DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Trying to Take Over the World

Written by: on February 18, 2020

Pinky: “Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?” The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world” This was the response at the beginning and end of every episode of the 1995 animated parody television series oriented around two genetically altered lab mice with the intentions of taking over the world. Each episode ends with failure usually due to some idiotic thing Pinky does.[1] James Davison Hunter, a sociologist raised in the reformed tradition in his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World tries to answer the deeply personal question: How do believers live out their faith under the conditions of the late modern world?[2] If the reader doesn’t let the title of the book sink in, there may be an expectation of a motivational treaty explaining how to take over the world for Jesus. When in reality the 3 essays within the book unfolds that taking over the world is doomed to fail. Closer to the end of the book the reader becomes aware that to Hunter Christianity’s call is to live a “faithful presence” within the culture.[3]

In an interview Hunter insists his book isn’t about withdrawal but all about engagement. He is intentional not to bring the public and the political together. Hunter explains that when it comes to Christian engagement within the culture politics overshadows everything.[4] A good portion of his second essay focuses on the interaction between the Christian right and progressive Christian left who both place their trust in political power. Each party looks down on the other believing they can out smart one another. “The problem today is that the American church is caught up in a dual allegiance to both Christ and the political economy of liberal democracy and consumer capitalism.”[5] Hunter later explains that this kind of loyalty to a political party is a form of idolatry. To Hunter the fate of Christians is to live in tension “between the social realities that press on human existence and the spiritual and ethical requirements of the gospel; between the morality of the society in which Christian believers live and the will of God.”[6] The interesting thing about tension is the innate human desire to relieve it. It appears in today’s culture the way to relieve the tension is to Christianize everything around us.

In the book The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places author Nik Ripken talks about what it is like to be a missionary in a Muslim country. He was astounded when he saw the persecution in their lives and greatness of their faith. Upon questioning them they explained to them their lives were no different than those in scripture and their faith was not great but was in alignment with what they saw in the bible. “Much to our surprise, believer’s in persecution did not ask us to pray that their persecution would end. Instead, they begged us to pray that they would be obedient through their suffering. And that is a very different prayer.”[7] Why is it that Christians in America appear to be unwilling to live with cultural tension? Have we become so comfortable and engrained in Capitalism the we think we are above persecution or suffering? Could it be that part of the Christian faith is learning to live and thrive amidst the cultural tensions we experience? Has living in a McDonalds society that insists on having it our way within minutes made us soft and unable to tolerate the inconveniences that life throws our way?

Bart Millard the lead singer of Mercy Me when describing the under pinning’s of the song Even If shared the hardship that was faced in having a diabetic son and the frustrations experienced at the hands of well-meaning Christians. The song was birthed out of this frustration and the need to deal with his feelings of guilt when night after night he took the stage expecting to authentically minister to his listeners.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul[8]

Can cultural tensions be a fertile ground for a deeply creative process, as well as, an avenue to Christian maturity?

 

[1] https://www.quotes.net/movies/pinky_and_the_brain_105247

[2] James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. Oxford New York: Oxford Press. 2010. ix (Kindle edition)

[3] Hunter. 298. (kindle edition)

[4] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/revisitng-faithful-presense-change-the-worl-five-years-later

[5] Hunter. 154. (kindle edition)

[6] Hunter. 183. (kindle edition)

[7] Nik Ripken. The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places. Nashville: B&H Publishing. 2014. 33

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHosmHnOrb8

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

9 responses to “Trying to Take Over the World”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, first off The Insanity of Obedience and The Insanity of God are two of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Stoyan’s challenge has always stuck with me since reading it: “Don’t you ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution – and that is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!”

    This challenge has been one I’ve wrestled with as I’ve contemplated the Western church. I believe it was in Brother Yun’s book, The Heavenly Man or his book Living Water where he was asked if persecution would come to the United States. Brother Yun made the comment that the spiritual force in America is like a sleeping lion. If persecution actually causes the Christian church to grow, why would Satan wake the lion?

    So in response to your question, yes. I fully believe that cultural tensions can be fertile ground for Christian maturity. But because of our inability to live within the tension, will we take that opportunity to grow when it comes around? Or will we continue to shy away from it?

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    I firmly believe God works best in darkness and hard times. Evangelicals love the Cross, but despise the actual suffering piece. We’d much rather jump to the victory of Jesus. This is evident in our sermons and implied theologies. Hardships are but opportunities for God to bring about victory- like Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s little to no space for remaining in the hard places and never being released or given victory over them. Dr. MaryKate Morse said “Christ’s victory began in the garden.” Victory is in the unknown and in suffering as much as it is in the empty tomb. What would our Christian witness looked like if we believed there is victory in suffering, rather than just victory after suffering? Rather than trying to fix everything, can victory in suffering be a form of a “faithful presence” in the world?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Darcy do you in your research a correlation between how we avoid tension and life struggles and how we treat those who are dieing? Do you see a level of avoidance?

      • Darcy Hansen says:

        Yes. We live in a death-phobic culture. Medicine is god. People are afraid of the unknown that comes with dying. Paradox and mystery have little places in a scientifically driven culture, even amongst those of faith.

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    You and John with the cartoon references this week! I love Eugene Peterson’s book and title “A long Obedience in the Same Direction.” It seemed applicable to your post

  4. mm John McLarty says:

    Take over the world! And yet, hasn’t the Christian church baptized that desire in our understanding of the Great Commission? How often have we confused “invite the world into a relationship with Jesus” with “impose Jesus upon the world”? How often has the Church looked like the power-hungry megalomaniac?

  5. mm Jer Swigart says:

    I’m glad you brought up Hunter’s notion of “dual allegiance.” What do you think about that? This notion of dual citizenship? It seems that an understanding of dual citizenship generates a conflicted allegiance within so many. I’m concerned we’ve become far more preoccupied with allegiance to the US than heaven. It makes me wonder: do we really believe that a nation can become Christain?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Jer,
      You are correct in that many believer struggle with this dual citizenship concept and try to split the allegiance. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 talk about submission to the government but is submission and allegiance the same thing? I always found it a bit disturbing to have an American flag in the sanctuary of a church. I wonder if there is an underlying belief that we are a new Israel and God’s chosen country? Why do you think God and the US are often thought of together? I was told years ago as a youth leader in Wyoming by a young person that to be American was to be Christian. Needless to say I had a sobering talk with that individual.

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