“There are only 2 places we’re not accepted – the home we grew up in and the church we helped build” – Nick Jonas.
If you haven’t seen “Chasing Happiness” on Amazon Video it’s worth a watch; chronicling the struggles of brothers Nick (the youngest), Joe (the eyebrow one) & Kevin Jonas (the eldest) as they venture out of small town New Jersey into stardom.
It’s entertaining. It’s also saddening. Because by choosing to become not “Christian” artists but secular ones, their pastor dad lost his job, they were alienated from their spiritual community, and the boys became somewhat disillusioned after being “abandoned” for that choice.
As a parent, this is an ongoing and constant conversation. What does it mean, if you believe in “common grace” to live in the world, celebrate it, contribute to its common culture, but not conform to all its shifting values? How do you celebrate the world’s plurality of beliefs, all the while unabashedly holding onto your own?
There is a common but mistaken idea that diversity is camouflaging your beliefs and slinking into the background so that everyone feels “comfortable”. Some call this “Midwest Nice.” That’s the antithesis of diversity. It’s conformity. True diversity, based on my experiences in big cities like Manhattan and Paris, means people don’t need to hide who they are but instead, celebrate their beliefs openly and have the confidence to agree to disagree in relationships.
Friendships, even deep ones, need not rely on shared values – in fact, friendships can challenge us, confront us, help us grow. Differences need not be threatening. Debate and discussion can generate light, not just heat.
This excerpt from Tim Keller’s book Prodigal God illustrates how both the religious and irreligious need to question their inherent biases:
What bothers me about the “self-righteous” or “religious” reaction of the church to the Jonas brothers choice is that it rejects secular careers as inherently “evil”. By fleeing “Christian culture,” the Jonas Bros were rejected by their spiritual community because God could not possibly be pleased by good art and music that speaks to a broader, global, secular audience. I wonder how these church members would have felt about Daniel (of lions den fame) pursuing a Masters degree in pagan astrology at Babylon U?
C.S. Lewis, as usual, says it best: “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
We’ve had a few rainy, albeit hot days here in Chagrin Falls. I call them “Norah Jones & Stacey Kent playlist days”, days to bake chocolate chip cookies, read how the story of Ruth & Boaz inspires corporate gleaning, debate Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times editorial on AOC in my head, struggle to invent new packaging for flour (can we agree the current flimsy paper bag is a sub par solution?), watch The Loudest Voice in the Room about my former workplace at News Corp, and clean out drawers so that Eric Boaz can summarily dump out all the contents five minutes later.
I’m also having Seb read Les Mis. How better to teach my son about grace, about not being, as Jean Valjean explains: “a slave to the law.” In my own reading I love David McCullough’s take on Teddy Roosevelt’s family: “I always believe in showing affection by doing what will please the one we love, not by talking”. So to show their father love, the Roosevelt children would “improve their handwriting or learn to swim or memorize a passage from the Bible.”
When Chloe wants to discuss “enemy combatants”, Phoebe picks up Liars Poker, or Seb reads the newspaper it truly thrills my heart. I see why my own mom is so honored that I look for discount deals at Big Lots.
I’m becoming her.
I’m also learning to “drool.” Joni Eareckson Tada writes of a Stanford grad, mother of 4, who developed a disability that caused her to drool like a 2 year old. She prays constantly for God to remove this embarrassing, socially humiliating condition. God doesn’t remove it. And this mom, in a level of spiritual maturity I’ve not achieved, learned to thank God for the humility her condition brought about in her heart.
Will I ever be so soft and mature before my Father that I could view every humiliating, shameful, hurtful thing He’s allowed in my life to make me more teachable? More empathetic? More grateful?
Like my mom and as a mom to my own 5 children, God smiles when He sees we are slowly attempting to become more like Him. And He may use “drool” (suffering, correction, tough stuff) to accomplish that very purpose.