The American Christian Mind Detox

TRACTSwithLEGS.com was started because of our “mission experience” with The American Christian Mind project.  It’s often in actually trying to conduct God’s good work amongst His people – that He shows us things.  Just like how prayer and theology go together.  You read the Bible, think, explore, look around, read what other folks have said, read about the issues the Bible brings up from other perspectives – and you see stuff, you find stuff.  The Holy Spirit is working in your mind to remove the occlusions, the blockages of sin.  Things you were blind to before appear.  You try to describe those things.  It is sometimes amazing and wonderful – but sometimes it isn’t so fun, and is full of heartache.  If you contemplate, if you take time to pause, pray, contemplate before you write what’s “just” on the top of your head (what unfortunately a lot of people in 2017 seem to believe comes from God – which is a remarkably dangerous thing to believe, since one begins to associate a lot of very silly and bad things with God) – well you discover “what theology’s all about.”  It’s not about “IMPACT IMPACT!!” or pow-powie power or “really reachin’ the masses.”  It’s not even “about” doin’ a lot of really great stuff so people see that we’re God’s servants and then they come to faith.  Not even that.  It might reveal things which are helpful in really reachin’ them masses – but in the end, it’s also about teachin’ dem masses to obey Jesus: to walk away from dem masses, gittin’ dem masses OFF yer mind – and letting God guide your heart and mind alone in contemplation and prayer.

This is obeying Jesus in following His example.  It might seem odd to us American Christians who seem to want everything really cut and dried (our yet-unaddressed heritage in Scottish Common Sense Realism) that this is obeying Jesus, because He never “just” said – “Git away from dem masses and git dem masses outta yer heads fer a moment!!”

But God reveals Himself to us through His Son.  Not only in what He tells us very explicitly – but also what he doesn’t tell us, but what He does – the way the writers of the gospels are all so careful in telling us about how Jesus left the crowds, and even: left His very disciples.  They don’t seem all that upset about that either.  They didn’t even call the hotline for child abandonment.  Or if they did – it’s not in the Bible.

This seems to be one of the hardest things to explain to American church leaders.  And if we aren’t doing that – we’re likely to get misled by the American pow-pow-powie power, “positve! positive!” folk religion.  Doing this is different from shouting – “Bible! bible!”  It can even be different from reading the Bible – because if we aren’t “getting it” that what the Bible tells us is different from just feeling this way and that way, or “really MAKIN’ IMPACT!!” – we can even fall to the “powers and principalities” Paul warns about if we don’t “take all thoughts captive” when we’re reading the Bible.  There is no guarantee in the Bible that if we are “readin’ the Bible!!” without studying – the Holy Spirit will sort of auto-magically suspend us from the spiritual consequences of misguided thought and belief that can arise even from reading the Bible.  For we can even do harm to ourselves in reading the Bible if we aren’t spiritually prepared.  Part of this is the essential knowledge which comes from study.  In the South – there seems to be a very strong, prevalent belief about God sort of protecting us when we are acting without proper knowledge.  As far as we know, such a promise is not in the Bible.  If it is – you are most certainly free to contact us and correct us.

It’s “about” obeying God before it is about broadcasting or tent meetings or “impactful” kinds of things.  And even when our intentions are just-just so really cool and authentic!! – well there’s a way that obeying God demands of us a lot more than just having sweetie-pie intentions and wanting people to hold hands and sing nice songs.  God also wants us to study, which is not only a matter of devotion and feeling the right way – it has a profoundly cognitive side, i.e. about knowing things, and even: our thoughts connected together in ways that glorify God, and are not distorted or warped or perverse.  And our thoughts can be warped and perverse even when they aren’t about sex or hurting kids.  Our lives can be twisted even when on the outside everything looks hunky dorey and all the church people love us because we’re shouting, “Impact!! Impact!!  Revival!!  Revival!!”

This probably sounds way “below your level” for most Christian leaders.  Unfortunately – we’ve found that there is a stunningly remedial side to our American Christian mind problem, and that very probably – many seminary grads and people churches have appointed as their leaders are not prepared to be exposed to the problem by people like us.  OR – they probably need the help of their own church leaders a bit, before they talk to us – to help them a bit with some of the mind sin problems they have.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that when we deal with sin in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must do so gently.  But there are areas of sin where in order for that gentleness to be there – it really must be done by someone who knows how to be gentle in that way, or is in the area and order of your life to be able to be gentle like that.  For example – your own pastor, or the person in your church who lovingly oversees your ministry work and your spiritual life.

