Alan Hirsch asked a great question on Facebook the other day. Coming off his time at the Burning Man Festival (which he kept referring to as "BM") he wondered:
"A BM thought: Burning man is definitely a neo-pagan event, but they sure know how to party. Why is that?"
Much good discussion ensured- but there was a definite theme: Christians are losers with large loads of guilt and shame up their butts who don't know how to party like the pagans! That got me thinking- here was my answer:
Hmm- let me humbly suggest-In regards to guilt and shame- I think we'd be silly to think non-christians never feel either. They do- sometimes as much as the very religious. After all- they are judging themselves on their own works, by their own standards, and they STILL are not measuring up. Shame is not a "Christian" thing- it's a human thing. Look at shame-based cultures that have no concept whatsoever of a personal God- where does that come from?
Yes- religion leads to shame and guilt. The Gospel however is the antithesis of both religion (justifying yourself through your own goodness) and shame (carrying the weight of your failures)- Jesus won't let you do either.
It never surprises me when I see non-Christians who are very good people. After all- they are in a real sense trying to justify themselves (to themselves, to the world around them or to some deity)- they HAVE to be good. While the end result of the Gospel should never be to make us worse people, it will make us less likely to *need* to be seen in certain lights because our identity becomes based on what Jesus has done, not what we do.
The good news (literally) is God doesn't judge us on how well we behave or conform to an image of goodness now, but judges us through the lens of what Jesus has done and our dependence on Him and His work.
In the same way- I think many non-Christians are of course very good partiers- if I wasn't ever worried about how much I drank, what substances I imbibed, I'd probably party a bit "hartier" myself. But I do care 🙂
If I thought there was no tomorrow, I'd not only party harder, my sexual ethic would be different, I'd probably chase experience a lot more…
That being said- Christians need to remember that God's ultimate goal in the universe is a party- a wedding bash between Jesus and a redeemed community- and we need to learn how to be a sign and a fortaste of that. That's a bit of why I cut loose sometimes at weddings.
But I think we also need to remember- we're looking at others and their celebrations in light of what we DO know about ourselves and what we DON'T know about them- in other words- how much celebrating is based on nihilism? On a today-is-all-I've-got point of view. That may look good for awhile, but ultimately, it won't lead them anywhere good.
I think understanding what Jesus does for us, and where He's taking all of this is the ultimate key to better celebrations- celebrations that speak something worth saying.