Living on the fake plastic earth: It wears me down

I am watching you!

The King.

I love Burger King chicken sandwiches. Ever since the noun tendercrisp came into existence I was hooked. It just all works together. Recently, with my commute to class, I find myself occasionally stopping at burger king for a tasty morsel of fried chicken goodness. My good friend Mike is also a fan of their cheap double cheeseburgers, so when we hang out, there is a good chance I will end up at Burger King. The three times I have been to Burger King, twice on my own, and once with Mike, they asked me to pull ahead and wait while my food was prepared. Now, this is something I normally frown upon because I know the employees are only trying to make it look like they got customers through the drive through quicker, but these past three times, something totally different dawned on me. All three times the employee at the drive-through said the same thing:

“I am sorry sir, but we are making the chicken fresh. Could you please pull up and we will bring it out when it’s ready.”

Now, let us forget the half question turned into command at the end and focus on what is most important and revelatory in this statement. This man was apologizing that my food was being made fresh. It was wrong of the store to make my food fresh. There is something deeply disturbing about this statement. Now, I know that you can get all caught up in syntax and perhaps his wording was just off, but I started to think about it and I realized that this is not the norm. It is abnormal in our society to get food that is cooked fresh. As I sat there, waiting for my food to be made, people behind me got impatient. I received many nasty looks and hand gestures as impatient customers were forced to drive around me. Now, I am going to set aside the fact that even if this was a problem, it was not my fault in any way, other than I ordered food that was not pre-made garbage. I will set that aside to focus on the much bigger problem: The store clerk was right to be apologetic. Everyone around me was getting angry that I was waiting. It seemed that I should have been angry. But, I wasn’t. I wasn’t angry because I know that fresh food is worth the wait. It was late at night, I had nowhere to go. I was actually happy that my food would be fresh, because that meant it would be good. But as the clerk and the other customers showed, I live in a culture where that kind of thought is not acceptable. We cannot wait for our food to be made fresh. We expect to pull up to the drive through, make our order, and by the time we are done paying, we want our food in our hands so we can drive away and eat. Waiting is an anomaly. The stores are not even set up for waiting. Normally if you have to wait, you are forced to be stuck in an awkward place where your care is barely not in the way, but everyone still thinks you are.  The system in the store is even set up for speed. Cars are not supposed to stay at the window for more than a minute, which is why I was forced into that awkward place at all. All of this leads me to only one conclusion:

We have sacrificed fresh, real food on the altar of impatience and convenience.

And what was it I was waiting for? Over processed chicken sandwiches and a burger with cheese bits fused into the meat. The food that was importantly made fresh, was not even real in the first place. So, what is it we want? We want fake food, pre-made to our convenience. Look around the food landscape. Real, fresh food is now a marketable factor. Places are special if they serve fresh food or free-range beef. It is an anomaly of our society to have real food. You can barely even get fresh, real food in our grocers. In order to get wild salmon or grass-fed beef or free range chicken you have to shop at top of the line organic grocers like Whole Foods and pay way more money for it. People choose to buy frozen, presliced and breaded chicken bits because the price for organic chicken is too high yet they are more than okay with paying Comcast way too much money for sixty something channels of cable television?

There is something wrong going on. Our world is fake, and we have embraced it.

We like our fake food. We have made it taste better than the real thing. There is a reason I love sandwich meat. It is so dang tasty. Real turkey is terrible in comparison to a nice, thin sliced piece of deli meat. Yet, that is not real. I have come to prefer the fake over the real. If allowed the choice, the majority of kids will choose chicken nuggets and pop over fresh cooked food and milk. Jamie Oliver proved it. The worst part is we promote it. We make our fake food taste better and buy it in bigger numbers and mark it down so more people can afford it. Everything around us, is becoming fake.

After we are done eating our fake food we are transported into our fake lives: living out our fantasies vicariously through actors and actresses. Television, movies, video games, porn: It is all a fake life we choose to connect with, we choose to live through, in order to make our lives more interesting. Our sex lives are mundane so we are told by psychiatrists to live vicariously through porn stars to spice up our love life. We have indie kids living through the mixes the characters in their favorite books, which were adapted into movies, made. People are naming their children Neo because they believe The Matrix was a documentary. And what happens when the disconnect between the screen and reality becomes to noticeable? We make it into a video game. We take control of the characters we are living through and merge our reality further into theirs, all the while severing our precious connection to the real.

Now, let me stop this rant for a moment to make a comment. I am in no way bashing media. I believe wholeheartedly that much of media is art. Someone had a vision, whether comedy or tragedy, and they poured their passion into this art form. The reason we connect with it is because of this passion. I am a huge fan of many movies, television series, video games and books. I love the emotional connections that are made. Crying tears of joy as Pam and Jim finally got married (spoiler alert…wait, I think i am supposed to do this before the spoiler….ooops.) Freaking out when the scary black monsters steal away the mysterious white princess as I make my way through ICO. Laughing hysterically as Modern Family creates even more awkward moments. Media is awesome at making connections to you through emotion and personal experience and there is nothing inherently wrong with this connection. The problem arises when we invest our identity into these characters and settings. I am not talking about Uberfanboy pretend fun. What I mean is that the real problem is when our real lives suffer and become mundane because we are spending more time in the fake world than in the real world. When the most exciting moment of your week is Monday night RAW (Thank you Mike for indirectly causing this reference) you have a problem. We live dull, unimportant lives because we are too busy living out our fantasies in a fake reality. This is the problem. The problem gets worse when we start to find meaning in consuming entertainment. People who flaunt their Gamer scores, or have to be the first Mage to get to 85 without ever doing a quest. Now, these things can be harmless bragging rights, but to many this has become their livelihood. The only problem is, it isn’t real. You can’t put your gamer score on a resume. Getting Shadowmourne will not help you in any way in reality.

So, we need to allow media its proper place. We need to allow art to be art. Art should inspire us, not consume us. Media should be enjoyed, not obsessed over. We need to gain control of our lives, and start living in the real.

So, after we have eaten our fake plastic food and lived our fake plastic fantasies, we head to our fake plastic churches. We do fake charity to whatever causes we like to pretend we care about. And this could be the worst part of our fake lives.

Now, I will try not to rant too much on community and church structure. That discussion is for a later time. But, it can be said that what churches in general do is further separate us from the real. Our community reduced to a few hours a week, where most of it is spent sitting quietly and listening to someone tell you what to believe. We are force-fed truth, which turns it into a fake form of wisdom. We cannot allow ourselves to find truth, in fear and trembling. We need our pastors to tell us what to believe and even they are fake. We set up this ideal belief that our pastors are these perfect people, and when they are found to be struggling, like all of us, we condemn them. We give our money to our church because we are told to, which is fake tithing. We cannot be giving of ourselves to help the weak and the sick and the poor, because our church needs air conditioning! Then we head home, angry at ourselves because we cut someone off while showing off our Jesus loves america bumper sticker.  This is because we are new gnostics (something that will be delved into on a later date) who have simplified truth to catchy statements on our cars: The fruit of our faith, transformed from real actions to fake stickers.

Or perhaps you are not a church goer. You are one of the enlightened ones, who finds the folly of theism to be laughable. You are much smarter and better than these people because you don’t just follow the words of your preacher. No! you just blindly follow the words of Hitchens and Zeitgeist. But it’s okay, because they are scientists. We can blindly follow them because they have dedicated their lives to show off how smart they are. They can’t have biases. So you turn science and philosophy into this fake bragging right.

When we all get home we go on facebook and write about all the injustice in our world, because if we post about it enough, then people will know we care. We send around slacktivist chain posts about this or that, feeling good that we support these causes, even though we have done nothing to change them. We rant against political figure A and praise B, even though we refuse to get involved or even learn the truth about either of them. We write blog posts about the injustices in the world, yet do nothing to change them. (>.>   >.>   >.>) It’s all fake.

Fake plastic charity. Fake plastic church. Fake plastic atheism. Fake plastic truth.

