Saturday, November 10, 2007

Little Soso, False Brothers and Two Confused Moms

Well, totally changing gears here, I've finished reading about William Wilberforce and am now reading about a book entitled "Young Stalin." by Simon Sebeg Montefiore. I have no idea why I have such a fascination with reading about the lives of evil dictators, but I guess it does convince me that no matter how many parenting mistakes I make, I am not producing 5 megalomaniac terrorists. On some days, that thought is very comforting.

Anyway, it's interesting to read about Stalin (affectionately -- yes, I guess there is always at least one affectionate person in every body's life-- called Soso) growing up in the Republic of Georgia.

Stalin was born to a mother whom the author often describes as "popular with men". If you couple that with the fact that there were several men who were possible candidates for being his "real" father, you get the idea of who the first confused mom is in this blog entry. His mom, Keke, married a cobbler named Beso. At first Keke and Beso had a pretty decent life, but after losing 2 children to small pox, Beso began to drink and Keke became obsessed about their youngest son, Soso. Their home revolved around him, and as Beso's alcoholism grew worse, the home grew even more violent.

Now, none of that was really a surprise, because no one expected that a man that would systematically starve millions of Ukrainians (among other human rights atrocities) would come from a loving supportive family. But what really threw me for a loop was not just the dysfunction of his family, but the dysfunction of that part of the world!

Stalin grew up in the town of Gori, in the Republic of Georgia. Far from anywhere substantial, Gori had its own sort of power structure (which Stalin's mom seemed to be quite friendly with), and it's own bizarre culture. By bizarre, I refer to two things:

1) "Goreli Fighting Traditions" (town brawls, wrestling, and gang-warfare)
2) Priests that drank alcohol like it was spring water found in a desert, and then participated in the "Goreli Fighting Traditions"

After Beso's first drinking partner died from alcohol, he picked up a new one: their priest. Every day Beso and his priest would get so drunk that Beso couldn't stand, let alone work. Eventually, he was run out of town (making me think that Gori was not too unlike the American West), and all the men got drunk without him.

Now, people make mistakes, and priests become alcoholics. Life happens, I get that. But Beso and his Drinking Priest Friend, weren't the only ones. ALL the priests were getting drunk with the towns people. ALL the priests were fighting with the towns people. And, ALL the priests were creating much more than papers on theology (with the town's women)! All of them!

Here's a description of one festival:

The males in each family, from children upwards, also paraded, drinking wine and singing until night fell, when the real fun began. The "assault of free boxing" -- the sport of krivi -- was a "mass duel with rules"; boys of three wrestled other three-year-olds, then children fought together, then teenagers and finally the men threw themselves into "an incredible battle," by which time the town was completely out of control, a state that lasted into the following day -- even at school, where classes fought classes.

Interesting, isn't it? It puts a whole new spin on "community get together."

"Soso, do you have your mouth guard? We're having a neighborhood cookout tonight! Wouldn't want you to have to have your dental work redone!"

"Yes, mother, I got it. Sure wouldn't want to miss this chance to destroy Egnatashvili's face. Plus, these get togethers are great training for my future career as evil communist leader and thug."

It is just astounding that the spiritual leaders of the day were actually acting as the leaders of such totally and completely barbaric behavior! I understand that they were using the church as a political power structure, and that they were really not committed to their faith, but one would have to think that they would occasionally glance through a Bible and have maybe just the slightest twinge of guilt about decking someone they just baptized a few days earlier!

But, this was the culture they were immersed in, and there was no one, at least to my knowledge, to point out these enormous cultural sins and how it had leaked into the church. So, these citywide brawls-for-fun just became normal.

This, of course, led me to think about what has become normal to me.
This especially because I happened to be reading in Galatians this week, and was thinking about Paul's "false brothers [that] had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves". The teaching those "false brothers" were pushing was a teaching that grew out of the normalcy of the culture. So,I began to wonder what things I take as part of God's truth that isn't, what is part of everyday life to me, but would be odd for someone else, perhaps a Christian in rural China. Would these things I see as normal make her think I was crazy?

Normal for me:

1) Seeing prosthetic limbs lying around the house.
2) Telling someone to "put on your leg and head out the door."
3) Naked 3-year-olds racing around, followed by 10 year-olds horrified by that sight
4) Children debating such things as "disco really was an ancient Greek sport" (perhaps she meant "discus"?)
5) A small plastic dinosaur that was lynched in our front yard tree over a year ago, but who's body hangs there as a grim reminder that those who don't obey their master might have to pay.

Of course, there are other things that have become normal for me as well:

Having a large wardrobe, owning two vehicles, not worrying that we'll run out of food, being warm in winter and comfortable in summer, and knowing that God will be there for me no matter how much I choose to pay attention to Him in a given day.

So, these things that are normal, they aren't all bad, of course, but they start to cloud my thoughts and shade my version of reality. In fact, as Paul writes to the Galatians, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all." I have to admit that for me it is really easy to forget what the gospel is.

What is the gospel that we are trying to proclaim? If I base my answer on the loudest voices I hear coming from the church in America, I would have to say that the answer is:

1) Creationism
2) Marriage and Family
3) Faith and Prosperity
4) Civil Religion

Wow. None of those things can even match with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but somehow they always work their way into my life. Especially prosperity, as it it just always seems like life would be better with a little more.

So, I'm left a bit confused (I'm the second Mom in the blog title), but that's not that unusual for me. And, I realize just how unpopular my thoughts probably are, but as Paul said, "If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

No comments: