In the book “The naked Anabaptist” the author writes,
“The Christendom era has left the body of Christ with toxins in its bloodstream-practices, instincts, commitments, structures, attitudes, biases, compromises, and reactions that damage our health and disfigure our witness. We need to purge these toxins from our system.”
I know the toxins he refers to very well. These toxins run within my system with regularity. So how can we detox ourselves from these toxins? Over the last ten years Lollie and I have experimented with a few detox methods. We have purged ourselves through,
Confession: It is easy to point the finger at an impersonal system or “they” when it comes to the toxins in the Christendom system. It is harder and healthier to acknowledge our own complicity. Constantine is not to blame for all the problems of the church, I am involved to. I mention three confessions Lollie and I have had to made. Firstly, we confess that in many ways the church has become our idol. It took the place of Jesus in our lives. Secondly, we confess that we have found our security in the church. Particularly in the sense of “the church pays our salary”. This is related to idolatry but worthy to point out on its own. If I believe that “the church pays my salary” then I will become a puppet in their hands wanting to keep the employers happy. It has been said that people can’t dare to dream in new ways who are paid to stay stuck in the status quo. Thirdly, we confess our lying. One of the most harmful toxins is the poison of always trying to wow. Whether that is in numbers, or ‘being funky’ or whatever. Embellishing stories and experiences or numbers is just not on. We need to recover imaginations of daily grind ordinariness. Otherwise we become, what Eugene Peterson calls, ecclesiastical pornographers.
Conversations: Another way to detox is to change the conversations I am having. A few years ago I read how Henri Nouwen lamented his own obsession with church. He noted that he was saddened by how much he was talking or actually moaning about the church especially when he compared that with the amount of conversations he had about Jesus or even healthier with Jesus. After reading this I started keeping a mental scoreboard of sorts. Most weeks it read : Church (112 conversations) Jesus (3 conversations). Part of detoxing is the invitation to talk more to and about Jesus than about church. Another way to change the conversation is to move from the what-is-wrong-with-church conversation towards the what-do-we-think-Jesus-is-calling us towards conversation. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, what is it that we are called towards? Then we can live into and embodying of that, even within our current contexts. The question then becomes, “how am I living the church life I am imagining” instead of the “bitching-and-moaning-about-what-is-wrong” conversations that usually leave us depressed and sucks the energy out of us. Detoxing involves new conversations.
Abstinence: Earlier this morning I asked Lollie what some helpful detoxes might be. Her first response was that when we need to detox, we have to acknowledge that we are addicted. Without this admission it would be very hard to move forward. The acceptance and claiming of addiction must then move towards abstaining. Stopping activities that are harmful. To use addiction recovery language, “to go cold turkey”. Abstain. Church condomize. The toxins referred to in the quote above has some benefits for us, and these benefits give us a fix. It might be an ego fix, or as I already mentioned a financial itch or it might be the self-justification itch. Whatever it is, we have to confess that we are addicted and figure out what it is and then fill that with healthier habits. One of the clearest statements on addiction comes from the Church of the Saviour community when they write that,
WE ARE CULTURAL ADDICTS AND WE CANNOT BREAK THIS ADDICTION ALONE.
Finally seeing this truth really “getting it” that we are addicted to the very culture and the very way in which we live is the beginning of true freedom. When we finally see that we are addicted to a culture of comfort, security, competition, praise, staying busy, controlling people, being in shallow relationships, having too much or too little money, worrying, seeing ourselves as superior or inferior to others that a vast assortment of sensations, behaviors, substances and activities keep us disconnected from our real feelings and needs and disconnected from God we can then unmask the false nature of this cultural system and see that it can never give us what we long for. We will be able to see at last how much we have depended on this false system, and how utterly helpless we are to break our dependence and to heal ourselves.
Then, together with every alcoholic or drug addict who has hit bottom and cried out for help, we too will cry out for a Saviour and for a faithful community to save us from our cultural addiction. At this point, humbled and ready to receive mercy and healing love, we see the truth and commit ourselves to becoming recovering cultural addicts and to being used by God in whatever ways God chooses.
From the deepest parts of us we now understand that we can no longer pretend that everything is fine and we can manage our lives alone. We must join ourselves with others for our mutual healing and transformation. We need others who are equally serious about taking hold of the liberating Christ. We need …
• a group, in Christ, that is breaking with the culture, the world’s systems, and providing support for total recovery from that culture
• a reconciling group of extreme diversity, especially highly privileged and severely oppressed
• a group closing the gap between the deepening of personal faith and the expression of that faith in public political ways
• a group seeking biblical justice in all forms, including the redistribution of wealth
• a praying group, growing in our capacity to love, understanding that authentic love is always nonviolent.
These are just some early morning thoughts as I drink some of my coffee … I would love to hear some other ideas, practices or thoughts.