Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jakob and Esau

I have been reading Brian D. McLaren's a Generous Or+hodoxy and other materials about the emergent church trends. I like this line of thinking because it reminds us that Christ's love is for everybody, not just the Christian elite. This is often forgotten and Christianity soon becomes a better-than-thou club.

I wrote this short story based partly on a friend's rejection of Christ and my thoughts recently about the post-modern church. (I do not support the extreme brand of post-modernism that says such wrong ideas that blends truth with everything else-- that is not the idea)

Jakob and Esau

“Jakob the American. No, no, no. Jakob the Jewish-American. Hmmm. Jakob the American Jew-turned-Jesus-Follower. No, it’s all wrong.” Jakob, just Jakob, he decided on. He was young and seemingly ever-changing. He had changed his mind about his political party, religion, and serious girlfriend several times during his short life. Now it was time to apply for graduate school, to hammer out his identity.

He had two sides to him; he called them his Jacob and Esau. The large half of him had grown up in his Jewish roots. They weren’t exactly Jewish, they were American. His father worked too much and his mother kept house. They bought him a fancy car and sent him to private school. Jakob’s mother glowed about the synagogue about as much as she did about him. Their synagogue, built in the sort of neighborhood with churches on each block, stood out boldly, festively. The young synagogue had a rock-lined path connecting it with a Lutheran church. The churches were friends; a mirror of Jakob’s new friendship with Christ.

In high school, he never minded reminding his evangelical friends that he didn’t celebrate Christmas. He didn’t even mind missing visits from the Easter Bunny each year. Up until late in his college career, Jakob enjoyed the blasé identity that he had inherited. After all, Jews like him were considered upper-class, mobile, deep thinkers. Phrases like closed-minded or judgmental were never directed toward his family.

“Go with me to junior prom?” He had asked her the day before. For all her quick fumbling and shopping, he treated her like a princess for the night. Mia had been what seemed like “in love” with Jakob in middle school. Now she was cool, collected, down to earth, and confident. She had developed a liking for church, he knew, but he didn’t mind.

A desire to go to undergrad out of state kept them connected in school. His parents saw the opportunity as a chance for him to enter a land flowing with milk and honey. Soon they started undergrad on different sides of the country. Mia became profoundly Evangelical, while Jakob found himself wandering through a desert of confusion.

Mia wasn’t close-minded and uncultured, he reasoned. She wasn’t even judgmental. She stayed away from the party scene and meaningless relationships, just as he did.

The 700 Club had come up once while he was flipping channels. The speakers talked too fast for him, one pointed at him and cursed him.

Are you a Republican? Do you want to be a stay-at-home mother? Do you believe women should submit to men? Did God create the world in a literal seven days? Jakob drilled Mia with questions, wrestling with his curious heart. For him, the Kingdom of God was not yet restored. For herm, the Kingdom was restored, welcoming any and all into its dance.

He knew he despised baggage. Jakob carried around the baggage of busy parents and no siblings, and an empty feeling about his spirituality. But why, he asked her, why did believing in Christ come with so much baggage? He wanted spirituality that brought truth, love, acceptance, and empathy; he had only found elites in her world.

Broken and compassionate for him, Mia could only muster the words “I’m sorry.”

Jakob’s ancestors lived religion in their normal, everyday lives. They did not just incorporate stringent views and have a once-weekly acting out of religion. A belief in God led to upright living, hoping, and giving. He knew they did not live elite lives, as one who joins a yacht club might, while Jesus-followers had made him feel like a second-class citizen in America. “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.

Why did you take this religion? Finally, in desperation, he had asked her what he had been aching to ask anyone who could tell him. Mia, carefully and sweetly, told him she did not take religion but Jesus. She did it differently. She molded American Christianity into consideration, kindness, and relevance.

He knew full well that historians no longer debate whether Jesus was actually a man. They have had to accept this, he had too. Now they wonder inquisitively—are His claims true?

Jakob finished up undergrad quietly, he made his parents proud. They would have the same struggle he had if he told them he became a follower of Christ. But Mia had taught him the true way. What his ancestors had hoped for, prayed for, and were promised was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ in the first century.

He never became a Republican and he never watched the 700 Club again. He never spanked his children, he never prayed for America. His childhood quietness grew into manhood. No longer needing a fake birthright, Jakob was accepted as a son into his God’s Kingdom. The truth had clung to him, refusing to let go. He had fought it with all of his might, not realizing what it truly was.

Mia lived an unconventional life. She spoke of blessings through suffering, and Christ’s acceptance of everybody. Jakob connected his Jewish roots with a beautiful, struggle-lined path to the truth of Christianity’s Jesus, but he never joined the discourteous camp he saw too often. He lived a blessed life because He found the person of Jesus holding no baggage but rather open arms.

At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:1-3)

I hope to write more short stories and articles, both fiction and non-fiction, about these new ideas. I'm looking to get published, either in complete book form or on a per-article basis. If you have any leads, please feel free to e-mail me. Thinkingsand -at sign- gmail dot com.

Key words/tags:Jewish, Judaism, religion, Christianity, Christian, American, Jacob, emergent, Christ follower, Esau, relevant, church, unchurched, follower of Christ, salvation, conversion, conversation, religious, life path

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

awww... Craigslist shows on-line chivalry

Chivalry! What's that? Craigslist.org has Christmas cheer, that's for sure. The poor company is under scrutiny this week for its unwillingness to put money-making ads on its pages. The New York Time's DealBook blog overs the catastrophe:
Craigslist charges money for job listings, but only in seven of the cities it serves ($75 in San Francisco; $35 in the others). And it charges for apartment listings in New York ($10 a pop). But that is just to pay expenses.
Mr. Schachter still did not seem to understand. How about running AdSense ads from Google? Craigslist has considered that, Mr. Buckmaster said. They even crunched the numbers, which were “quite staggering.” But users haven’t expressed an interest in seeing ads, so it is not going to happen.
Commenter Doug replied thoughtfully:
I would think that this sort of “profits not primary” mentality is something that the establishment could find threatening. Let’s hope it catches on as the internet continues to democratize the population’s ability to interact more directly.
My response? Can't a company not want to rule the Internet with all power and unknowing supporters raising millions of dollars in profits??? (ah-hem... YouTube!) I think most on-line start-ups today are in it for the short run. They want to build, build up, and sell out. The alllll popular Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace come to mind. Facebook, which claimed on their site for over a year that they would never sell out and allow high school students to use their service (they serve a college niche) finally gave in this year. Ads have somewhat unobtrusively found their homes on pages such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, even FoxNews forces readers to watch 21 second commercials before news stories. Perhaps Craigslist stays away from this because it is not trying to draw in a crowd from every possible niche and be a global dinner-table-conversation clique. That's okay. Way to be, Craigslist!