Hank, I know it doesn't feel this way all the time but we get to choose what to think about and what to spend our resources on. We choose what, or ideally whom, to lust after. We choose what to watch, what to like, what to build, how to spend the breaths we've been allotted, and the fact that many of our choices are unconscious - get that handbag, get that Starbucks, look at that Snookie - does not in any way make us less responsible for those choices. I'm happiest when I feel like I'm part of a community that helps me choose more intelligently and with greater empathy. — John GreenThat quote can be found at the end of John's latest Vlogbrothers video. It dovetails nicely with the things I've been musing on these past couple of days and weeks. Even though John is talking about Nerdfighters (and I totally agree that Nerdfighters is doing what John says) but I also feel that this should be true for the Church. I'm lucky to have a community of people at my church who help me choose intelligently and with more empathy in many different ways. We are, as a community, trying to figure out what it looks like to live like Christ on the Gold Coast - a unique city in Australia.
I think we're getting there. Slowly but surely marvellous things are starting to happen. But I'm not sticking around. Next year I plan on moving overseas; most probably to the United Kingdom. I have a lot of worries about it but I feel like it's the right time because I've been wanting to do it since I was in Year 10 or so. I'm not sure I want to just do the Australian-in-the-UK thing though. I'm interested in exploring what it means to live in a Christian community that is even more explicit in thinking about how we consume, think and empathise.
New Monastic communities such as The Simple Way in Philadelphia are fascinating to me. Unfortunately, the United States is super-restrictive when it comes to long-term visas so I can't check out these American communities for myself. I did find a similar community in Scotland, though, called Iona. I'd love to live there for a bit and just see what it's like living in such a close community centered on social justice. Basically, I've become disillusioned with popular church culture but my love and trust in Christ has remained. I think Sufjan Stevens put it pretty well in the following quote:
I think what people react against is the institution of Christianity, which is what I call Christendom, but Christianity itself or what Christ embodies is so foreign to how we see Christianity manifested in institutions, in politics, in the current US administration, you know, the church as an institution is pretty disturbing because an institution yields power, you know, is possessed by power and possessed by greed and controlling things and controlling society and the principles of Christianity do not mix with that. It’s like oil and water. So I think what we have now is like.. what you perceive as Christianity in American culture, especially, is actually a bastardized version of it and feels very distant and very ugly to me and I consider myself to have very, very orthodox Christian beliefs but I have very deep emotional and political and spiritual convictions against so much of that. — Sufjan Stevens, 2004The question is, "How does Christ want me to choose?" or (somewhat humorously?), "What does Christ want me to 'lust after'?" I want to explore these questions with the breaths I've been allotted for next year. I don't think I'd spend my whole trip living at Iona or whatever New Monastic community I find. I'd also want to see my friends, travel around mainland Europe and go to VidCon 2011. Nor do I think that living in a Simply Way-style community is actually something I should do for the rest of my life. How would my video-making fit in with the communities' call to simple living?
But it's something I want to try. I'd love to go there and learn how the community works and bring that back to my church here on the Gold Coast. I'd love to learn how to be part of a community that works so closely together to encourage each other to choose with greater intelligence and empathy. I'd love to spread that amongst the greater Church and change that culture to become less about power or image and more about loving God and loving your neighbour.
That post I've been talking about for the past few days? This is it, and I don't quite feel I've done it justice. Those are my first-draft thoughts on the issue, though, and I've got work in the morning so I have really, really got to sleep.
Here's a song from the aforementioned Sufjan Stevens - For the Widows in Paradise: