First of all, I want to say that I was honestly moved by Eddie and Dave’s latest entries. They were both encouraging to me. Who says these thought pages are lame?
Anyway, I had a really momentous weekend. Well week, actually. Lots of stuff happened, but I’ll just talk about this past weekend. So this weekend, Saturday-Sunday, I went to Lake Tahoe to go skiing with Paul Jung and some of his friends (and his little cousin, who’s in high school). We went up early Saturday morning, skiied a half day at Heavenly, then spent the night. The skiing was pretty good that day.
Anyway, the randomest thing. That night we decide to eat at a buffet, you know, in some casino/hotel or something. So we look around and choose the Horizon because it’s the cheapest (by the way, it’s the cheapest for a reason. Beware.). So we have to wait awhile before we get our table, then when we’re seated, I hear someone yell, “Danny Chai!” And I look, and at the table right next to us is Tom Lee and Tammy Wang! (And some other guy I didn’t know) How random is that? Sitting at adjacent tables in Lake Tahoe? Random.
But the craziest part of my weekend was the drive home. We left on Sunday. On the way back, we’re driving in the mountains, and I need gas, so I stop at a station in the mountains, about 45 minutes outside of South Lake Tahoe. But after getting gas, the car doesn’t work anymore. The engine starts and everything seems to run, but when I try to put the car in gear, it doesn’t move; just kind of makes this pathetic sound like it wants to engage but can’t. So I figure the clutch is broken, which is bad. There’s no worse feeling than when your car breaks down far from home. It’s just this feeling of helplessness, being stuck in a strange place. So it was a really bad situation, being stuck in the middle of the mountains on a Sunday night.
So we think about what to do and we get the number of a tow truck from the service station. We call and they say it will cost $100 to tow the car to a mechanic (there’s none at the station we’re at) and it will take them an hour to get where we are. So they’ll tow the car to the nearest mechanic (which could be anywhere), leave it there overnight, and take us to some place to stay. It’s a bad situation in a lot of ways – the towing is expensive, the mechanic is probably expensive because it’s the middle of nowhere, we’d have to spend the night because nothing is open on Sunday night, the hotels around Tahoe are expensive, it might take a long time to fix the car, and I need to get back to campus the next day and we’re far from Stanford, so there are a bunch of complications there, and it will take an hour for the tow truck to even get there. Anyway, it’s not good but we pretty much have no choice.
At this point both me and Paul decide to pray, because we needed God.
So we decide to call the tow truck, and the most amazing thing happens. I go to the phone booth to make the call, and as I dial, a tow truck drives up and parks right next to the phone booth. It doesn’t just pass by, it literally stops right next to the phone booth. It was kind of surreal. So I hang up without connecting and just kind of knock on the window and ask if he’s in service. He says yes; he was looking for a car but couldn’t find it so he’s about to check in and go back. Apparently, this phone booth is one of the few around, so he stopped to use it and make a call (which in retrospect I don’t understand because he had a cell phone. Strange.) So I say, that’s great, because my car just broke down and I need a tow! So he says, OK, let me check in and then I’ll take a look at your car. So I’m happy because we don’t have to wait an hour for a truck. I think both Paul and Dan (his cousin) were surprised because I went to call for a tow truck and the next thing they know, there’s a tow truck right there.
Anyway, the tow truck guy says that he can take us as far as Placerville (a medium sized city west of Tahoe, a much better place to be than in the mountains) for free if we’re AAA members. But I’m not a member, and neither is Paul. But Dan his cousin, a 16 year old kid visiting from Virginia, just happens to have his dad’s AAA card. We look at the card and it expires on April 1st – 4 days away! And it doesn’t matter whose name it’s under or what state it’s from! It was incredibly fortunate.
So the guy takes us and we actually decide to pay a bit and go further to Sacramento, as we figured it would probably be better to be in a bigger city and take care of things there. So we leave the car at a place called Clutch Mart and stay at a hotel. There I make a few calls and arrange for Phil Sung to come the next morning and pick us all up. I figured that it would take the full day to fix the clutch, so I’d just leave it there as there were a bunch of things on campus I needed to take care of, and find a way to come pick up my car sometime later.
