“I was not trying to gain praise and fame with my writings and little books, for almost everyone I knew condemned my harsh and stinging tone. But I thought that even if the present age condemned me, maybe the judgment of future generations would be better?” -Martin Luther
“Somebody has got to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us!” –Jerry Garcia
Hi. My name is Brian Ervin.
Before I get too wrapped up in talking about myself and my purpose for this blog, let me mention that if anybody has any questions or comments you don’t want to post publicly, for whatever reason, feel free to e-mail me at Hapiru@msn.com (At least until I figure out how to create an e-mail address through this blog site, at which point I’ll list that address here instead…) Now, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way…
I’m a journalist by profession (sometimes), a former Marine, a perpetual adolescent, a full-time butler for a furry freeloader named Buck Rogers, a lover of sci-fi and comic books and other trappings of dorkery and nerd-dom, a distracted and sporadic visual artist, an out-of-practice martial artist, a freelance philosopher, and a compulsive writer.
More than anything else, though, I’m a Christian. I find that when I say that, though—when I make it a point to identify myself by that label, I feel a vague insecurity about it. It’s not that I’m ashamed to be associated with Jesus Christ. Far from it. My association with Him is one of the few things I have going for me. It’s not even that I’m ashamed to be associated with or compared to other Christians… although, at the risk of sounding like a religious snob, I sometimes am. It’s a mixed bag, really. And I’m sure other Christians are ashamed to be associated with me sometimes, too (which is more than fair, depending on their reasons…).
But none of that is really pertinent to my insecurity. Rather, it’s that “Christian” has so many different and contradictory meanings that I really have no idea how another person is going to unpackage it… What are they going to think I mean when I say “I’m a Christian”?
Before I was one—way, way back when I was a little kid, I thought of “Christians” in terms of two nebulous categories: 1) a group that included me and my family because we stuck a dead tree in our living room every year and opened presents playfully labeled “From Santa,” and 2) people who were much more hardcore, as evidenced by their stern disapproval of bad language and good music and by prohibiting their kids from coming over to my house after school, as a safeguard against unsavory and “demonic” cartoons like Thundercats and Ghostbusters.
Of course, those connotations were updated when I became a Christian myself almost 16 years ago (the hardcore kind, not just the yearly dead tree kind). I was pretty sure I knew what “Christian” meant at the time, but my naiveté has been whittled down considerably in the years since. Fortuitously, at the very moment I write this, someone sarcastically remarked on her Facebook page, “How very Christian of them…” with regard to a news story about a ban on homosexuality at a private Christian school in Tennessee. Evidently, that wasn’t very “Christian” of them to do, by her reckoning, along with a growing number of others—both inside and outside the Church. Yet, it isn’t hard to understand the school administrators’ position, which no doubt stemmed from their own honest conviction that such a policy is actually a very thoroughly “Christian” thing to do, despite it not being the flavor of “Christianity” the aforementioned commentator happens to prefer.
But, homosexuality is hardly the only wedge issue among Christians (and elucidating my position on that particular controversy isn’t really what I planned for my “About”-section). That’s a relatively recent development, and it’s only a symptom of a deeper, more fundamental series of problems within Christianity as we know it.
For some perspective, consider the following: If you’re a Christian in North America, you are just as likely to fail at marriage as a non-Christian. If you’re a teenager growing up in a predominantly Christian region, you’re actually more likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone before you graduate high school (assuming you graduate, but I can’t seem to locate the source for that statistic right now). You’re also just as likely to get an abortion as a non-Christian, and you are (arguably) more likely to be the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, or any number of other violent crimes.
In short—whatever it is we mean by that term “Christian,” statistically speaking, it’s something you’re actually a bit worse off being. According to every visible fruit by which our tree can be judged, Christians hold no observable monopoly on morality or family values or quality of life or love for their fellow man, and apart from a few superficial features of dress and language, don’t really live all that differently than their “lost” neighbors, by and large.
