Friday, February 23, 2007

Armed and Dangerous

Many people are surprised to learn that Tai Chi is a martial art form.The gentle, wave-like motion of the gestures doesn’t appear aggressive.Indeed, they are not aggressive in the manner to which we are accustomed.We typically think of fighters as trying to find an opening to attack.Tai Chi is more of a defensive style.A Tai Chi master would be unlikely the one to begin a fight.Tai Chi is about protection of one’s space, maintaining balance throughout every gesture, and utilizing the power that comes from having all the parts of your body working together in a concerted effort to focus the force of the movement.

Unfortunately, many people today are unsurprised to hear Christianity described in terms of warfare.Much of the most vocal and celebrated portion of American Christendom focuses on alleged attacks from the secular world.There is an aggressiveness about much of this that I find troubling.I don’t think that we are called to be milquetoast Christians, we have a responsibility to spread the gospel, and it is a troubling message at times.The good news of the Bible is good only insofar as you find yourself in need of salvation.We all are sinners and thus require salvation, but the accompanying message of repentance requires behavioral change.The gospel message accomplishes H. L. Mencken’s maxim for journalists: it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. So in the culture wars, I hope that we are messengers with an offensive message, not offensive messengers.

Do people see you as armed and dangerous? Are you grounded in the traditions and teachings of the faith? Can you deliver words of challenge and words of hope that come from the scripture? It is not necessary to memorize verses to deliver the good/offensive word. It is, however, necessary to know the word of God internally. If you arm yourself with the spiritual practices of prayer, scripture reading and worship you will be prepared to be dangerous for God when the opportunity comes to share the gospel.

In fact, if you truly internalize your spiritual discipline it will become something akin to a martial art. You will be in control of the power it gives you. You will realize that the power is actually external to you and flows through you. We speak of the Holy Spirit in a similar way that martial art masters speak of chi, the life force. If you have studied a martial art perhaps you have already made this connection. The greatest martial artists are those who control themselves, not needing to prove anything by fighting. If only we could similarly master the spiritual power available to us. Perhaps then we could work with all members of the human family to change the world for the better instead of choosing sides and battling in a culture war.


Hollands Opus said...

That is an interesting analogy, Ian - very insightful. There really is a careful line to walk when delivering an offensive message, while not being offensive in manner. It takes spirtual discipline, as you have noted. One of my cyber mentors emphasizes the "ambassador" role that we play and stresses knowldge (an accurate mind), wisdom (and artful method) and character (an attractive manner)These are from the STR link on my blog.

We are they that care for the soul and body of others. When we identify a threat from "secularism" or any "ism" that intrudes upon creator God's design and intention for fulfilled human beings, we enter into that "ism" as ambassadors - as visitors and representatives.

That is what drives my apologetic zeal. The spiritual disciplines are enjoined to overcome the occassional atheist in me - that ugliness of imagined soveriegnty - the parasite of autonomy.

Thanks for provoking good thought this morning.

Twistedevangelical said...

Ian, I think we walk a fine line between being the ones always complaining about alledged intrusions, and calling attention to the real ones. Even from the left, you will get bombarded with questions about "your God" . Securalism is a threat to the great commission and to current Western thought. It's clear that our country was not founded by Muslims or Buddists. We know why the pilgrims and the puritans came to America. Heck, even Columbus had a godly motive. If anything we are to be a bit controversial. Jesus was. And even though America is a pluralistic nation, we have every right to explain and celebrate our faith. The danger is turning the faith into a ceremonial activity where the Spirit is not allowed to work in the hearts of men (and women). Ian, I'd rather see you as a left-wing activist for Christ than a tepid, cowering mound of flesh with a ticket punched for heaven. Keep fighting for what you believe. God will sort it all out in the end.

cleanhead said...

In the most attractive manner I can muster, ian, next topic porfavor.

PeaceBang said...

Hmmm. I have to protest your use of the term "armed and dangerous" here, Ian. I don't want to be seen as armed and dangerous, which is an explicitly violent image. We can have a robust, muscular faith without falling prey to a kind of Dirty Harry machismo.
In a world with so many dangerous expressions of "faith" being enacted against individuals and societies, let's not make the mistake of thinking that our own zeal should be in any way connected to violence.

Ian said...

Hey PB, thanks for the visit.

I hear you. In the larger context of trying to make the case for a muscular faith I was trying to recast "armed and dangerous" in the light of the strength of non-violent confrontation (but confrontation nonetheless).

I think you are pointing to a larger discussion of the place of force in the world. Where does the line get crossed? Is there an acceptable use of force in defense? I am intentional about using the term "force" since there can be non-violent as well as violent force.