Formal…but here to party…

Have you ever seen the episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Andy tries to turn Ernest T. Bass into a gentleman?  Really any of those “Pygmalion” or “My Fair Lady” type things will work.  But Andy Griffith is the best.  Take a look at a clip from the episode.  Go ahead…I’ll wait…

…Did you notice how Ernest looked in his suit?  He was stifled.  He was robotic.  Sure, if you had never seen him before you might not know what was wrong.  But five minutes with him and you’d realize that something wasn’t quite right.  There’s a wildness in his eyes.  There’s just something about him that screams, “I’m a wild person crammed into a suit.”  His behavior is changed, and his appearance is changed.  He is playing nice, but it only lasts so long before it begins to unravel.  Like they say, you can take the man out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the man.

Now, have you ever sat in a church service and wondered just what was so special about this “God” guy?  I mean, he seems respectable enough, but isn’t there something a bit odd about him?  He seems stifled.  He seems a bit robotic.  He seems a bit like a wild man who’s been stuffed into a suit.

Now, have you ever been to the ocean?

Have you ever seen a waterfall after a heavy rain?

Have you ever seen hundred-year-old trees snapped in half by the wind?

Have you ever seen acid-green moss shake a defiant fist in the air through decaying leaves and ice, screaming, “I am alive!  Life always wins!”?

Maybe the reason we grow disillusioned with church is that we make it too polite.  Now I don’t want to overstate this.  Just like with Ernest T. Bass, there are times when it is important to put on the suit and play nice.  And God does this well.  He meets us where we are, and for many of us, where we are is in a polite church service.  But I also don’t want to understate this.  We need a God that is real.  We need to be people who are real.  Jesus didn’t die to make us nice.  He died so that we can fully love.

Many of us are crying out that the Church has lost its power.  It has lost its strength and its influence.  It has lost its connection with our real lives.  It has lost its connection with Spirit.  What has replaced it has been political action groups, hateful televangelists, and stinking lying liars who vomit out the so-called “prosperity gospel.”  Many non-Christians look at the Church and say things like, “I like Jesus, but I don’t want anything to do with what you guys are doing.”  It seems fake.  It seems stifled.  It seems robotic.  It seems a bit like we’ve taken Jesus’ message and stuffed it into a container that doesn’t really work.

Maybe what we need is to let our God loosen his tie a bit.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love the Church.  What I don’t love is the way the Church has been corrupted.  I don’t say we should throw out Church.  We are called into relationship with God, but in the same breath we are called into relationship with each other.  That is what Church is about.  Francis Schaeffer says this,

“Therefore Christians in their relationships should be the most human people you will ever see.  This speaks for God in an age of inhumanity and impersonality and facelessness.  When people look at us their reaction should be, “These are human people”…If they cannot look upon us and say, “These are real people,” nothing else is enough.  Far too often young people become Christians and then search among the Church’s ranks for real people, and have a hard task finding them.”

So what does it mean to be “real”?  From the Christian perspective we have to look at what Jesus said.  And what Jesus said is telling.  The last thing he said to the apostles before ascending into heaven is a powerful clue as to what he thought it meant to be a fully realized human.  He said, “By this will all men know that you are mine, and that I was sent by the Father; if you have love for one another.” And likewise, when he was asked the most important law for humans to follow he summed it all up with “Love God, and love each other.”

Some of us see God as angry, powerful, and distant.  Some see him as an ooey gooey spirit that hasn’t got a personality, and is there when I want to be thankful, but doesn’t care when I want to be a bit shady.  Some see Jesus as a “warrior with a sword in hand and a tattoo down his leg.”  I tend to see Jesus as a subversive hippie prophet, teaching Love and “smash the state.”

Some like to think of Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt.  A Jesus that says, “I’m formal, but I’m here to party.”

But maybe if we’re missing God in our real life, it’s because we’re looking for the wrong things.  Maybe we miss God because he’s got dirt under his nails.  Maybe we miss him because he’s sitting down and hugging the neck of someone we find repulsive.

Do I miss part of God because he’s sitting down with a conservative business man in a freshly pressed suit?

Do some miss part of God because he’s whispering their name from a moss covered tree in the middle of the woods?

Maybe if we miss him, we miss him because we keep reaching up trying to grasp someone who has come down here among us.  You find what you look for.  Seek and keep seeking and you will find.  But I guarantee you that what you find will surprise you.