Yet, we read in Scripture that a Christian—as a follower of Jesus Christ who is continually being remade in his Image, is, by definition, supposed to live up to a loftier standard of holiness and morality. By virtue of the New Nature within us, the indwelling Spirit of God, we are supposed to be a different, higher order of humanity. We’re supposed to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the very temple and presence of God on earth.
Plainly, there is a vast, gaping chasm between what the Scripture says we are supposed to be and what we actually are.
There are two possible conclusions we can draw from this: A) Christianity just ain’t true, or B) It is true, but we’re doing it all wrong.
A growing number of Americans are going with option ‘A’ and abandoning Christianity altogether. Anecdotal exceptions notwithstanding, the only new Christians, for the most part, are born and raised as such rather than converted. And a pretty hefty chunk of those new Christian hatchlings will leave the Path upon reaching adulthood. At the rate we’re going, it’s questionable if Christianity will even exist on this continent after a generation or two.
Others are going with option ‘B,’ though, by parting ways with the mainstream Church and trying to adapt and redefine Christianity. “Emergent Church” is the buzz-designation for the majority of this group, although it’s just as nebulous a term as “Christian,” really.
Personally, I’m excited about the Emergent Church, but I don’t actually identify with it. I’m encouraged because, if all of the diverse teachings and philosophies that comprise it can be identified by a single, definitive, common element, it is a recognition that what we’re doing doesn’t work—it’s a willingness to change. “The first step is admitting you have a problem,” they say, and the Emergent Church represents that first step.
I don’t identify with it, though, because of the subsequent steps… In my admittedly limited observation, Emergent efforts at “authenticity” don’t appear to be much more than a lowering of the bar. They rightfully observe that the mainstream Church doesn’t live up to the lofty standards of Jesus and the apostles, but the “success” they offer as an alternative only comes from the modesty of their ambition. In the stated interest of “compassion” and “tolerance,” there seems to be an “anything goes” mentality and a willingness to negotiate on key tenets of Christian belief and morality. Not that I’m a blind dogmatist on any particular issue (something I’ll definitely explain in an upcoming blog entry), but the Emergent Church seems like it’s willing to give away the farm to the point that nothing essentially “Christian” remains. And that’s an utterly faithless direction to take. And faithlessness is what got us into this mess in the first place.
So, I believe we’re at a tipping point in the history of the Church. That is to say, we’re at a tipping point in human history, in which the greatest and most powerful nation ever seen on earth stands in danger of “losing its lampstand,” so to speak, as Christ warned the Church at Ephesus would happen to them if they didn’t return to their First Love. And while there is no shortage of people who would cheer at the extinction of Christianity, they wouldn’t be cheering for long. When that happens, a long line of critical dominoes will fall down on this planet, and the quality of human life will plummet—think Lord of the Rings, but if Sauron had won.
And that scares the hell out of me. Seriously, it keeps me up at night. So that’s what this blog is about:
For years after becoming “born again,” I’d found myself in Bible studies and Sunday-morning sermons feeling very much like the droves of people now leaving or trying to overturn the Church. I’ve felt like an alien, an outsider, someone who didn’t understand the language because—even though I wanted to get excited about the masses of converts reported at the latest mission conference, and about the massive turnout for the latest celebrity preacher event—I just couldn’t get into it, because I didn’t really, deep down, believe it mattered. I didn’t understand why my heart wasn’t in it, though, because I genuinely believed in God and in Christ, so I should be excited about this stuff, right? I mean, everybody else was. What did they see that I didn’t? I needed to believe more, to believe harder! But maybe I believed, but I didn’t love God and other people enough? Was I like one of the demons, who believe there is one God, but shudder because they know the punishment they’re due? Maybe if I just did what everybody else did—clapped and cheered and acted happy when I heard those big numbers—the feelings would come later?
