It looks like paper. It has the color, the texture, and the overall ambiance of paper. It even has the clever looking heat protector around the middle of it. I even had someone ask me what restaurant I purchased it from. The cup however is plastic. According to the label and the heat embossed printing on the bottom it is dishwasher safe and BPA free. It’s not paper. It isn’t from a coffee shop, it came from the grocery store, out of an end cap special. Sure it holds coffee, it holds any kind of liquid I suppose, but it isn’t paper. Its plastic; a faux representation of some popular chain of coffee shop paper drink ware.
Don’t get me wrong, I rather like my new coffee cup. It’s not the cup I’m bothered by, I’m not even bothered by the substance from which it is made. Plastic is a great invention. You can make just about anything with it. I have even seen three dimensional printers that make items from plastic. Plastic can be made like metal, like wood, and even like paper. It can however never be what it is not, it can only be what it is… plastic.
Take for instance the popular shape of the soft drink we in Atlanta all love. It looks just like the glass bottle from the past. But I distinctly remember the first time I tasted that wonderful beverage from a plastic bottle, it was simply not the same. Something was just off a bit. It made me want the purity of the original glass bottle. For whatever reason, America’s version of Christianity has become that plastic bottle. It’s so close to what it should be, but just off the mark.
American Christianity has become a temple of plastic built upon a sandy foundation of feel goodism. Life hurts! The quicker we understand that, the better we will be. There is a great line in the show, Game of Thrones (HBO), one of the characters says that it’s a bloody business giving birth, and what comes after is far worse. I don’t possess the biological ability to give birth, but I can attest to the second part as a son, and as a father. Life is a mess. You can put on whatever face you feel like putting on, it will still be a mess underneath.
I refuse to listen to the local Christian radio station in the morning. The voices and stories from their morning show just ooze fake. I’m sure they are nice and genuine people. I have no problem believing that their nice little suburban live are exactly what they say they are. The oozing element that seeps from them is that if we follow Christ, our lives will be the exact same as them. We will have a nice house in an HOA controlled neighborhood, where we can park our luxury SUV’s in our two car garages above which sits our fully furnished media room complete with 80” HD TV complete with the ultimate service provider package. Our kids will go to the absolute best schools and be afforded every equal opportunity to succeed just like we have. All because we said a little prayer in church one day, listened to the right music, wore the right clothes, ate the right food, worked out at the right gym, and acted just like the same cookie cutter Christian’s that live next door to us.
The fact is life like that has never been promised by God, or Jesus. He said he would give you a new load to carry, an easier one, a peaceful burden. However, never once in the conversation or biblical discourse does there exist Jesus offering you shiny white suburbia. Rather the images Jesus gives in his speeches stand in stark contrast. He speaks of the poor, he speaks of the unlovable, and he speaks of suffering for His cause. Last time I checked we have very little understanding of that in America, we hide behind our three brick sided fortresses of denial and say that we suffer silently, or even worse, we hide behind a tithe.
Real Christianity means that we cannot lean on our own understanding of the world. That means that the barriers we have built against people and lifestyles have to be broken down. If you want to argue with me, fine, but I would ask that you research the people Jesus hung out with when he wasn’t with the disciples. He was with whores, criminals, fishermen, tax collectors, people who were seedy, and people who were corrupt. Why? Because those are the people who need the message the most.
The mistake we have made in America is thinking the American Dream and the Kingdom of God are compatible. They aren’t, at least not the way we have been trying to combine them. The American Dream is selfish and ambitious capitalism, the Kingdom of God is complete surrender and dependence on God. The American Dream is a dream that we can have everything at our feet, The Kingdom of God is the concept of laying all at God’s feet. At the same time, they exist temporarily as a paradox.
We must understand that Christianity is much more of an organic thing. It fits into the natural order of life. Plastic on the other hand does not. It doesn’t break down, it doesn’t work with the environment. We don’t need Christians who look the part but don’t blend with the world. We need Christians who add to the world, who make it a better place because of the love of God that they show. We must get back to the biblical reality of Christianity. The Kingdom of God will not be bent to our will.