I sat in a local pastry shop (free wi-fi rocks) on Friday working on some school work. I couldn't help but overhear a group of men in an accountability group of sorts - a Christian group.
On the one hand, I really liked their friendship and sense of unity with one another. It was easy to come to the conclusion that they had been doing this for a while. There was a sense of community with these guys and it was good.
On the other hand, their conversation seemed shallow, packed with evangelical cliches ripped off from Joel Osteen. At some points in the conversation it seemed like these guys were trying to show off their spiritual biceps, like it was some sort of muscle flexing contest poorly cloaked in pre-packaged religious rhetoric.
I knew that I could never be in this group. Thinking of being with these guys gave me the same feeling I have had with many Christian men (not all) and Christian men's ministries (most, but not all). It has so often felt like men trying really hard to be men. That gender straightjacket they like to wear hurts me and I get to feeling inadequte so fast - what with my small biceps and all.
Hearing these conversations was so discouraging to me because I wanted to hear something of depth and thoughtfulness. I guess there is a longing inside me for a genuine male spirituality that perhaps doesn't have to me so "male." Hearing these conversations gave me the feeling of spiritual isolation and loneliness. I didn't even feel like I was in the same religion as these guys. Although they seemed like decent guys, I found myself not wanting to be associated with these them - maybe wishing that they were really Hindu or something so I could say to anyone who might ask, "No, I don't believe any of that stuff, I'm a Christian" without having to explain myself any further than that.
I guess what I wanted were guys with more depth, more theologically thoughtful words, with some part of their life a mystery they were catiously stepping into or helplessly caught up in and were trying to figure it out. Nope, there was nothing left for these guys to figure out. I wanted their conversation to make Jesus look like more than a vending machine that works on prayer coins.
I began to despair thinking of who I am yoked with as a Christan.
Ah, but what saved me last Friday was recalling the standards Jesus used when choosing people with whom to associate. He chose some blue collar guys, some rich guys, some educated guys, some unschooled fellows, some political radicals, some politically apathetic guys, some arrrogant dudes, and a whole bunch of women with varying economic, financial, and political statuses as well. In sort, he selected a bunch of people who were in their own ways weak and self-interested. He chose a bunch of frauds.
If these guys sitting around the table last Friday were in some way frauds, there were not any different that the frauds Jesus decided not only to hang out with, but to release portions of his mission to. And even more piercing to me Friday was the self-analysis of this question:
What kind of fraud won't associate with people Jesus has accepted?