The Storytellers and the Bondage of the Modern American Christian

The Storytellers and the Bondage of the Modern American Christian

Following Jesus is sacrifice and sacrifice is not easy. It certainly does not feel like the best life now or the abundant blessings that were sowed with cash and reaped by the prophets. Life, faith, and following Jesus have been twisted by the Storytellers and, like Steinbeck said, nothing has been taught or cured. Hearts remained chained to the anchors of Sin. 

Today, churches resemble wild concerts and rehab programs. Entertaining fun with a side of 12 steps. Honesty is covered in sweet honey so you can take the medicine while focusing on the pleasure of taste and the avoidance of discomfort. Who cares if you get better? It only matters if you feel good. Is it possible that the “gospel” being proclaimed from pulpits around the world is thickening the chains instead of breaking them? 

But, in defense of the church, this is what the market demands. This is what we have told the Storytellers that we want. Entertain us with music and pithy sermons. Give us a crutch we can lean on. But my God, don’t make us walk on our own two feet! Don’t make us take personal responsibility for our choices! Don’t confront us with the truth that despite our best efforts we still need a Savior!

Above all, please don’t tell us that we have to pick up our cross and follow...

The Paradox

Here we arrive at the paradox of following Jesus. Only by picking up the symbol of persecution and burden do we ever taste true freedom. By being obedient to the Spirit we do not sacrifice independence, rather we gain a freedom that we don’t quite understand. It's a burden that is not heavy. It's a bondage that does not bind. 

And this is the point where words fail. I could write volume upon volume concerning the existence of the paradox and never be able to adequately explain it. It is impossible to explain why it was a necessity and a joy for the refugee Bonhoeffer to return to Nazi Germany in order to spread the gospel and fight the government. It is impossible to explain the countless missionaries that counted it all joy to leave all they knew only to arrive in a savage land and be instantly martyred. 

It is impossible to explain, yet the evidence abounds. 

Maybe we’re just psychologically scarred. 

Only by picking up the symbol of persecution and burden do we ever taste true freedom. By being obedient to the Spirit we do not sacrifice independence rather we gain a freedom that we don’t quite understand. Its a burden that is not heavy. Its a bondage that does not bind.

I have heard the argument that Christians who suffer for an invisible God are simply malaise with a psychological deficiency that prompts them to desire pain for a perceived greater cause. Others dismiss it is as unresolved guilt and the attempt to “pay” for past sins. The sacrificial life of Christians on mission stupefy those who have never experienced the paradox and it baffles those that only know Christianity through the guile of the Storytellers. 

It is understandable that people try to explain the supernatural in natural terms. Psychologist will see the world through psychological lenses. The same goes for doctors, lawyers, bankers, educators, car-wash attendants, and house-spouses. We see the world as we are trained to see the world and a large majority of the world has been trained to ridicule and dismantle the things they can not understand. This, I believe is the biggest barrier to faith in Jesus: You can never naturally explain it therefore it must be invalid. 

The Storyteller knows this.

So, the Storytellers deduce the Gospel to the easiest-to-digest versions they can. They speak of freedom from hell, removal of guilt, and escaping consequences. The sum total of following Jesus is a constant smile on your face as you sit back, sing some funky tunes, and relax in your savior. Because these things are enviable they are easily strived for. There is not much burden in sitting back with a smile on your face. 

Here is a good place to remind of you Steinbeck’s words, "The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar,"

The Christian heart sinks.

A good friend recently shared that she witnesses a church where she—as an unbeliever—does more “christian” activities than those who claim to believe. Is it possible that this Christian reality that she is witnessing is a result of a Gospel that looks sweet but fails to heal, fails to teach, and chains the heart to mere earthly desires? Probably so. 

It is socially accepted that a Christian does his “duty” by attending a service on Sunday, forgets the sermon by that afternoon, and drags himself back a week later. Those “super” Christians may go twice a week. And yet something tells me it is those who show up but once a week are more in chains than those who do not attend at all; but that is another blog for another time. 

And it is easy to point out these types of religious people because, frankly there are so many of them. It is easy to pick out a pattern when the pattern is repeated by the majority. But while our attention is focused on the majority. We miss the glorious few who did not fall for the Storytellers but got wrapped up in the Gospel. 

The Christian heart soars.

The lady pouring coffee and the man sweeping up – something is different in them. The one who shakes your hand when you walk into the church – something is different in him. The one who takes food to the sick – there is something different in her. The missionary that leaves to spread the gospel to those who have not heard – there is something different. 

The difference is the Gospel, to these people, became more than a story. It became more than a smile. It became more than a 12-step program. It became more than the best life now. The Gospel is the recognition that what was once blind can now see and what was dead can now be brought to life.

In the same passage where the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to become living sacrifices reminds us that the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us and it will make alive our mortal bodies. And this belies the problem: most people do not want to admit that they are blind or that they are dead. Pride and ego pulse through their veins, not the Spirit. 

But those that do live through the power of the Spirit...

They are not the ones who fall for the Storytellers. 

The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar,’
— John Steinbeck, East of Eden

About the Author | Josh Schaidt
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I love cookies and I still buy music one album at a time. Started @EmptyChurch for you.


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This American Church
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