In our case, we found some striking patterns of falling-short and sin which recur, as well as much evidence that the American Christian mind problem is most profoundly a “body problem.”  That basically means that the people we need to be speaking to first are the church leaders, and even with them, being really careful – which we’ve been doing as those leaders’ schedules allow – before we start “putting out” the heavy stuff for just anyone who finds it to read on the net, in a magazine, or a journal.  We need to be working in the right order and doing things in the right order.  Fortunately, we’ve been able to communicate with some church leaders enough to have the discernment that it’s okay to be doing what we’re doing now.  But actually, there is a lot of heavy stuff that we really want to bring before church leaders before “just” publishing it where everyone can see it – and it could possibly enter the church body as a kind of “folk theology.”  Or some things that we think are bluntly obvious, but probably need church leaders to hear about those things first, just so the really important work that they’re doing doesn’t get ruined when people find out about things in the wrong order.  When people hear about stuff that really they probably should have heard about first from their own church leaders.  So those church leaders can maintain their dignity and authority in this world of picky, feely, knee-jerky people.

Part of the problem is regional and denominational.  We’re tied to really tiny denominations, where the pastors honestly tell us: “There really aren’t people here who can deal with some of the issues you are raising.  You are going to have to speak with people outside our church.”

And sometimes when we go to people outside the church who are also in our region – well there’s the time problem.  No time!  Sorry!  This is probably because the Christians in the Bible belt usually have a lot more spiritual problems than they let on.  They like to tell people they’re blessed and everything’s wonderful.  This is “cultural.”  There are great things about this kind of attitude.  But they really need to hear the messages that Bonhoeffer and Wells had for the American church.

This is one of the reasons work like that of Todd Brenneman, in identifying variants of Romanticism within various strands of American Christianity – according to region, and denomination or general tradition – are so very important.  Knowing who you’re talking to is more than just knowing their favorite football team or if they prefer Coke or Pepsi.  If you want to “reach” them effectively – it’s more than saying stuff to get them feeling thissaway and thattaway.  It’s also addressing a person who has a mind, and who believes things.  And they aren’t likely to tell you all that much beforehand.  You have to kinda figure it out by what they say.  That’s why it is so very, very important to know about the general strands of theological and doctrinal belief in our various American subcultures.  But we aren’t going to do that if we’re running around shouting “Impact, impact!!  Bible, bible!!  Revival, revival!!” and then spending so much of our cash on flashy and sentimentalized graphics from high-end graphic artists, and swooshy-blinky websites and “Family First!!” road signs mostly just competing with each other for the “low hanging fruit.”

If you have reached this point in the text – we’ve succeeded in identifying you as not low-hanging fruit.  You are the more expensive kind.  You are the kind we want to talk to.  You’re not put off by theology, and you probably recognize that talking about the sin of the church can hurt a great deal, and that we need spiritual preparation.  You’re open to a more intentional methodology that’s not “all about broadcast,” and which is also deliberately trying to work within the structures of the church and as little as possible being “parachurch.”

We’d like to be in touch with you.

If you are a church leader, or someone one of your church leaders identifies as a highly mature Christian who can deal with the sin of the American Christian mind – we’d also like to have a personal conversation which we are calling “The American Christian mind detox.”  This is a conversation that goes along with some “art” (more pop-artish) images which we find helpful in – as gentle a way as we know how – exposing you to some of the sin of the church – which is, when you think about it, an incredibly serious thing which must be done with great care.  About exposing you to my sin and your sin.  Even though this is “truth and true” – well in our frank experience, even some of the most mature Christians we know have been unaware of some of the dangers associated with this, which is why we really want you to be spiritually prepared.  If you speak with Christians outside of America – you can quickly find out what they think of us.  How it seems we’ve become numb.  How we’ve lost so many important sensibilities.  How we run around like we have all the tabs in the browser of our minds open at once, shouting “Impact!! Impact!!” – while it sort of seems like we’re not capable of paying attention to any of the individual tabs in the right way, or putting them properly into context in this bright, wonderful world that God created – of which we’re a part – all of it by Him, and for Him, and even held together by Him.  It really seems that much of the time, like Hauerwas has been trying to warn us – we have faith in “faith initiatives!!” – but this is not always the same as having faith in God.  It’s having faith in – “all the great stuff we’re doing!!  Look look, come to church!!  Pow powie power, you’ll just feel it, it’s amazing!!”

