Saturday, January 10, 2009

American Essenes

I just started reading this book by Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus. I’m only 4 chapters in and I’m blown away. I know that many people have problems with him, his theology, and ways of doing things, most Christian conservatives would say at best he is scary, or coin terms like pudding theology in reference to him. I’m not interested in debating what anyone thinks about him right now. At this stage in my faith I am very dissatisfied with the faith that so many can change the world. Not my faith, the establishments and movements that boast this faith’s name, my faith doesn’t ever fit into them, so I am more dissatisfied with them than my own faith, although there is plenty of things to learn and be disappointed in there as well. In one chapter McLaren says something about a political/religious group that Jesus was born and operated within historically, The Essenes.

Another group, the Essenes, thought that both Zealots and Herodians were unenlightened. They said, “The only way to please God is to leave the corrupt religious and political systems and create an alternative society out in the desert.” They established various wilderness communities where they sought to be faithful by isolating themselves from the culture at large, which they felt was sick beyond remedy.

As I was reading this my mind was flooded with memories, stories, and thoughts of the American establishment of the Christian church that had left me so disappointed in my past and present. I wonder if the Essenes are not a parallel of modern American Christianity… This is just something I find fascinating because in a lot of ways the typical majority populace “follower of Christ” seperates themselves from the world or culture at large like the Essenes in Jesus’ day did. Jesus never intended for a homogenous sub culture. We have not created alternative societies in the wilderness because we have desolated any idea close to what one would consider wilderness in our urban metropolises. Now we created alternative culture within cities and large populations. Beside the apple store you can find a Christian store. I’m not sure what defines it being a Christian store outside of selling things inspired by Christian principles, but you don’t ever here of random thought stores, selling things inspired by random thoughts of the creator/author/artist. But the reality still reigns true, we have Christian stores. In these Christian stores you will find Christian candy, clothing, music, books, art, food, cards, games, movies, and other tacky item with a cross slapped across the front. The Christian industry is a multi-million dollar industry. I just wonder if all this is necessary.

Have the essene-like wilderness subtly crept into metropolises around the nation? This is not to trash everything with a Christian label on it. This is to challenge myself and you to think about your lifestyle, your context, atmosphere, or environment and ask yourself, is it a alternative wilderness among a bigger population. Think about the people and things you are involved in, does it speak of any diversity. Are the poor, broken, or lost a part of your world or just ones on the outside that you feel sorry for? Are you an Essene American?

1 comment:

  1. it's a great book, huh? Daniel has re-read it a few times...a book that has changed us forever. hope you are well.