Monday, September 23, 2013

Attitude Copping

Today included another reminder of how opposite Fundamentalism is to the Gospel of the living God.

But let's back up, and start with an illustrative story:

My former pastor from Halfway Fundy Church sings very well.  And by that woeful understatement, I mean he has a tenor voice straight from heaven.  When I was in college with him, singing was a major part of his life.  He was in choirs, sang solos, and even won a major university-wide competition in vocal performance.  He loved to sing, and everyone within earshot loved to hear him.  His is a true and rare gift.

Once I started attending his church several years after college, I noticed that he didn't sing much at all.  We didn't have a choir and rarely had "special music", but there were occasional special events that involved music and his participation was conspicuously absent.  Now, I don't remember if I knew this from a casual conversation or if it was part of a sermon but I discovered that he essentially refuses to sing anymore.  Why?

One major reason is because he's afraid his attitude and/or motives for doing so "aren't right".

Rather than bless those around him, he buries his gift because he apparently thinks his attitude is too geared towards pride about it.  (Please note - I don't tell this story to criticize him, I tell it to show how pervasive and life-changing this philosophy is.)

As you can see, in Fundamentalism, one's attitude and motives are of paramount importance - but the above illustration is by no means the only facet of the issue.  There are a number of manifestations of this core belief.  For starters, you can be conveniently accused of not having the right attitude when someone doesn't like what you're doing, especially if they can't really prove you actually did something wrong.  The more you protest, the more obvious your "attitude problem" becomes. Or, it can be a method of controlling the tender soul, as no matter how in line your actions are with Fundamentalism's list of rules you're still not good enough. It brings paralyzing self-introspection and an ungracious judgementalism to others as you not only become a policer of deeds but of thoughts.  And worst of all: God is "unable to use" someone with a "bad attitude". Something as simple as a misplaced motive can thwart His moving and blessing entirely.  Some god, eh?

I just love how God keeps exposing Fundamentalism's tendrils in my brain with His love and goodness. This last Sunday, I heard a sermon that turned this thinking on its head. Surprisingly, it started out very similarly:
"How often do we have secret ulterior motives even when we're trying to do the right thing?"  
I braced a little for the expected moralizing to then, therefore, be sure to examine my motives and make sure they're right - dishonest wretch that I am - because I can't trust my heart, etc.  However, there was no condemnation. I was instead surprised by a completely different approach:
"The fact is, we play this game a lot in our own heads even if no one else knows about it.  And thank God that God's kingdom doesn't depend on us having the right attitude or the purest of motives 100% of the time - otherwise God would never get anything done through us."
Wait, what?  You mean I don't have to triple-scrutinize my motives to make sure they're purer than the wind-driven snow or I miss out on potential blessings?  (Wait, is desiring blessing an ulterior motive too?  Let me examine myself again...)
"Sometimes all that God needs is for us to just show up, whether we're willing or not, whether our motives are for God's glory and the in-breaking of God's kingdom around us or not, and whether we secretly hope there's something in it for us or not, and the rest will follow....   And despite our ineffectiveness and our own brokenness that causes us to act out of selfish motives, God's grace is able to claim what we do have to give and use it anyway.  God is able to redeem it."
The fact is, motives are a complex thing.  And the more you think about them, the more complex they become.  But doesn't this fit the Biblical pattern better? How many times did God interview someone for their motives before using them?  Baalam, anyone?

So worrying about my motives isn't going to purify them.  God will do that, in time.  Growing in grace, learning Love and Truth, and making mistakes along the way.  It's not my job to do, it's just my job to just show up.  And I don't have to be afraid to do something because of the possibility of impure motives.

No wonder Christ said His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

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