 

Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead

Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself
It wears her out, it wears her out
It wears her out, it wears her out

She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
And it wears him out, it wears him out
It wears him out, it wears…

She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
But I can’t help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
And it wears me out, it wears me out
It wears me out, it wears me out

If I could be who you wanted
If I could be who you wanted

All the time, all the time


Perhaps it’s time we break out of our fake plastic worlds. We need to realize that food is important. It is what sustains us, what keeps us alive. We are constantly putting it into our bodies, perhaps it should be good! We need to live our own lives. Go and have adventures, find out new things. Allow our imaginations to take back their proper place in our lives and allow art and entertainment to have its proper place. We need to break free of the bondage of fake truth. Realize that our facebook posts have no bearing on the problems in our world. Use blogging as it should be used, to educate and provoke. To get people to think and to share opinions, not a place where you can pretend like your writing is actually making a difference in Sudan. We need to allow church to become the true community it was meant to be. Allow pastors to step down and join the lay. Realize that we are all sheep trying to find our way in the dark or at the very least realize that our pastors and leaders are not perfect and be okay with that fact. Find truth for yourself. Read, read, read your bible. Fight with it, struggle with it. Do not just go to it to re-affirm your spoon fed beliefs. Allow it to challenge the very threads of your existence. Allow other writings and art and people to do the same. Never stop questioning, growing, struggling, and breaking down. It will only get better. It’s not easy, but its real. It’s up to you. Do you embrace reality or continue living in the fake plastic earth we have created?

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland,   and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Morpheus (The Matrix)
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Real community.

Today we had our 12th meeting as Mosaic and for the first time I was truly amazed by what happened. This was the first week I really felt like we started to become a community. Over the past 11 weeks I have struggled to find the reason why we are doing this. I have lost vision and have become quite apathetic to getting things ready. Discussions were planned at 11:30 on Sunday, worship was thrown together and prayer was completely out of the picture. I was becoming burnt out, yet was not really doing that much. It was just a part of the destructive cycle that I was on.

But, for the first time since we started, I had everything prepared by Saturday. Worship was picked out and the words were printed, the downstairs was clean, my discussion was planned, and dinner was figured out. It was pretty great. I woke up, played Eternal Sonata and went out to lunch with my wife. It was easy, it was relaxing, and it was just what I needed. There was no panicked cleaning or frustration over not having something done. Just a relaxing morning. We got home, and Thomas was here. I love hanging out with Thomas. He is just an awesome person to have a conversation with or to sit around and write folky music with. Slowly people showed up, including my cousins, whom I missed last week. We ate dinner and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We played some unplanned but beautiful music and then came discussion.

I spoke my heart about where I want discussion to go. I hope it did not come off as a lecture, because I truly meant for it not to be that way. I just wanted to make clear what I felt discussion could be and how we could get there. I came up with three simple guidlines that I truly believe will make discussion flower into something truly life shaking. They were: be humble, be mature, and be open. Through these I really believe we can do amazing things with our discussion.

Then came the first critique. This is something I very much believe will keep Mosaic on the right track. I wanted to hear, from the people involved, what they felt were our strengths and weaknesses. We talked of some of the things people felt were needed. It was good, honest and will definitely help us to grow as a community. We moved into the discussion for the night and talked through the Jars songs I posted a while back. We prayed and moved into late night hang out time, which was amazing. Never before have I seen the connection we had tonight. People talking, laughing, venting, and discussing all sorts of fun things. I started to see the community come together.

I realized something, if I am not putting my full effort into this, it will fail. If I am not working, praying, and preparing with all my heart, this will never grow. But, when you get excited and put your all into something, people want to follow along. You start to focus on the vision G-d gave you and you realize that this is something that could be truly life changing, and you would hate to be the one who stops it. I realize just how much I need to do, and how much more needs to be done for this to become the vision G-d has for it. Mosaic, let us rise up together as a true community and work to be the true Eucharist, the body of Christ.

Turn that shit up.

The end of a “season” (God I hate that word.)

This past weekend my wife Allison and I announced to our church that December 15th (the day the battle of ticameron was won and the day that Nero died) would be our last day at Light House Church, our church home of three and a half years that we have been with since it began and that we are both actively involved in. I myself am the worship and the youth guy and Allison is the Children’s ministry person. This decision was an extremely painful decision but also a necessary one.