About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

6 responses to “Formal…but here to party…

  • Romanós

    “…you can take the man out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the man.”

    I started out loving the truth in this saying you quoted near the beginning of your post.

    I’ve ended up loving the utter transparency and indignant veracity of what you are blurting out in every sentence right to the end.

    Why do I love Walt Whitman? Because he’s a bible-thumping Christian? Because he isn’t one? Because he rails against stale pomp and vainglorious sanctimony? Because he brings Jesus down to the same level as an Aztec priest dancing in front of his teocalli? Because he says that sex and death are beautiful? Because he says he likes to become “undisguised and naked”? Nope. I love Walt Whitman because of all the things he DIDN’T write in Leaves of Grass that I know he knew, thought and lived from reading between his lines. I love him because in spite of some of his opinions and conceits, he was still unafraid to grasp the real fire that Jesus said He came to earth to bring. I hope uncle Walt made it in the end, and that he didn’t cave in to the demands of his body, but that with his spirit he ran after the One he really wanted. I hope he made it. (Why the foregoing? You remind me of Walt.)

    Now, as for you, brother, you have been heavily armed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (He wants you to fight manfully and boldly), and you have grasped the fire that He came to earth to bring (He wants you to keep setting the earth ablaze), and in spite of your weaknesses He has fortified you with the best of all weapons, faith, and the most victorious of all songs, love. You write like a church father, you write like a great poet. Why should I say “like”? If I call you a church father and a great poet, I do disservice to the Truth, who is the only One who can say these things to you, but I have no doubt He will, when He hands over to you the White Stone with the name He gave you from before the beginning and which you cannot tell to anyone else, and when He says to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as He walks with you, arms on shoulders in close fellowship with Him and with every transfigured human being that ever lived, up the holy mountain, leaving behind forever all that never chose or wanted the gift of life.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t write such a comment as this, but I dare to because of my confidence in the living God, in Christ the Faithful and the True, whose witness you are.
    Go with God, dear brother. And thank you for feeding me (and us) with His inexhaustible truth. Christ is among us!

  • John

    Meanwhile these two very stark websites give us the unvarnished truth re the reality that was, and still is, applied Christian history.

    The conquest and cruelties continue–did not “god” tell George to invade Iraq.

    Onward Christian soldiers forever marching into war.

  • Andrew

    Brother Romanos,

    As always, thank you for your encouraging words. We will continue to spread that fire together. God bless you.


    Your websites do give some very horrific information that the Church should face up to. I will not say that the folks who did these horrible things were not “real Christians.” However, I will say that they had a very obvious lack of understanding of the Scriptures. We should all be appalled by the crusades, and the slave trade, and any other time murder is committed in the name of God. We should all be appalled any time we work to bring hell to earth.

    It doesn’t matter if your ideal is a particular religion, a social doctrine, atheism, or manifest destiny. There is a seed in humanity that has a bent towards destruction, and a seed that is bent towards Love. I argue that the seed of Love is given by Grace from God. And I would agree with the Bible when it says that many who have cried “Lord, Lord” have also not done the things which God asks. They have not been a friend to the poor, the orphan, and the widow. They have ignored or inflamed the many hells on earth, and have done nothing to continue bringing heaven to earth.

    God did not tell George to invade Iraq. God told George to love God and love his neighbor. George made some stupid decisions and believed them so strongly that he convinced himself that God wanted it to happen. Or, worse yet, he might possibly have used the name Jesus Christ as a connotation word, but one with a totally different meaning. As Schaeffer said, “The phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has become a contentless banner which can be carried in any direction for sociological purposes. In other words, because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has been separated from true history and the content of Scripture, it can be used to trigger religiously motivated sociological actions directly contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

  • Andrew


    Re-reading your comment. Really? Whitman? I am humbled and grateful. Thank you. That means a lot to me, especially from a great writer like yourself.


  • Romanós

    I just have to keep coming back to this one. Tonight I copied it to my PC so I will always have a copy. We may wake up tomorrow and find the blogosphere has all escaped into space, pulled into a passing black hole. But good writing is rare, and even rarer is good writing that speaks the truth.

  • Tim Melton

    Andrew, Great post. I love Ernest T. Bass – as a matter of fact I do a pretty good impression if I do say so myself. And, so right about our idolatrous attempts to stifle God. “Safe? Of Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the King.” – Lion, Witch, Wardrobe.

    Just thought I’d let you know that I’ve started blogging again. Good to see that you’re still at it.

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