He was doing things NOBODY had ever done before. He was loving like NOBODY ever assumed one could love. He was befriending everyone BUT the Pharisees. His "band of merry men" weren't the cream of the crop. They were scrappy fisherman with five o'clock shadows and a trail of fish-gut stench happy to be invited by a Rabbi. Christ didn't clamor for title, beg for crown, or shmooze for respect. In fact, in Luke 20:8, Christ wouldn't even give the chief priests a decent answer as to the source of His authority. He didn't flaunt; He did.

In this postmodern age live dozens of Christians. The intentional use of litotes in the last sentence is no doubt a term of agreement for many of my provincial evangelical friends. Nonetheless, this postmodern age has gotten a bum rap. Those of us trapped in the transition between modernism and postmodernism are feeling screwed out of all we held near and dear. Some of us are looking for the hopefulness of what postmodernism holds. Christianity is JUST now being forced into a transition. Denominations that thrived and were even born from modernism are unsure. The confusion is resounding.

Modernism gave us black and white. We know ALL the truth of Christian practice from it. We know how to act socially in light of what Scriptures tell us. Social norms and folkways derived from biblical precepts have been canonized. The mold of order has wrapped us like a Boa. Postmodernism deletes absolutes, negates order, and fosters chaos. God is not the author of confusion so SURELY postmodernism is of Satan.

To argue such is to stab ad hominem at the whole of a generation. That's to say that God must not be on His throne because there were ages in which bad judges ruled the land. Job suffered. Where was God?

Well, He was up on His throne doing just what He knew best. Letting His mercy flow from His justice. He's not unaware that this age, this generation is reacting. He's not trying to find a hole to burrow in. Neither should we. More like the Master, we should DELVE in, face first, and delight in what our progeny has to teach us. My teenage pedagogues have taught me much about loving everyone regardless of creed, race, or philosophy. They've alerted me that this "generation of vipers" might have botched some of God's truth in the attempt at a trade off. True, we cannot afford to sacrifice the veracity of redemption on the altar of communal love, but is it so easy to do the other way around? Shouldn't we strive to KEEP truth and grab the love, mystery, and healing that come with this present philosophy?

We are image bearers of Christ, whether we are Japanese or lesbian, murderer or black, male or cashier. Sin, profession, creed doesn't change our human condition. As Christians, we are called to fix . . . to reform. If we can find the truth or reform music, literature, and art, how much more should we do so of a philosophy that's not pacing at the door to leave. Perhaps postmodernism could be what shakes up this church of Laodicea.

Needless to say, my eighth graders see themselves trapped in a world were sins like "saying bad-ass" have trumped sins like "not loving your neighbor." They're willing to be Republican bigots as long as they're Republican.

We discussed some modern-day bigots. We listened to tracks from "American Idiot" by Green Day. We heard some of the old stuff by Sinead O'Connor and even Bob Marley and the Indigo Girls. Students grappled with the messages. Even though we don't agree with all of them, they saw the artists' desires and push for change. They were willing to speak for what they believe and not trap themselves in a comfortable "God-box."

Later, I asked them to close their eyes. They were guided to "Imagine it. Atlanta, 2007" (it really wasn't a flashback to Sophia from the Golden Girls). I told them to picture a man. He's a nice man, a good man. He's got his head on straight. He's walking all around Atlanta stirring up local politics. He's working grass roots. He has a run-in while walking, with some local hookers. He gives them lots of money, not for services, just for them to be able to eat. He meets up with some drug dealers and does dinner with them. Afterward, He invites a homeless guy over to spend the night. The hookers come over later that night and have pizza and they watch a movie and go home.

I asked students what they'd think of that man. I assumed they'd get my drift. I was shocked with answers like "He's not good because he's condoning their actions." Others claimed, "He might fall into sin because he's spending time with bad people." I asked who they thought this man was. "A bad man," replied one. With a tear on the brim of my lid I realized my pupils had passed right over their Savior, just like the Pharisees, just like the modernists, just like me all because He was unrecognizable as a bona fide bad-ass.

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