But, at the end of the day—even though I knew for a fact that God is real and that He raised Jesus from the dead (a subject for another blog entry)—I didn’t believe in the Church’s representation of Them, and so, in view of the aforementioned statistics, I couldn’t get worked up about people signing a pledge card or answering an altar call, because I’ve seen all that happen before, and, with a few exceptions that prove the rule, nothing much happened afterward that was worth getting excited about. I knew the emptiness of my own experience in Church, so I couldn’t believe it could be so much different for the others recently added to its numbers.
So, I began to question… everything. I wondered what the purpose even was for this weekly exercise of Going to Church—did I really hear or experience anything there that brought me closer to God? Sure, I heard some clever advice and pithy philosophizing from time to time, and I enjoyed the music, and I made (what I thought at the time were) some decent friends. But was God really there? Were we really living out the “abundant life” promised by Jesus? I mean, sure—I enjoyed mingling with other young adult singles, I enjoyed the potlucks and the after-church lunches and the social outings, but… did we really have anything going for us that couldn’t be found just as easily by joining a bowling league, or by becoming a regular at a local watering hole? Is this really what He died and rose from the dead to give us? Is this it?
These are some of the questions I asked aloud and tried to highlight in a Bible study I unwittingly led for a time… until they effectively kicked me out of the Church. (Long story. Maybe I’ll blog about it later. Haven’t decided…)
As I wrestled with the circumstances of my exile, I found myself possessed by a burning need to compose my thoughts on the hows and whys—to put it all down in writing so I could see it objectively, outside of my own head, outlined on paper in words that can be seen in a glance as a unified, connected gestalt.
The problem, though, with such an effort, is the tendency to get lost in the self-referential stew of one’s own thoughts, and the consequent loss of any objective frame of reference (there’s a reason writers have a reputation for depression and hard drinking—the process can very easily drive one mad). So, it seemed appropriate to put my ideas out there for public consumption and comment. If I’m wrong, then people can see that and tell me and help me refine my thinking. But if I’m right, well… then maybe this will contribute to the revolution already afoot.
I’ve called this blog The Third Helix because that’s the illustration I like to use for the New Nature we’re given through Christ: God adds His own Nature to our own DNA, so to speak, so that we’re just as much His as we are our mortal parents.’
At least, that’s the theory. Based on the aforementioned observations, it’s hard to make that claim as a proven fact, because we don’t exhibit His Nature as we should. Obviously. The Church socializes and domesticates us to behave in a certain way– cutting profanity from our vocabularies and outright aggression from our disposition, but that’s not the same as the “participation in the Divine Nature” that’s supposed to define the Christian life.
That, I believe, is what’s missing from the mainstream Church. We have volumes and volumes of doctrine about this phenomenon, but little demonstrable proof of the reality. Why that is, and how we can fix it will be the subject of this blog, for the most part.
That isn’t to say that I won’t feel like goofing off from time to time with a movie review, or an examination of the comparative strengths and weaknesses between David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, or whatever else I feel like writing about at any given moment. Who knows? I’m making this up as I go…
(And, yes—I know. This is the longest “About” page ever written. My blog, my rules. I’m making my own conventions here.)
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. This is the research arm of Planned Parenthood, so the readers’ knee-jerk reaction might be the same as mine, which was initially to reject it as propaganda based on skewed data. But, pro-life groups have their own propaganda and research machines and, despite my fervent search, I have yet to find any studies refuting or even challenging PP’s findings, and I’ve found plenty of Christian opinion-leaders who cite the AGI research as apparently reliable in their calls for repentance. Christian author Randy Alcorn is just one notable example.
 I’ll update this later. It’s true. I promise.
 If they were really new converts. I volunteered once for a “Harvest Crusade,” handing out pocket Bibles to people who answered an altar (err.. stadium) call. Most of them confessed to being lifelong Christians when I congratulated them on their newfound faith in Christ. They were just there for the free stuff…