Friday, September 04, 2009

Francis Schaeffer, Toby Keith and Me

Years ago I read a little book by Francis Schaeffer titled Escape from Reason. It’s a comparatively thin paperback, which is probably why I felt I should attempt reading something by Schaeffer. In it he drew a timeline describing how a cultural change will unfold. On the one lefthand extreme of the line he started with the works of the writers and philosophers, and how we tend to see ideas written and espoused long before we see actual cultural change occur. These folks are labeled extremists and often pegged as weird, since their thoughts are just too far away from the norm.

Next from the philosophers, are the artists and musicians, whose work will also start to reflect a desire for societal change. Often theirs may be reactionary or angry, but their yearning will become much more accessible, because their efforts are visual and auditory, and not just in written word form. I am old enough to remember war songs from the Vietnam era, and also now today in the Iraq conflict. While there are the occasional Toby Keith “boot in the ass” songs that express support, art will generally make its voice known in opposition and there is a reason for that.

While not its only role, good art raises questions. It makes you think and ponder what lies beyond, to what could or should be. Artists are artists for a reason. They don’t always fit in. They march to a beat of a different drum. They think differently. It’s this mentality that allows them to be known by labels such as starving or strange. Their thoughts are not like everyone else’s.

The third point in Schaeffer’s continuum is the general public. Eventually norms or mores start to shift due to enough impetus from the leading edge, and social change starts to become mainstream. Our last presidential election was an example of this. The use of the key words, Hope and Change, merely helped seal the deal that had been brewing for several years. The status quo was not working for enough people and a swing occurred.

The final place Schaeffer says that change will come is in the area of theology or the Church, which makes sense, because the theologians are the keepers of orthodoxy and tradition, which is not a bad thing, because in our world that had embraced the phrase “thinking out of the box” for everything from food prep to redesigned floor sanitation devices (a broom still works fine for me), we lose the place for ideas that don’t budge easily.

All this is to explain why I believe I grew restless with the Church As We Know It. It is my natural inclination to think ahead and ask, “How can I do better?” It really is as much a curse as it is a gift, because it makes it hard for me to shut my mind off and rest. Take this morning, for example. What am I inclined to do when I wake up at 5am and can’t go back to sleep? I step out on my patio with my laptop and I write thoughts like these. I wish I could just watch a movie or even go back to bed, but the fire in my bones always smolders and it won’t let me.

This is why Schaeffer’s time line makes sense to me. I am pulled far more by the thinking on philosophical/artistic side than I am the theological side. I lived in a world for many years that required me to sell a never changing product that I myself wasn’t even using, and it had nothing to with whether I believed in God or not, but it had everything to do with how that faith was expressed. Once it became clear to me that this cursed gift I hold needed to somehow be set free, I could live with new found joy and sense of place.

It is with this realization that I will probably never fit back into the Church As We Know It ever again. Knowing this, I no longer feel the need to look back into the tunnel and curse my darkness, but now look forward to open waters and blue skies again.

No comments: