My definition of happiness — the diamond-cut life — involves integrity as well as joy. And integrity was what I heard from evangelical Dr. Paul Metzger as he confronted the shortcomings of conservative Christianity in his book Consuming Jesus at his reading and discussion at Powells Books here in Portland the night before last.
The major shortcoming of modern evangelism and particularly megachurches is “giving people what they want, when they want it, at the lowest possible cost,” in Dr. Metzger’s view. He points out that this is a far cry from what Jesus taught, which was, rather, to be humble, serve the poor, and find joy not through consumption but through sacrificial love. Actually, Dr. Metzger used the phrase “joy through suffering.”
Interestingly, I didn’t once hear the word ‘sustainability’ in his talk. And it’s just as interesting that I’ve never once heard the words “joy through suffering” as I’ve listened to speakers on sustainability. Yet both viewpoints, right and left, decry the corruption of instant gratification at any cost. The former just see it as endangering individual’s souls, while the latter see it as endangering all of Creation. The left simply calls it the planet, not Creation.
Both movements — evangelical Christianity and sustainability — are seeking a kind of transformation. (Dr. Metzger teased us he’d do an altar call, but managed to refrain.) Due to his brave, constructive criticism of his own camp, I came away from the author’s reading of Consuming Jesus with real respect for a conservative evangelical.