a couple years back, Alicia and I toiled at Anchor Baptist church in Kemah as “worship leaders” which I guess is how you say ‘musician’ in the modern sacred vernacular, frustrated with our attempts to bring our friends into contact with Christ through the “traditional” (read 20th century American) church model. That missional minded loving and relational evangelism stuff worked just fine up to a certain point-but when it came time for our fresh doey eyed disciples to ask about attending church with us we would always involuntarily cringe. We never knew when our pastor (intelligent and loving fellow though he was) would launch into some hard core Republican rhetoric or Zionist or anti Catholic ranting mixed in with his teachings from the gospels. Bringing folks to visit church with us frequently seemed to alienate both our friends and sometimes our yoke-fellows at Anchor as the loud tattooed foul-mouthed beer swilling biker smoking at our annual “friends of policeman” crawfish boil made for quite the spectacle. We wanted some safe haven where we could bring seekers to introduce them to the body of Christ, not the appearance of a sterile superficial edifice to further entrench their beliefs that all christians are Republican right wing conservative self-righteous hypocrites, and so when Anchor Baptist folded (as many small congregations today are wont to do) we decided to strike out on our own and try and create the church we so desperately wanted to attend. So now we meet in parks, coffee shops, and music studios- late in the afternoons on Sundays or Mondays, with small numbers of people, and try and keep it as close to authentic first century Christianity as we can muster. Minus the beheadings and the public burnings of course, hey lots of popular things suck, I’m not arguing with that. But there’s no reason to be smug and pat yourself on the back for hating a popular thing, whether it sucks or not.
I get asked a lot “why do you call your group ‘that’?” referring no doubt to our inglorious epitaph, and like so many other things which are beautiful and true the reasons are multi-layered and complex. On the face of it, I think I just wanted something that stood out, to everybody. Nearly every street corner and shopping center has a “Grace” or “Peace Community” or “Faith Word Assembly of Wah Wah” or whatever, and although those names can certainly be very uplifting I wanted something that would lodge in the conscience a bit more, something that would perhaps seem a little offensive or preposterous and sensational. Secondly there is truth in advertising, if a majority of people believe that christianity is made up almost exclusively of self-righteous hypocrites then why not take the liberty of applying a little bona fide candor and let the public know exactly who’s getting together when we meet. Sure sometimes each of us take ourselves a little too seriously, and we’ve all slipped up and been a bit legalistic in one area or another and then fallen all over ourselves-seccumbing to exactly the fault we saw so clearly in another. But mainly, I think that the term ‘hypocrite’ is probably most aptly applied to christians who, though struggling in their faith, are genuinely seeking after godliness. Why? The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “Jealous” “play-acting”, or “acting out”, and is associated with the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), the agentive noun meaning “judgment” »κριτική (kritiki), “critics”) presumably because the performance of a dramatic text by an actor was to involve a degree of interpretation, or assessment. These masked actors would take on a role, and disguise themselves-burying their own personalities under this fictitious persona, and for the christian this is especially true. When we are ‘in’ Christ we arent instantly whisked away to glory to revel in the clouds in the presence of the Most High, but we remain here in the corporeal world and withstand the constant fevers and trials of living in our flesh while yet we are occupied by the Holy Spirit. Desiring perfection and godliness, we continue to fall into sin after sin, capitulating to the tragic frailties which our bodies are heirs to. And yet, when the Father looks upon one of these crippled creatures, He no longer sees the broken mass of seething desire and avarice we were physically born to-but under the sheltering cloak of the blood of His Son he sees Jesus in all of His perfection and glory. What greater mask to wear that that of the Maker of the Universe, what greater role to play than the Redeemer and Sustainer of mankind? Not that we are pretending to be something that we don’t believe, but given time our very features may begin to resemble those of the perfect costume we have affected, and the ‘persona’ of Jesus will be evident in our lives through our love, peace, and grace.