So here’s a side thing – I love Phil Sung so much. The reason I asked him is because I knew he would do it. I mean, it was bad of me to ask him, but I was in a dire situation. Anyway, Phil is the most servant guy like ever. I don’t understand why more people don’t love him. They just don’t know him well enough is my guess. Anyway, yeah, I knew he wouldn’t hesitate to come all the way out to Sacto if he could and I was right. When I asked him, I was like, “Phil, I have the biggest favor to ask you…” and explained that I needed to get picked up from Sacto. And all he said was “Give me your information” ie how he could get there. What a guy. I love Phil. You should too.
Anyway, we arrange for him to meet us at Clutch Mart at 10 AM (meaning he left at 7 AM). I get up early the next morning and head over there and I find out it’s just an axle broken that can be fixed by 11 AM. So when Phil (and Jieun, who came with him) comes, we just kind of wait until the car is fixed and then came back together. The car being fixed that quickly was also very fortunate. Anyway, I made Phil waste like 8 hours. I love Phil.
So I was very blessed by the situation. I mean, it sucked to break an axle in the mountains, but everything turned out all right – in every way, it turned out better than I thought it would. The tow truck and AAA thing just amazes me. Anyway, this will sound cheesy but it’s genuine – it just reminded me that we will face trouble in this world, but that God will provide for us in the midst of that trouble. It wasn’t even a big deal this weekend but I was reminded.
Anyway, Paul’s cousin Dan made an interesting comment in Sacto. We were kind of walking around, trying to find a place to stay and a place to eat, and I was apologizing for the situation, but he said, no, he’s having the best time of his visit so far. Then he explained that like when you go skiing, there’s all this pressure to have fun. But just kind of walking around in Sacto, it was pressure free, and he enjoyed it more. That was interesting to me. We went to Wendy’s and played Hearts. It was actually pretty fun.
So I’ve been reading this book lately called Stealing Jesus by Bruce Bawer. It’s basically a liberal Christian’s criticism of evangelical / fundamental Christianity. In fact, he argues that America must save Christianity and the country from evangelicals or face dire dire consequences. It’s really really interesting. I’ve been really into learning about liberal Christianity lately. It is so fascinating to me. I mean, the stuff that they believe. Just really interesting.
Anyway, with this book I pretty much disagree with most of what he says (though not all by any means) but it’s made me think a great deal. I think many of his criticisms are inaccurate, but it challenged me that he had such criticisms. I think the basic gist of his book is that the liberal Christianity is more faithful to the message and life of Jesus than evangelical Christianity. He calls the liberal way the love way, and the conservative way the law way. Much like you know, Pharisees vs. Jesus, he sees conservatives and liberals as a parallel. And he thinks conservatives have stolen the real Jesus and what he stood for and used him for our agenda, thus the title of the book.
Anyway, like I said, it’s interesting the criticisms he has of evangelicals, and a lot of it I think is challenging. Because I think maybe he’s right – evangelicals do seem to be really really caught up with doctrine and who and who isn’t saved and stuff like that, and not really marked by love. He pointed out that in Acts, the church was known for how much they loved each other, not their doctrine or stuff like that. Anyway, it’s a challenge for the conservative church to really love each other more.
OK, there’s this quote by Rich Mullins that I think is great, and is relevant here: “The thing that I generally do (to deal with the different understanding of God in the Navajo nation) is I listen respectfully — even though as a Christian I am a monotheist and have a system of theology that I’ve worked out for myself that is very different from the traditional Navajo religion. I still believe what marks us as Christians is not our doctrine in terms of a doctrinal statement. What marks us as Christians is our love for people. And if you love people you respect them. When someone who comes from a different religion, who comes from even a false religion, speaks, you listen respectfully to them.
You know, I have a great mom. Once we were talking about a friend of ours… it’s just wild that she and my mom are friends. I asked, “Do you ever feel weird around her?” and my mom said, “Yeah, I sure do!” But here’s the deal: No one was ever won into the kingdom of God through snobbery. We come to know Christ through love. I really believe that. I’ll tell you the truth, I think that all these doctrinal statements that all the congregations come up with over the years are basically just not very worthwhile. I don’t mean to sound mean toward the people who came up with them. I understand in the past there have been many heretical movements, and we still need to maintain sound doctrine in terms of a good understanding of how God works and operates. But I think our real doctrine is that doctrine what is born out in our character. I think you can profess the Apostles’ Creed until Jesus returns, but if you don’t love somebody you never were a Christian.”
