I is for Inspiration
I am currently blogging, along with my daughter, all the way through the alphabet. Check out how the idea started, and get the rules here.
“NEXT WEEK ON GREY’S — A TWO-HOUR TELEVISION EVENT… YOU’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE.” “THIS WEEK, ON THE BIGGEST LOSER — YOU’VE NEVER SEEN A CONTESTANT THIS HUGE” “PRICES WILL NEVER BE THIS LOW AGAIN!” “IS A TERRORIST DRIVING YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL BUS?”
In a world where TV shows are “events,” where news is amped up and hyped up with emotional words and slick graphics, where panic is sold on the open market (all while we are, of course warned not to panic) — do words have any meaning anymore? As Jon Stewart recently observed, when everything is pumped up to full volume, we can’t actually hear anything.
I’m tired of the loudest voices getting my attention. I just want to be inspired. As Brett Michaels sang years ago, give me something to believe in. I’m not saying you have to make me feel good. It’s okay to challenge me, provoke me, maybe even offend me a little bit — I just want something to believe in — a cause to rise to, something to embrace and be part of. Even religion doesn’t usually inspire. Because for too long we have done religion the same way we have done everything else.
“COMING TO DETROIT THIS FEBRUARY — THE PASSION WORSHIP EVENT OF THE CENTURY.” “LISTEN TO OUR MESSAGE — OR SPEND ALL ETERNITY IN HELL!” “COME TO OUR CHURCH — WE’RE THE COOLEST CHURCH IN TOWN!”
When the way we deliver the most important message in history (God loves you and is with you) is the same way we sell soap and news and diapers and tampons and used cars, something has gone horribly wrong.
Speaking of cars, ever bought a car? Remember how it felt to test-drive that car? Remember how it felt after you got it home, and you piled your kids into it with your spouse, and you looked into the rear-view mirror and saw your family there? Wasn’t that amazing? Wasn’t it inspiring? Didn’t that moment capture something really important about your life, and about who you were?
But remember the paperwork? Remember getting financing? Remember that yellow piece of paper about eight feet long they folded up and placed neatly in an envelope in your glove compartment? Ever go back and read that piece of paper? Of course not. Because it’s not inspiring. It has nothing to do with why you drive a car, or what you love about it. It’s dead letters.
So are most of our sermons, and many of our religious books. So is much of the way we think about and talk about sacred scripture. Dead letters — things that are interesting for religion wonks, but have little or no bearing on who people are, or believe they are, or aspire to be. “6.5% interest over 4 years, that comes to XXX dollars and XXX cents — sign here please.” “Close your eyes and say this prayer, and you will get X and Y and Z — sign here please.”
Yawn. For some people in a certain place in life, this can have deep significance and so it should not be entirely dismissed. But so often we have utterly failed to understand why people think about God and what they are seeking when they come to church (or why they choose not to), because we have assumed we already know what they need. As my teenagers would say, “Epic fail.”
Inspiration and information are two completely different things. We are up to our necks in information in our society, all being screamed at us at top volume from a thousand different sources. But there is precious little to inspire us, to connect us to what it means for us to be parents and husbands and wives and students and seekers of God to begin with. A church, a friend, a TV show, a book, a counselor — anything that connects to this meaning will be extremely powerful and carry the air of authenticity to a person. It will be deeply inspiring, and although information may provide the plans that we need to change the world, only inspiration makes us care enough to give it a try.