Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fasting from Christianity

Incarnational ministry is getting to be hip, which is good, because Jesus started it. When we help poor people, sometimes it helps to be poor, too. When we help kids, it helps to do kid things with kids, like playing play-doh and having nap time and drinking apple juice. When helping people of a certain ethnicity, it helps to take on as many elements of their culture as possible, things like food, dress, language, expressions, and folklore. Incarnational ministry is important for two big reasons: it puts us close to the people we're helping, so we can understand them, and it puts them close to us so that they can trust us and be open to our help.

When we help the unchurched, though, how can we do that incarnationally? That is, I spend maybe one day a week talking with non-Christians. I don't get their lifestyles, though, because I'm spending the other six in church, two bible studies, prayer groups, and leadership team meetings. I listen to Christian music (though by no means exclusively) and I read a lot of Christian books. Andy Crouch quotes Nathan Beirman's book Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, in which Nathan quotes a play by Daniel Jurman, who, speaking for Daniel (of the lion's den), says, "In every way that is unimportant, let them make us Chaldeans.".

I'd like to maybe spend a month, at least, fasting from Christianity. That's not to say that I'd be avoiding Christ, or living in revelry. The fast would focus on half of the point of incarnational ministry -- just understanding people who don't know Jesus. Avoiding Christianity might not be particularly helpful, in and of itself, in reaching the unchurched. Yet, there are so many cultural elements of Christianity that are unimportant. I don't need to listen to Audio Adrenaline, I don't need to go to Bible study or church or potlucks, I don't need to read so many Christian books, I don't need to wear Christian T-shirts. A bunch of those things are pretty good, but I could do without them for a month. (Some of those Christian things are so bad, I ought to avoid them forever.)

What do you think I ought to give up in my fast from Christianity? What should I keep? How can I become an agnostic or a nominal Christian, "in all ways unimportant"?

Great Christian Woman Authors

On my bookshelf, I have a lot of C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, and James Sire, and I'm starting to accumulate some Barth and Kierkegaard. I also understand that I ought to be reading J. I. Packer, Eugene Peterson, Spurgeon, and Edwards. I disagree with a lot of them, a lot of the time, especially Schaeffer, so that tells me that I'm probably reading the books I ought to read.

I have a couple of good Christian books by women, but they're not the sort of thing that will be read in a hundred years. (Notable exceptions are Corrie Ten Boom and Edith Schaeffer.)

Now, I don't hold that men are automatically better authors, leaders, and theologians. Rather, I'd probably mostly point to women as my primary spiritual influences. Who are some good Christian authors that are women? Why do you think that my bookshelf is so unbalanced?