Thursday, October 8, 2015

BenOp: First Steps

This post on MereOrthodoxy triggered a line of thought which I often have when reading posts on the BenOp. That line of thought is this: what in my upbringing most prepared me to live out of Christian presuppositions rather than out of the more common presuppositions which surround us in the current world? My answer to that question will likely be biased by what I liked--I'm a thinker, so I am tempted to emphasize the thinking end of things--but the question can still be helpful for those of us who find ourselves, to some extent, already living in an out of place way. Those of us who do stick out on account of Christian convictions should be thinking about what has enabled us to do that and what sustains us in doing that, so that we can then report on what has worked. This is particularly important for those of us whose way of doing the BenOp-ish life is ordinary and thus easier for more people to envision living in the pattern of.

My first thought is that making Sabbathing together sacred sets us apart in such a way that reinforces to ourselves that we are first Christians. When you find yourself having to say "No, I am not available on Sundays" in response to most requests (jobs, regular sporting events, etc.) that teaches you what you are first, what identity overrides all others. But that is just Sabbathing. I am suggesting Sabbathing together as what is to be set apart as sacred. Stopping all regular activity to come together with others and slow down enough that you can really interact, enough that there are expanses of time to talk about things, helps bind us together into a community.

My second thought is that talking about how we are different--not necessarily better, but first different--helps us to see how the Christian life differs. So, to have a community where we respond to movies and advertisements and books by recognizing the life they present as different, and particularly to discuss how the gospel makes that difference, how the life that some settle for apart from Christ is, really, sad. These discussions are not meant to be academic, although those inclined toward academic stuff may find these discussions, in one way, more natural, but instead these discussions are a way of developing a Christian vision and imagination for how the world works. It is a way of developing, not only a vision for how they are wrong, but much more for developing empathy for how they are lost.

These are things I grew up with. At a certain level, they are not hard. Granted, developing the Christian imagination may be something harder to get off the ground, but that is an area where we, as the Church, can learn from one another. I am not suggesting come together merely as isolate families, but as churches, as diverse, intergenerational communities, where we can learn and develop a Christian imagination from our elders in the faith. There may be a need in some places for some people to stretch themselves to glean from writers who have thought deeply about how the gospel affects culture, but not everyone needs to do that work, because the few who do ought to then be articulating and exploring the connections they are seeing with others, thereby teaching others what they are learning.

What is needed is not a new organizational structure, but a new willingness to slow down and discuss, intelligently and empathically, life and godliness. Some will be strong in discerning logical patterns, others will be strong in grasping the sadness of lostness, we need one another to develop our imaginations after the mind of Christ. The first step to the BenOp, really, is to become the body of Christ. And that begins with one person reaching out to another to prod them to think and empathize more deeply, more Christianly, more thoroughly about all of life. It is as simple, and as difficult, as asking "how does the gospel impact how we do this?" over a wide variety of areas, and then being struck, as we, perhaps, wathc movies, read books, and see how different they portray the way to do life. How do they answer the problems of life without the gospel? How does the gospel answer the problems better?

These are discussions. I do not think that what is needed to support Christians living as strangers in the world is answers to these questions, although those are good, but that we would think this way. If our hearts move in Christian rhythms, then our lives will be distinctly Christian. Too often, BenOp conversations are about what we can do, and implicitly, usually, it is what we can do to strengthen our hearts in Christ, but it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that what we are after with these alterations to our lives is not merely that our lives would be different, but that our hearts would be more strongly Christian, so that the world would no longer tempt us.

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