Saturday, December 26, 2009

Materialistic Desert

a recent journal entry.

Materialistic Desert

America is a materialistic wasteland. We center our lives around the illusion of happiness through massing amounts of possessions. Each day we import, produce, buy, sell and trash tons of materials with little to no regard of the effect consumerism has on the individual, family, society or planet.
Consumerism and capitalism are based on basic self-centered indulgent desires. These desires go unchecked in rich and safe nations such as America. They are based on the illusion that in order to be happy one must act in accordance with one’s desires. There may be a small regard for the effect of this lifestyle on others but that is not necessary. The most important person is your self and you should not feel bad for indulging completely and utterly. We have all seen where this leads a person, society or nation.
The difficulty in America is that most of us fit into two categories. The first category did not grow up with the ability to have everything desired. In a sense they were ‘poor.’ Some may never experience the ability to have everything desired but others pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Either way the prevalent spirit of the age pressures for more than is already possessed. The second category grows up having everything desired obtained. The ingrained right or entitlement of receiving everything desired is almost as deep as breathing. For these ‘rich’ it is truly hard to enter the kingdom of God.
For people from either category the right and entitlement of amassing possessions runs deep. America has experienced difficulities, such as the Depression, but never anything powerful enough to really question its way of life. There result is a mirage, an illusion of happiness, success and power. I fear that the words of Jesus to the church in Laodecia in Revelation 3 apply all to well to America today. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve for your eyes, so you can see.”
Each of the things Jesus counsels the people of Laodecia to buy are things they were known for producing. They were famous for their refined gold, white clothes and salve. What an insult?! I wonder what Jesus would advice America to come and receive from him? I have a feeling it would be insulting and hard to hear. I have a feeling that our illusion of being rich and in need of nothing is going to be exposed soon. I have a feeling that many are going to be shocked and offended when it happens. I have a feeling people will be looking for a deep well when their broken cistern is uncovered.
Where does the Church stand on all of this? Sadly, she is divided deeply. Some do not think twice about the way of life but rather advocate it as God’s will. Others, as a response, live in a poverty mindset that will not allow them to receive from God or others. I find myself leaning more towards the latter part of the spectrum. God could have come in any way he chose but he chose to come as a humble poor servant. He chose to reveal himself in his Son who had nothing good to say about greed. He was in continuity with the teachings of the Torah and the Prophets who always sided with the poor and oppressed. Christianity at its core can never be the powerful, wealthy empire that is has become in the West. Christianity at its core is the religion of the down and out. Jesus made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world.
As I journey through this materialistic wasteland I am often tempted to buy into the illusion. I am tempted to settle down and acquire many things. I am tempted with the lie that if I am unhappy I just need to go buy something to feel better. I am so thankful that the Breath of God blows on my tattered broken sails so that I continue to move on in this desert. I am so thankful for the oasises that God brings me to that I may be refreshed and strengthened in the eternal perspective. I am thankful for the ‘sailors’ who have gone before us whose words still echo in my ears today. I understand more fully now why the Desert Father and Mothers said society was a shipwreck they swam away from in order to save their lives. Maybe it is time for another expression of Desert Monasticism in the midst of twenty-first century America.
Eventually true followers of Jesus will hear the voice of their Shepherd leading them home. Eventually Abba’s children will hear the call of their father. Eventually this desert will cause thirst, dehydration and death. I pray we have grace to be set apart even as he is set apart. Let’s follow in the steps of our Lord and others who have counted the riches of ‘Egypt’ as nothing compared to the true riches of the kingdom (see Hebrews 11:26). I pray this ‘exodus’ happens soon. After all, it was in the wilderness that Yahweh taught his children how to live a life of holy trust. We are already in a desert, but what are we learning? Wind, Breath, Spirit of God come and blow our weary vessels across this barren materialistic desert.

my tribute to facebook

How many friends do you have? I have 511. Isn’t it great to be so connected? Isn’t it great to never be alone? I wonder what I have missed in the last 30 minutes, I better check the news feed. Something major just happened in my life I better puke it up via mobile so all my friends can know.
We live out this illusion every day. We are afraid to be alone with God because he might actually speak to us. We sit in front of a screen living a virtual life of friendship while our actual ability to love another human being slowly diminshes. We have taken the sacredness out of life by downsizing everything to a generic post online.

Fakebook, what have you done to my soul? Fakebook what have you done to our society? Fakebook, will you always be there for me?

If we spent half the time we spend on facebook in prayer, service or worship we would find ourselves more deeply connected. If we visited face to face we would quickly realize how cheapened relationships have become by overuse of facebook.