Recently there has been announcements in our little town of an exodus towards the great state of Alaska. No, it is not gold or even land that drives this movement of citizens; rather it is the "freedom" of running to a new place to escape the source of old problems. The "victory" is attained by geographical mobilization, not the power of Christ. But it sure sounds like God must have been mailing out invitations to this new Jerusalem, if you were to take the words of the proclaimers to heart. However, a quick look says there is something deeper going on here. What is visible, once you move beyond the clatter and commotion, it that all parties involved are running, walking or flying away from unresolved issues and failed opportunities in search of an easy Shangri La. The latest batch spent the last year demonstrating their perfection of the leaving technique; rapidly moving from one opportunity to the next without ever fulfilling their self proclaimed commitments or obligations.
The common denominator in all these groups is found in their past, not as a condemnation of their present, but as a tool to understand what is motivating and driving the future. Observation and investigation of the last several years has identified a unique grouping of folks. These folks are generally possessors of a lengthy past; most including some form of substance addiction, many having a past including incarceration and all now touting Christ as the next best thing in their life, in between occasional trips back down the road of addiction. These moments of weakness are clarified as "relapses"; a nice clean sounding term for what otherwise we might understand to be known as "falling off the wagon", "screwing up", "going dirty" or any other of a number of similar expressions. But great weight is given to the commonality of the past, in that those who do not have a similar experience are not to be trusted, except as a possible source of gifts, income or assistance. It truly exists as a form of caste system, with the accompanying barriers of movement between. It is okay to receive stuff from a non-member, but any scrutiny from one not a "card carrying member" is immediately condemned as judging or getting into someone else's business. In fact, the obtaining of goods, services or money from another group (caste) is considered almost a badge worthy event; a sort of proof of membership. The more you can talk people out of, make impassioned pleas for and never be held accountable for, the better member you are.
Churches are natural drawing points for this caste, as they provide an opportunity to collect all the target goods, services and monies that this caste desires and have a good time while doing so. Of course, churches are moving targets because eventually they come to understand that it is the same old song and dance, just another snake oil salesman doing the jig. Not that the opportunity will sound fishy; oh, contrare, it will seem like exactly what churches SHOULD be doing; helping the poor, feeding the needy and caring for each other. The problem arises when it becomes evident that this is a way of life for this caste; this is how they CHOOSE to live. It is NOT a case of growing up (spiritually), but eternal child care they desire and hold onto adamantly.
Proof, just as the Word of God says, is in the fruit produced. Extruded, shiny, handpainted plastic fruit; well made up, even occasionally looking as if it could satisfy...but never able to do so. The pattern will repeat itself unendingly; jumping into to a "new" deal with all three feet (they always promise more that will ever be delivered, hence the extra foot), a short spurt of enthusiastic action but just as quick this will quickly wind down to disillusionment, disagreement and then, departure; The three "D's" of this caste's system of action and another identifier of this particular group.
At times it is tempting to think that they might actually be on the road to real recovery and real life in Christ, but discernment is the better part of valor here. God's Word is always clear about our lives in Christ. Great opportunity and power is always under the restraint of responsibility and Christ's leadership. It is His way or no way....too many will keep trying their way and the highway unfortunately....but such is the rush north now!