So there were a lot of e-mails flying around yesterday, and without violating any agreed confidences, I had this thought while trading bandwidth with a couple of people.
It starts, as is common in my world, with a cartoon:
The comment was made that this is the conservative view of orthodoxy -- it's a prison or a fortress meant to keep all kinds of people out. And, I guess, there's something to that -- but it gives the impression that the objective of the Gospel is to make the church into a bunker, and that somehow the church's primary task is to keep itself clearly separated from the world and that's it.
Listen: there's no question that James 1:27 says that Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to keep oneself unstained from the world. But it doesn't only say that. It says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." That is, we have to be in the world but not of the world -- we have to be doing things which present the Gospel to the world. We are suppose to be a Light to the world (Mt 5:12; Phil 2:15).
So whatever orthodoxy is -- and it is something specific -- it cannot be something which causes us to be a bunker. And if I may propose this without being seen as condescending or disrespectful, I think this is what orthodoxy ought to turn us into:
Now, before you go insane and fill the meta with denunciations, hear me out. In the first place, Sonic is pretty limited, right? You can't get a steak at Sonic, and you can't get a pizza, and you can't get lobster tail or any of that stuff -- so someone who is looking for that can't pull up to the talking sign and demand a seafood platter and then be in a huff when the voice tells them, "I'm sorry, you can't get that here -- how about a Slush?" In fact, we would think that someone who did that to the talking sign would be somewhat of an egomaniac -- because everyone knows what Sonic is about.
In that, Sonic doesn't care what seafood lovers want. Sonic knows what's good for Sonic, and doesn't much listen to critics who think Sonic should also be Red Lobster or the Outback Steak House. Sonic's not going to add all kinds of bad ideas to its inventory because someone thinks their menu is too limited.
But on the other hand, Sonic is able to leverage its menu to be somewhat wildly popular -- and that, maybe based on one item: the Slush. Just a few flavors, but the slush is by a long shot Sonic's claim to fame -- especially since they did away with the Frito Chili Pie (a violation of orthodoxy which they will pay the price for in the long run, I am certain).
But my point is this: Sonic maintains a kind of regimented plan and creates itself not to be a defender of its plan so much as a promoter of its plan. That is, the plan is what it is, and people should know that this plan is full of good things. They don't have to change the plan. The Slush will always be Sonic's foundational matter -- because the Slush is good.
Think about it: Lemon Berry Slush. Just the words make you want to go get one. It makes the back of my throat dry to think about it. What Sonic has -- I want that. And it's not because Sonic has pandered to me: it is because I have tasted of what Sonic has, and it is good. And remember: Sonic doesn’t have any shame in asking you, once you’re hooked on the Slush, "You want fries with that?" They don't have any shame in asking you every time you come for the sweet, savory stuff if you will also take the up sell -- if you would be willing to go in for more while you are here.
I'd be willing to take for granted today that your church has an orthodox statement of faith -- that it has the Christian menu someplace in there. Here's my question: does your church treat the menu like it's something to be protected and defended, or does it treat the menu as the only reasonable thing which we must share? Is it serving up the Gospel, or is it hiding the Gospel? Is it a result of the Gospel, and an outlet for the Gospel or is it trying to hide the Gospel from harm and keep it safe from anyone who might touch it?
I realize this analogy has some pretty serious limits, but look: Christ wants to be lifted up. You can't lift Christ up very far if you live in a bunker -- the ceiling is too low.
Let's think about how we can leverage orthodoxy as something which is spiritually delicious today, something that if people taste and see, they will want it more and more.
Come and get it.