Counter-culture or counter human nature

     In the early/mid 1970’s I was a part of what has become known as the Jesus Movement. We were a bunch of young people who, having been brought up in the 60’s, had the silly idea that we could change the world. And, we had the zeal to match. For our part, we decided that the best way to reveal the grace and life that we shared in our new-found faith was to build a counter-cultural movement. Some folks got together and moved into a large house in our very middle-class, very white community. Others of us moved in with them and we had our lighthouse. It was a beacon of hope and faith right smack-dab in suburbia. We were convinced that if people saw the hope and joy that we had they would come flocking in to join with us. We had a common purse and one bathroom. Imagine! Married couples, children, young men and women all living under one roof in peace and mutual respect. It was just like the early church that Luke wrote about in the book of Acts. (Or, at least we thought it did.) We believed that be providing a model of love and peace in a world that was dominated by war and hatred we were living as Yahweh desired all of humanity to live. Well, the world did not beat a path to our front door. We found ourselves marginalized by the very people we sought to influence. It seems that hope, faith and love were not commodities that were in high demand.
     Over the ensuing years many of the members of that community and our friends have moved on to buy into the very systems that we tried to contrast ourselves with. Money, power, greed, and self-service have taken up residence where selflessness, poverty, and humility once lived. Others have maintained a living faith in Christ by aligning with others who are like-minded. Evangelize and care for each other. Seems good on paper. But, even this has proven a tool that can be used to hold the “other” at arms’ length. Instead of a house with 15 or so people living in it, they are part of a larger ‘community’ that is still trying to be counter-cultural. By standing against what they see as dangerous and immoral practices they hope to show other people how wrong they have been. They hope that these outsiders will see and taste and find that the faith they have is good. And, still others of us have continued to search and dig and cry and try to find out why the counter-cultural approach that held such hope failed so miserably.
     Over the past year I’ve spent a great deal of time reading and reflecting on the gospel accounts in the Bible. This has led me to look at the antecedents to the gospels, including the prophetic writings and some intertestamental material. I have also had to take a closer look at those who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Most recently, the pastorals, Peter, and James. I’ve come to realize that contrary to what many think and believe about Jesus and the early church being a counter-cultural movement, they actually seem to be a counter human nature movement. Counter-cultural movements seek to change existing systems. Power systems, economic systems, political systems, etc. These don’t change because, while they have humans actuating them, working within them, they are actually outside of human control. Now, I know that opens up a metaphysical discussion that I’m not going to address here. But, these systems survive regardless of who is at the helm. Communism, socialism, capitalism, in fact any kind of ‘ism’ that is out there still has these various systems that take on a life of their own. In many cases devouring everyone in their paths. But, that’s a story for another time.
     The biblical text reveals folks who are encouraged to prefer others’ interests over their own. Who are to “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” The Master said to turn the other cheek when struck and to seek to love those who hate you. In many places Paul wrote that those who follow the Yeshua-do, the Way of Yeshua, must work to not feed the appetites of our human nature, but must allow Yahweh’s Spirit to be our Guide. II Peter records that through/by the promises that have been made to humanity we “may participate in the divine nature.” Ah-ha! The divine nature! So, it’s not about changing things that are outside of ourselves. It’s by our own nature, the human nature that we all come into this life with, being set aside in favor of Yahweh’s divine nature. I’m still ruminating on this whole idea. But, it seems to me that what God desires for all of humanity, what all of humanity really needs, is a shot of this nature so that our internal systems can be transformed. Then, with all of the creative genius that Yahweh has gifted humanity with, maybe we can, in concert with Yahweh, begin to see the external systems transformed.

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