Tag Archives: heaven
For the first time in over a decade I started work this past week in a non-ministry position. I am currently enrolled in the ADC (Arkansas Department of Corrections) Training Academy and will start work in the Tucker prison unit the end of November (after graduating the six week academy). I will tell you up front that it’s pretty stinking crazy! There is no question that I am a part of what us ministry folks would refer to as a “secular” or “pagan” environment. What that means is that its not a “religious” or “Christian” (as if environments could be Christians, they can’t, environments don’t have souls) environment. Profanity isn’t followed by gasps or cringes; subject matter does not include outright Biblical theology; not one person thus far has struck up a conversation with me about how to better make disciples. But you know what has come up? Generic religious jargon. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not being used in a mocking or even demeaning manner. It is for the most part being used in the exact same way that you would hear it on Sunday.
I’m not joking, one young lady when asked about her three kids responded, “Sh*t, He don’t put no more on me than I can handle.” Another time, at a point in the classroom when a profound humorous point was made, a gentleman in the back hollered out a hearty, “Amen!” I’ve tried hard to grasp why, in a seemingly very unreligious setting, these pockets of religious language pop up, and even more interestingly they aren’t scoffed at. My conclusion (which is only my opinion and I am in no way judging my fellow cadets) is that the religious dialog is culturally normal.
To give an example, there is a distinct culture to the prison world. We’re currently spending a great deal of time learning how to stay alive and how to not end up residing inside via drugs or sexual misconduct. The longer I am at the academy, the more the things I come home to tell Jules are normal parts of my day. Like for instance, when our instructor walks into our room, our former cheer leader class leader calls out “Officer Present” and the whole room stands up to attention until given permission to sit down. This is funny to Jules because the thought of her clean shaven, uniform wearing husband leaping to his feet at the command of a cheerleader is a foreign thought to her. It is however, normal to me because I am entrenched in the culture of the academy. Likewise, the pockets of religious talk are not mocked, nor laughed at because they are part of the culture of the Bible Belt. The “Amen”, and other church cliches are simply normal cultural expressions.
There are several ways to analyze this information but for me, the results seem to indicate that the Bible Belt has failed. It hasn’t failed in the way we would think, it has made Jesus, church and mostly religion household knowledge but where its an utter and complete failure is the picture of these things. What living in the Bible Belt has done is, it’s given us heavy doses of bad theology. It’s convinced us that salvation and more importantly Heaven can be had for as little as a walk down an aisle and dip in a pool. We repeat the preachers prayer, which is nothing more than a type of incantation, stand in the back where the entire congregation comes and shakes your hand, take a dunk in a baptistry a couple weeks later and we’re good. From time to time we’ll appease the God who “we invited into our hearts” by attempting to stay conscious through a Sunday service and dropping a twenty in the offering plate. The Jesus I know doesn’t work like that, and His life, that dwelling in me, isn’t obtained by simply doing that.
I want to give you one more example that I believe will help drive this home for us. Scientists are now finding that the fascination we have with rushing to antibiotics for every sniffle is effectively killing us. What they have discovered is that due to the high amounts of antibiotics we are taking that our bodies are building up an immunity to them. This is happening so much that they are convinced that when some people find themselves in a dire, life threatening situation antibiotics will be of no help due to the previous amount they had taken in the years proceeding, thereby giving their system time to become immune to their healing powers. What our Bible Belt culture has done to us is precisely the same thing it has inoculated us. We have been around religious talk, and moral “church” behavior so long that it’s effectively immunized some people to the power of the Gospel. The potent truth of Jesus has been replaced with a watered down, inaccurate, powerless religion that we’re convinced can help us.
Have any thoughts on this? Were there times that you’ve experienced the effects of our Bible Belt Culture? Please feel free to share them in the comments.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up a Superhero fan (thanks Mom & Dad), and to this day love the idea of supernatural heroes. So when this summers blockbusters “The Avengers” & ” The Dark Knight Rises” were in theaters so was I. I feel like a kid watching the Hulk and Thor battle for the safety of the world, something in me soars watching Batman come to aid of Gotham yet again and secretly I walk out of the theater pretending that I am one of them with my secret identity being dad to three and McDonalds frequenter. There’s something inside me that longs to be the one wearing the cape, having the whole fate of the world on my shoulders. To be a part of some grand adventure that transcends my seemingly insignificant existence, and I finally know why. It’s what I was created for. No, I wasn’t given x-ray vision or a super soldier serum, but I was created in the midst of an epic adventure that is playing out unbeknownst to most of us. The grand adventure of eternity, the redemption of the world. Hear me out, I can explain to you my logic in hopefully three easy parts.
Without going into all the different reasons comic book heroes are heroes I want to examine one of the more common reasons. Let’s take the Hulk for existence (we could use almost any Marvel hero, especially any X-men), Dr. Banner basically tests a formula he was developing on himself which modifies his DNA causing him to turn into a giant green monster any time his pulse rate gets to high. It was the change to his DNA that caused him to become “the hero” he is. Spiderman; bite by a radioactive spider. The fantastic four; after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space. All the mutants in the X-men universe were born with “special” DNA. Bottom line, these heroes are simply wired for a different type of existence. Guess what? So are we. Check it out, Solomon tells us in Eccleisastes 3:11:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Clearly theres a lot in here, but for our purpose lets focus on the element of our DNA that I bet you didn’t realize you had. “he has put eternity into man’s heart,” in other words there is a part of you down deep on some subconscious level that knows that you were created to live forever. So, you have eternity planted in your hearts by God and as a result there’s this knowledge that things aren’t the way they were intended to be. That unsettling feeling, that desire for more, the part of the movie world that resonates in my soul is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans.
“22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23
Since the fall of humanity in the garden in Genesis 3, all of creation has been fractured and as a result is groaning, longing, waiting to be made right again. It’s waiting for the renewal of all creation, and Paul says “not only creation, but we ourselves”. We too are groaning, waiting, longing to be made right. We have eternity on our hearts and a sinful fractured world around us, our soul remembers what it was like to be whole with God and it yearns to be there. It’s our DNA that is setting up this call into adventure. You have actually been created for it, the question now is what is it, and will you become a part of it.