High-octane Sinners and Holy Lunatics

I dusted off an old book by a priest and novelist – Frederick Buechner. Few know him or much about him, including me. I just happened to find a few of his books in a second hand book store years ago. I read them, enjoyed them, and kept them. He wrote, “If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says. Drive carefully – the life you save may be your own – and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and Order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.” (The Life of Jesus, page 136).

Met any crazy Christian recently? I don’t mean goofy – there are plenty of them. And, I don’t mean spooky – many too many of them. I mean certifiably crazy and thus living like Jesus did. You know, living in a manner that is the total opposite to the way the world lives – thus labelled “crazy”. Bet you haven’t! Dare you, go find me one! Go on – find me one, just one!

What you will find, if anything, are believers who are well balanced in their lives – God, wife, family, job, church… everything well proportioned and “balanced.” That’s what they have been taught. To live a balanced lifestyle.

Question: How many biblical characters can you name who were balanced of mind? Since when have spiritual masters lived “balanced” and “orderly” lives? Since when did divine revelation come in neat and tidy packages? We have made Christianity into something that is balanced, sane, and stable when it was really mean to be radical and somewhat unhinged – at least to the mind of the non-believer and on-looker – the world.

Since when did the gospels portray Jesus’ followers (or Jesus Himself) as “balanced?” Where did we get this notion that a consecrated life is head-centered, left-brained, right-wing, even-tempered, danger-free? Remember the Quakers – also known as the Friends of Jesus. They were called Quakers early in their history here in North America – not because of their balanced behavior as believers but because of their “shriekings, shakings, quakings, roarings, yellings, howlings, tremblings in the bowels, and risings in the bellies” (a 1655 pamphlet description).

Ronald Rolheiser states, “Given that God is fire…isn’t the task of the Holy Spirit to introduce some madness and intoxication into the world? Why this propensity for balance and safety since…don’t we all long for just one moment of raw risk, one moment of divine madness.”

Why this mad dash for balance and normalcy as measured by worldly standards? Why this need to be respectable? Why all the restraint and need for social acceptance? Afterall, as someone once said, “Some of the greatest saints were high-octane sinners and holy lunatics.”

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