Ordinary: The New Radical?

September 6, 2013

From Michael Horton:

Radical.  Epic.  Revolutionary.  Transformative.  Ultimate.  Extreme.  Emergent.  Alternative.  Next.  Impactful.  On The Edge.  Beyond.  Awesome.  Legendary.  Innovative.  Breakthrough.

Everything has to have an exclamation point to catch our attention these days.  For many of us, the worst word in our vocabulary is “ordinary.”  Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, “My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary”?  Who wants to be an ordinary person in an ordinary town, a member of an ordinary church with ordinary friends and callings?

Our life has to count.  We have to leave our mark, a legacy, make a difference.  And this has to be something that we can manage, measure, and maintain.  We have to live up to our own Facebook profile.

Yet there seems to be a restlessness with restlessness.  It seems that a lot of us are becoming less eager to jump on bandwagons or trail-blaze totally new paths to greatness.

Truth be told, it is actually easier to dream big, pull up roots, and become anonymous—to start over—with a new set of upwardly mobile peers.  And then to do it all over again, somewhere else, reinventing ourselves whenever we want a fresh start and a new set of supporting actors in our life movie.  There is nothing wrong with moving to the city or pursuing adrenaline-racing callings.  But the hype creeps into every area of our life.  It’s making us tired, depressed, and mean.

Given the dominance of The Next Big Thing in our society, it is not at all surprising that the Christian sub-culture is passionate about superlatives.  Many Christians were raised in an environment of managed expectations with measurable results.  Like other aspects of life, growth in Christ as individuals and as churches could be programmed with predictable outcomes.  Many Christians express astonishment when a fellow believer is content with an ordinary Christian life, with an ordinary church, among ordinary Christians, where God showers his extraordinary gifts through ordinary means of grace . . .

In many ways, it’s more fun to be part of movements than churches.  We can express our own individuality, pick our favorite leaders, and be swept off our feet at conferences.  We can be anonymous.  Although encouraged by like-minded believers, we are not bound up with them so that we should feel compelled to bear their burdens or suffer their rebukes. Yet this movement-mentality keeps us restless and makes ordinary life in and submission to an actual church seem intolerably confining.

Read it all.

One response to Ordinary: The New Radical?

  1. panta spaudastis September 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    it is amazing what can be found on the internet. Here is a paper by a Catholic academic (John Paul Wauck) that states:
    “Christianity and Ordinary Life
    We are left, then with the tension between the thirst for the heroic, grand, ecstatic life and the reality of the life we actually live, with its humbler virtues. Charles Taylor captures it this way:
    We are in conflict, even confusion, about what it means to affirm ordinary life…. We are as ambivalent about heroism as we are about the value of the workaday goals that it sacrifices. We struggle to hold on to a vision of the incomparably higher, while being true to the central modern insights about the value of the ordinary life. We sympathize with both the hero and the anti-hero; and we dream of a world in which one could be in the same act both.”21
    We delight in “idealistic,” heroic actions, with their exceptional and inspiring grandeur; we admire as well their rejection in favor of “realistic” common sense and the ordinary life.
    Now, in principle, Christianity provides an answer to the practical problem posed by ordinary life. The message of Christianity – that God Himself became a man and spent most of His life working at home in Nazareth as a carpenter – should make it clear that it is possible to live a heroic and glorious life, a “superhuman” life, the life, indeed, of a Son of God, precisely in and through the most ordinary circumstances: family, work and friendship.
    Christianity puts the goal of a healthy romanticism, the thirst for the infinite, for mystery and adventure, for what is beyond the merely human, within reach of all men and women. Indeed, according to G.K. Chesterton, this is precisely what attracted him to Christianity.” http://www.univforum.org/old/pdf/Life.pdf

    I think it is the human sin of greed that makes one (me) feel that one is missing out on all the things others are doing. Contentment with the ordinary life (well lived), secular or Christian, is certainly a virtue.