The really, really bad news here is simply this: that God has been warning the church through our own leaders for many centuries now.

The really, really good news here is: there is a wonderful opportunity in these next few years which, we believe, is unlike any we’ve seen before in decades, to address this sin issue in the American church.

If you’re one of the church authorities over James or Mike – say whatever you like to us in contacting us – it really is your right and duty to spiritually oversee us, and it’s not for us to “be picky” about that.  It’s your right and duty to tell us what to do, and not the other way around.  That’s what it means to be an authority, a leader!  It’s not “about” bein’ chums, there is an “above” aspect as well as an “alongside” aspect, and there might not even be much of a “just friends!” kinda aspect.  We ain’t your customers and we certainly ain’t kings.  We sin, and it’s your job to say – “hey – stop that now” – or: “Hey, watch it with that one!”

If you’re not – please be careful in how you write to us.  We’ll be trying to discern what you’re ready for.  If you write like, “Well I’m curious …” – we’ll likely pigeon-hole you as “a curiosity case” – someone who might struggle a bit too much with what C.S. Lewis described in The Abolition of Man, with ideas in one place, and emotions way over in another place – for us to really be helpful to you – someone who probably needs an approach surrounded by the love of the church, your own local church, and your own church leaders.  If you write like “I feel a thissaway and a thattaway” – we’ll likely think something similar, only that you belong on the other side of the spectrum of our mind problems – and that the help you need probably should come from your own church.  This isn’t us being arrogant or “hoity-toity” – it’s really a kind of humble submission to your church and the important place it should have in your life.  You might feel like you have a right to know something.  Well okay!  But it’s possible that the way you should hear it, in order to glorify God – should be within your own church, and not “just” some tee-shirt guy going yackety to you on the phone.  Which is probably how you will experience it – and you’ll probably hear things in the wrong way, and slide right over other things that probably normally would have caught your attention – simply because what occurred in some way was out of order, and did not glorify God, and in falling short – we especially fall short in the mind.  So it’s better to glorify God, and for this to be transmitted to you as He intends us to live, within the church.  This is a part of what “intentional” means with regard to “ministry.”  Only we aren’t even calling Tracts with Legs a “ministry” – just to avoid confusion.  Since there are so many different definitions of “ministry”!  But no matter what one does – we should glorify God.  And sometimes this means leaving the cafeteria – “I’ll choose it as it pleases me” – “lifestyleish” type of “spirituality” which it seems we kinda sorta inculcated in American Christianity for so very very long.  The “okay okay everybody got their own theology – now give me something relevant and spiritual please i.e. a joke about the Simpsons” type approach.

If we have a sense that you already have some kind of sense of how the falling-short of the American Christian mind has a place in what you already do, that you have a sense that what you have been doing, and are doing, can be improved, and in some ways might fall short – that you have a sense of the place of the American Christian mind problem in your vocation – we’ll probably speak to you more frankly about things, since there’s less possibility of spiritual harm coming to you or the body of Christ.  And we’ll likely inquire how we can help you, and how you can help us.  We believe in digging wells deeply – and that ministry in the body of Christ isn’t always a matter of I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.  Though we’re wise enough to realize that sadly in our world – TRACTSwithLEGS probably has to do a lot of that.  But that’s OK.  This is the “tacky, tacky, pander pander” branch of our project.  This is the “Outreach!!  Impact!!” branch.  Though we strive to teach anyone who will listen that there are some falling-short issues in these tactics.  We try to leave the American Christian Mind project – and the Tractarian project it looks forward to beginning – relatively free of tackiness, sentimentalization, feely-manipulation and American back-scratching ministry.  This doesn’t mean it’s any “better” than what you’re doing – it’s simply our sense of vocation at the moment.  And you can rest assured that what we’re doing with TRACTSwithLEGS is worse than the all that great stuff you’re doing.  Though it’s worse for a reason, and all and all, in the greater context – we believe it also glorifies God.

We might want you as a prayer partner.  Or someone who can help us with discernment regarding this project.  Or someone who can help with donations and funding.  Or whatever you’re good at.

Or we might just want to tell you about what we believe is coming up ahead for the American church, based on our thousands of pages of research notes, and the thousand page site we’ve prepared for mature Christians who are truly ready to deal with this in an authentic manner.

Blessings to you!

Please contact us if you’ve read this and are still interested in the “detox thing.”