Over a year ago I came home from bible college worried. I was worried because during my time in bible college i started to question why we “do church” the way we do. I did a lot of research into the origins of the christian church and into church history. I looked at the first three hundred years of the church and saw something completely different than what we have now. I went to many churches and saw to much focus on a few hours and not nearly enough focus on community and service. I saw people preaching “the gospel” but not acting on it. I saw people claiming to do things different, but only saw a change in rhetoric. Due to all of these things I became incredibly bitter to the church. I stopped attending church at school and became very worried because I was very involved in a organized church back at home when I left. I didn’t know what I would do, because even walking into a “church building” made me sick. Thankfully, God squelched the bitterness in my heart and I realized that even though they might be way different from the way things used to be that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, and that even more importantly they are my family and I love them regardless of their silly practices. I came home and became very involved at Light House Church in both the worship team and the youth group. I poured my heart, soul, passion, money, and time into the youth group. There was still however, something about Sunday service that didn’t sit right with me. I told Allison of my ideas of what Church means and what community gatherings should look like and at the time, she told me I was crazy. I asked “what ifs” involving leaving LHC and moving and Africa. At the time I was met with a fairly sure ideal that we were to stay there a long long time. I held my tongue and hoped that someday things would change. Allison spoke of licensing with the Assemblies of God and becoming a actual pastor with them.

Over the course of a year, many things have changed. Allison has realized that she disagrees with a lot of what the Assemblies believe and that she could not be licensed through them. This worried her because she was fairly sure that our pastor would want her to get licensed. Now, at this same time some changes were going on at LHC. I started to notice a focus on aesthetics that I had never seen before. We had met in sticky movie theaters and big warehouses in the past so aesthetic was a luxury that we did not have. But, after building a “sanctuary” we now had pretty things and like any typical western thinker, we needed to keep those things pretty. Slowly but surely I started to see more of the typical American church come into LHC and those feelings I had kept dormant for over a year started to come back. Little did I know that those feelings would be the springboard for something bigger than I could ever imagine. I felt torn, for I wanted to support my pastor in his decisions, yet there was that part of me that wanted to go back into bitter, sarcastic, mode. The rebel in me was brooding and it didn’t help that others around me were more open with their opinion. It got to the point that I felt like I was trying to bridge the gap between the complainers and the yes-men. We had my Mother, whom I love very very much, on one side getting mad at the way things were and Gracey, my fellow youth leader and friend, on the other side getting mad at those who were mad and no-one was listening to each other. I became incredibly frustrated because I was trying to propagate a more civilized approach to peoples frustrations, but because of my previous bitterness and others current anger, no one wanted to listen. You were either in or you were out. You either trusted the pastor, or you didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, or how to deal with this. I felt a meeting with my pastor was needed, but was so afraid, because of past discussions, of how he would respond. Then I went to Urbana.

Allison and I, as previously mentioned were invited to a pastors conference in Urbana. At the last minute one of the people we were to drive down there dropped out and we had an extra spot. So, Cassie (one of my closest friends) decided to come with. We spent several hours in a car discussing our worries and frustrations, our fears and our ideas. We started to realize that we all had this idea lurking within us. This realization did not become fully recognized however, until the end of the first night when we spent several hours discussing church and community over wheat beer and onion rings. We then spent another several hour trip talking all about ideas and dreams of church. Ideas about community and service. Ideas about dinner with your christian family and loving all regardless of past. Ideas about discussion based learning and getting back to the way the early church was. We talked of a mature way to bring up to our pastor our worries and frustrations. We also talked of what we would do if he didn’t take it well. It was here that I at least believe that Mosaic was “born” per-say. We thought through situations and found that there was a good chance that in bringing up these ideas he would ask us to leave. It was here that we started to think up what on earth we would do if we were asked to leave our home. We started to reflect back on conversations on organic church and real community and service. The pieces started coming together. It went from a last resort idea to the vision of God for our lives very quickly. We realized that we were all thinking similar things all at the same time. As time passed it turned out that our meeting with pastor Neil turned from a call to change and a prophetic call back to vision to an announcement of future vision and direction from God. The night of the meeting came, and God showed up. We stated our problems and hurts and worries, as did our pastor. We both apologized for things we did that hurt. Wounds that could have brought division were healed as we moved on to our crazy ideas. Something unbelievable happened. He was ready for them. He even had a Bible verse ready for us. We talked about our desire to stay closely connected to LHC even though we would be a separate body and our crazy house church ideas. He, through his sadness to see us leave, became very excited to hear that we did not want to break ties with LHC and hoped to stay connected in many ways. So, we prayed and this past weekend announced that on December 15th we would be going on our journey to start Mosaic. I hope to write more about Mosaic as we come up with more. I will definitely post more at a later time, but I wrote this whole thing in one sitting and am becoming tired of typing. Pray for us and if you live in the anywhere near us and want to be involved, let me know. People are essential to community.