Ever talk so crazy that people thought you were drunk? Ever babble out a fantastic idea so quickly that it sounded like gibberish and your friends thought about calling for an ambulance? Ever said something or done something while you were so terrified to do it that you thought you might be crazy?
Hold that thought for a moment and think about politics and social policy. Democrats generally think Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are just plain nuts. Republicans generally think that President Obama’s approach to health care is certifiably loony. But Rep. Ryan thinks his budget makes perfect sense; President Obama believes the Affordable Care Act is at least a step in the right, sensible, sane direction.
Most of our political, economic, and social policy debates transpire with the assumption that the most rational, sensible, and logical position should win the day. For many, that is clearly not true. For some it is. I can scarcely believe that western civilization now needs to debate what “reasonable” or “sensible” or “logical” actually means. But here we are.
So, unless we’re ready to spend the time, energy, and expense to recalibrate an entire country’s understanding of what a sensible analysis of the facts might actually look like (and I can’t imagine what that even means), then I say it’s time to stop making sense entirely. (And yes, I’m inspired here by a great song by that wonderfully quirky band, The Talking Heads.)
It seems to me that Christians might have something to offer to all this political brouhaha about the eminently sensible adoption of the genuinely nonsensical. It seems to me that Christians might have something to say about the abundant life that issues from claims that sound so terribly irrational. It seems to me that Christians might actually bear witness to the transforming power of visions for a radically different kind of world – even if, and especially if those visions just don’t make any sense.
It seems to me that when Christians talk so crazy that people think they’re drunk, well, something like the Spirit might be at work. Something like that happened to the earliest Christians during a moment that Christians will celebrate tomorrow: Pentecost. I think it’s high time for some more of that outrageous crazy-talk from Christians and Christian communities. It’s time to turn the world upside down (that’s how the biblical writer of Acts described what the early Christian community did – 17:6). It’s time to stop making sense.
If you don’t think the world today needs overturning, here’s a short list of a world gone off the rails: an unprecedented gap between the filthy rich and the dying poor in the U.S. and around the world; legislation everywhere limiting a woman’s choices over nearly everything about her own body; “fracking” this planet for natural resources with earthquakes as the “cost of doing business,” not to mention polluted drinking water that you can actually ignite with a match; obscene displays of white supremacy among politicians, religious leaders, neighbors, a resurgent KKK; LGBT teenagers killing themselves because of self-righteous clergy who prefer worshipping the sanctity of maleness rather than God. Oh, the list goes on and on.
It is way past time to stop making sense. It is way past time to reject all these sensible proposals for economic stability. It is way past time to interrupt rational discourse with visions.
We need Christians who talk so crazy that people think they might be drunk. We need Christians who live so crazy that their friends and families suggest psychotropic drugs. We need Christian communities with such crazy visions that the news media call them for interviews, and city councils worry about what happens in church buildings on Sunday mornings, and the Department of Homeland Security opens a file on them for fear of sedition.
If you think any or all of this sounds just plain nuts, read the biblical “Acts of the Apostles.” Want a blueprint for a Christian revolution? Ever wonder what the Christian “gay agenda” looks like? Read Acts.
I recently read this wonderful description of Pentecost from Richard Rohr:
We have been waiting for what will come… It is the day we are always waiting for but are never prepared for… It is that day when we can speak and be understood at last, the day when we can babble incoherently and people do not laugh, when it is okay to love God without apology or fear, when we know that all of the parts are different and yet all of the parts are enjoying one another.
That’s one of the best summaries of Pentecost I’ve ever read – and it’s totally bonkers. And I think it’s high time Christian communities today articulated something – anything — with the same visionary power.
Of course, this is hard work. There’s lots of practical stuff we need to address here, lots of strategizing to be done, lots of rational, common sense, logical planning. But I firmly believe that even the best strategy will stumble and fail if there’s no vision animating it.
So, what’s your vision for the world? What’s your vision for your city? What’s your vision for your family, your life? Can we finally stop talking about “sensible” budgets, policies, and rules and finally start talking about the kind of world we want to live in? Can we finally start speaking out loud our visions for the world we want, no matter if it sounds crazy?
Paraphrasing Forrest Gump here, crazy is as crazy does; so let’s get crazy.