Listen To Article
A friend made an interesting comment a few days ago – suggesting that it seems people get bored with Christianity. Not in a “religion vs. faith” sort of way – you know, the “I love Jesus but dislike the church” – or the “I’m spiritual not religious” high horse that seems popular. I mean just plain bored with it all. Been there, done that… heard this and certainly heard that. Bored with the issue of discipleship, or having to read the same texts every Sunday. Bored with what Christians are “supposed to” believe – the way Christians are “supposed to” be. My friend is a philosophy professor, so the conversation quickly turned to Kierkegaard and Heidegger and the very nature of “boredom.” (Some might suggest we were performing boredom by having the conversation.)
Without thinking too much about it I responded by asking whether boredom is the reason so many Christians are obsessed with “doing.” Missions trips, random acts of kindness, bible studies, outreach, – you know what I mean. Do do do… constantly on the look out for ways to put “faith in action.” I mean, if you think about it, what do we say when we’re bored? “There’s nothing to do” or “What can we do?” When we’re bored we try to find new and exciting ways to deal with the monotony of existence. Or we just throw out adjectives to make ourselves think something is “new,” “improved,” or “exciting.” (I’m thinking about infomercials…) Or, to make it seem as if our work is indispensable to the existence of the universe we drum up various forms of crisis…convincing others that the reinvention of the wheel is an earth shattering discovery.
What’s my point? I’ve grown weary of mission trips, of outreach, of the manufacturing of various crisis that cause the Christian community to run around, hands on head, getting everyone worked up into a tizzy. I’m tried of all the “one upping.” I know – I come off as a curmudgeon, a crank, a grumpy old man yelling at the kids – “Get off the lawn!” College students get mad at me – they peg me as the “he’s against missions trips” guy. I try to explain that it’s not the “trip” I find problematic, in fact I will be going with our church youth group on one this summer. (I look forward to it…) What is problematic is how they are marketed… the aura that’s given off. The self righteous one-upman- (and woman)-ship that accompanies the mission trip. What about the everyday experience of life? What about the monotony? What about our neighbor? (Not our metaphorical neighbor – I mean our literal neighbor. The 80 year old guy next door that doesn’t know when a conversation should end, who doesn’t care for your politics, who likes to watch Dr. Oz and Pater Robertson… and tell you all about it.) Maybe we’re bored with these types of people. The simple folk who aren’t necessarily living in extreme poverty or oppression… they’re just lonely and frankly annoying. Maybe there’s an immense mystery and depth to simplicity… to the ordinary… to monotony that freaks us out, which is why we can’t stay there to long. So we move to the manageable distraction. Or maybe I’m just a crank.
I end with a quote from G.K. Chesterton. (Ok, this proves I’m just a crank… and a damned crank at that.) I find the old guy to be the patron saint of finding joy in monotony. Here’s what he writes in Orthodoxy:
“Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.”
So here’s to experiencing faith in the monotony of every day life.
Well said. Well said.
Reading this, it comes to mind in your comments about the neighbour, that perhaps we get bored because we are protecting ourselves against the Life that is to be found just there. In living in 'the Christian Ghetto" we discover it doesn't have much to offer – but if we engaged all we are with all we meet – we may discover something far richer than we imagined possible.
After all there's nothing boring about a Gigantic ball of Hydrogen full or Fire and flame rising every day over our world 🙂
There is a lovely section in the book "Caring" by Nel Noddings that I think captures this idea well (p. 124-126). The whole thing is worth a read but here is a key part. Although Noddings is not talking about God, "the one-caring" is certainly an appropriate epithet for God.
"The one-caring, then, is not bored with ordinary life. As the Christian-Catholic finds new truth and strength in repeated celebrations of the mass, so the one-caring finds new delight in breakfast, in welcoming home her wanderers, in feeding the cat who purrs against her ankle, in noticing the twilight. She does not ask, 'Is this all there is?,' but wishes in hearty affirmation that what-is might go on and on."
That is a beautiful follow on point, Nick
Isn't this all in some sense the heart of Unconditional Love? That wishing that 'the what-is' might go on and on? Unconditional love just spends Itself