First World Christians


SO, First world problems. It’s an Internet meme these days, also known as White Whine. The idea is easier to understand by seeing a few of them, than by explaining it.

Nothing is worse than too much Splenda in your coffee!”
“My boyfriend wrote “I love you!” on my bathroom mirror, with my $24 tube of lipstick! F*#& my life!”
“My 64-ounce steak was medium rare, and I specifically ordered it medium!”
“Stupid vending machine only had 3 types of diet soda!”
“I’ve had better room service in 3rd world countries than at Disneyland Hotel…”

You get the idea. Take an inconsequential thing that annoys you, and complain about it. Then think about the grander scheme of things. Does it really matter, compared to say, war, rape, or starvation?

Here’s one.

Here’s another.

You get the idea, right?

Anyway, it got me wondering if we live First World Christian lives in our First World Churches, and how?

“Couldn’t get a drummer for Worship this Sunday…”
“The Youth Missions Group could only afford to go to Mexico this year…”
“The Powerpoint Guy isn’t moving the slides in time with Pastor’s sermon!”
“That church baptizes by sprinkling and not by full submersion!”

I’m just making these scenarios up, of course, but in light of the Christian mission to love our neighbors, we do tend to make a barbaric muddle of things.

Now, I don’t evangelize. I don’t often feed the hungry, or even man soup kitchens. I helped the homeless folks in Santa Cruz, and when confronted with a few schizophrenic drug addicts, I’ve never been more terrified in my life. But, we all have our niche, right? Homeless, schizophrenic drug addicts just happens NOT to be mine.

I remember another time when I made an attempt at person-to-person “ministry” (for lack of a better term).

When I was in elementary school, my mother used to take my sister and me to the Curry Good Samaritan Center in Brookings, and we’d visit the old folks. My step great grandfather was there, an old man who had a fairly severe stroke. He cried when we visited. There was Emma, a nice old lady who was mostly addled, but loved holding my hands. She smelled like pee a lot. There was an old man (Frank, I believe his name was…) who was bedridden, and could only say words like “Heyyyyyy!” but he was enthusiastic and loved seeing my sister and me. We’d wheel them into the rec center, and we’d play BINGO. They’d win little trinkets and Lori and I would run between them and help the more infirm folks to black out the numbers on their cards. One by one these people died off, of course. Aunt Edith was the last one I visited at Good Samaritan, when I was maybe seventeen. Once or twice I’d play the organ in the small chapel. The patients loved music. I only knew five or six hymns, but some people who never stopped rocking would look up and smile, and sometimes even hum, when I played.

I dunno if that was my niche either. It certainly wasn’t within my comfort zone. It WAS however in keeping with the Christ’s Most Important Commandment, and not just a fiddling-around with the global injustice that occurs if you buy the wrong brand of grape juice in the communion cups. I’m not saying anyone should actually go out and run a soup kitchen, or cleanse lepers (it couldn’t hurt…) but sometimes stretching yourself, you may find hidden caches of amazing talent.

Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills. I’m just saying there are battles that as kind, moral folks, we should be fighting. We often choose not to fight them, and tend to prefer the kind of war games that we should set aside, just in case Scrabble gets really, really boring.

I try, every day, to make my relationships better ones. I may not be perfect but at least it’s something I can aspire to. You know? The more I think it over,  I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be known as a First World Christian.

Who’s with me? Against me?

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2 thoughts on “First World Christians”

  1. A couple things you write put me in mind of the Ingmar Bergman film “Wild Strawberries”. Ever seen it? I’m thinking especially the opening scene in which the aged Dr. Borg reveals a sort of Weltschmerz behind his withdrawal from society. I can see how an aversion to White Whine could lead to an ailment similar to the Dr’s, but it seems to me that having children can have the effect of pulling us back into relationships with others. It isn’t until his daughter-in-law makes him aware how others have pulled away from him that he is able to understand that the ripples caused by withdrawal can transcend generations. Visiting your elders in the retirement home probably did more for them than you are aware (at least now from the younger side of eighty). What happens though when, like Dr. Borg, there are no grandchildren to come calling?

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