Good words, I think. Anyway, one thing that I have been thinking about a lot has been the Good Samaritan story. Bawer uses this story as an example of why evangelicals are jacked. The question he basically asks is whether the good samaritan is a Christian. Because all it talks about is what he does, not what he believes. So we could probably assume he believed what most Samaritans believe – a kind of hybrid faith of Judaism with some other bizarro stuff mixed in. Anyway, is this guy a Christian?
He says that most evangelicals would say that he’s not a Christian. So even though he’s pointed out by Jesus as being an example, and even though this story comes in the context of someone asking Jesus how to attain eternal life, to the evangelical, the good samaritan is going to hell. And Bawer thinks that’s a jacked idea. In his view, the modern day parallel is like the priest and Levite are conservative Christians, who are really caught up with doctrine and “law” as he puts it, and the Good Samaritan is the liberal Christian, whom the conservative Christian looks down upon as distorting the true faith and as being unsaved, much like the priests and Levites might look at the Samaritan in that day.
The point is, Jesus points to the Good Samaritan as an example, not because of what he believes, but because of what he does – his love. So Bawer says that’s the message of the story and of Jesus’ life – it’s all about love, not a bunch of law that we need to follow, especially if that law is keeping us from loving other people (a lot of people point out that the priest and Levite may have avoided the man to keep from becoming ceremonially unclean. Thus it’s an example of how the law is at odds with loving actions.). In his view, that’s what’s happening today – conservative Christians are caught up with “law” or all these doctrines and determining exactly who is and who isn’t saved, and that’s keeping them from loving actions. I guess he’s saying how can you love when you think that most people are going to hell. He’s particalarly sensitive to homosexuals, as he is gay, and he thinks most evangelicals will say that homosexuals are going to hell, and that makes it really hard to truly love them in action.
Anyway, a lot of interesting stuff. The challenge for us of course, is to really love, because that’s how we should be if our doctrine is correct, and if this type of criticism exists, we should recognize it and fix it.
But as I was saying, it’s made me think to no end. Is the Good Samaritan saved? What do you think? There are probably some tricky fixes to it, but it’s not really satisfying. In the end, he’s given as an example because of what he does, not what he believes. So I mean, the implication (given the questions that spurred the parable) is that salvation comes via action, not belief. Of course, you can always say that the right action only comes from the right belief. But then why doesn’t Jesus ever say that? I don’t know, it’s just interesting to me; something I’ve never really thought about.
Anyway, liberal Christianity fascinates me because I disagree with so much of it. Does that make any sense? It’s just interesting to see what conclusions people reach. But in my opinion, a lot of it is just untenable intellectually. For all their emphasis on intellectual analysis, I personally think a lot of their conclusions are just well whack. It’s just interesting. Anyway, they’re really into getting the “authentic” Jesus, and the real Jesus and his real message. This is like the mission of the Jesus seminar and stuff. Anyway, the weird thing is how they go about doing this. And this is by pretty much throwing a bunch of things out. For example, they pretty much think the Apostle Paul sucked and wasn’t really true to the message of Jesus – that he was most responsible for making it more law than love, and so they pretty much chuck all of his stuff, and other epistles too and just stick with the Gospels. In fact, John is kind of weird too, so get rid of Revelation and his weirdo Gospel. Then a bunch of stuff from the rest is also chucked. Basically almost nothing is left. I don’t know, it seems strange to base your faith on shards of a book, and believe that the rest of the book was pretty much a mistake.
Bawer even points out a book which claims that the most authentic early Christians, those most in tune with Jesus’ real message, were branded heretics in the first centuries. What a funky idea. I don’t know, just personally it seems so sad to me if this is true – like how powerless a God we have. Like, in His book are mostly mistakes and the true Christians don’t get heard in history, so there are long periods of time where no one knows the true message. Some God that is.
I don’t really know if his views are representative of liberal Christianity in general, but it seems to be, and it’s weirdo. There is no heaven or hell, no eternal life as we see it, no resurrection, and lots of other stuff. Anyway, this one web site (www.religioustolerance.org) remarks that “Christianity” is really divided into distinct religions that you can’t really call 1. And that’s really true when you look at what liberals and conservatives believe. It’s quite different.
Anyway, yeah, I find it really hard to believe in liberal Christianity personally, but I find it thought provoking and interesting. Especially to see how they view and criticize conservative Christianity. That’s useful, I think.