|Green Lake, Wisconsin|
Richard Stearns, in Unfinished, distinguishes between the two competing kingdoms of Self and God. He tells of taking his family to Disney's Magic Kingdom. He writes: "Here’s an odd thought: What would people be like if they had been born and raised inside the Magic Kingdom park and had never seen the outside world? Since our worldviews are shaped by our contexts, imagine what a distorted worldview they might have." (p. 46)
Any wealthy country can produce "Magic Kingdom Christians." (MKCs)
- MKCs have been sheltered and shaped by their affluent culture.
- MKCs tend to see the world as a gigantic theme park.
- MKCs see a world filled with all kinds of rides, attractions, and destinations to enjoy.
- MKCs live in comfortable houses or apartment and own one or more cars.
- MKCs enjoy going to movies and out to dinner.
- MKCs live in a reasonable safe, predictable, and orderly world in which their government oversees the national interests, laws are generally respected and enforced, schools are provided for all children, and the basic necessities of food, water, and medically services are generally available.
- MKCs are then free to channel their energies enthusiastically toward "the pursuit of happiness."
- MKCs may enjoy golf or skiing or tennis and might very well belong to a health club.
- MKCs take wonderful vacations, sometimes to a lake or the shore or a resort nearby but sometimes to places like Hawaii, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, or Bermuda - exciting destinations with enchanting sights, scrumptious restaurants, luxurious hotels, and fabulous entertainment.
- MKCs live in a world of art, literature, and beauty... a world of culture, knowledge, human achievement, and technology... a world of business, entrepreneurship, wealth, and capitalism.
- MKCs's children have rooms full of toys, video games, computers, and iPhones.
- MKCs's kids play on soccer, basketball, or baseball teams, depending on the season.
- MKCs's kids often take lessons in piano, dance, or kung fu.
- MKC kids are encouraged to dream about what they might become and then to go and chase their dreams.
- MKCs struggle with these problems: where to go to dinner, how to best decorate their homes, where to invest their excess money, what kind of cars they will drive, where to go on their vacations, which diet and workout regimen are most effective, and how much money to leave their children.
- MKC churches have fabulous buildings, state-of-the-art sound systems, and multimedia projection systems.
- MKC Sunday morning worship services can feel like a glorious concert or a Broadway production.
- MKC churches have coffee bars and restaurants to entice people to come and spend the day.
- MKC youth groups have summer camps and winter ski weekends.
- MKC church parking lots contain a parade of shiny new cars as the faithful come to worship and praise God for all his goodness.
- MKC churches are great places to escape from all of the ugliness we read about around the world.
Such are the ways within the Magic Kingdom. But "outside the borders of the Magic Kingdom there is another reality: The Tragic Kingdom." (Stearns, 48) We read:
"In the Tragic Kingdom people go to bed hungry each night. In fact, about 1 billion people today are chronically short of food, many slowly starving to death. That’s three times the population of the United States. More than one out of four of the world’s 2 billion children are underweight or stunted. Today, as I write, there are severe food shortages in Somalia, Niger, Mali, North Korea, and Sudan, to name only a few.
Lack of clean water may be an even worse problem for Tragic Kingdom citizens, as 783 million have no access at all. Instead, they walk miles each day to dip their buckets in filthy, bacteria-ridden water that makes them sick and kills their children.
Let’s add to our list of woes the violence and tension in the Middle East, nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea, the ongoing conflict in Darfur, and the twenty-year war in the Congo, where tens of thousands of women have been brutally raped; it’s a war that has taken 5 million lives, but most Americans have never heard of it.
In the Tragic Kingdom people struggle with the consequences of ethnic and religious hatreds and violence; the blight of human trafficking; pandemic diseases, such as AIDS, cholera, and tuberculosis; the serious effects of climate change; and the staggering problems faced by the world’s 18 million orphaned children." (Ib., 49)
The Tragic Kingdom is much larger than the Magic Kingdom. "More than one-third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, and more than three-quarters live on less than ten dollars a day— three-quarters! That bears repeating: 75 percent of the people on our planet survive on less than ten dollars a day. What does this do to alter your worldview? If you earn an income of forty thousand dollars, you make more money than 99 percent of the people in the world. An income of just thirteen thousand dollars places you in the top 10 percent. (Ib.)
Tragic Kingdom Christians...
- often don't have buildings to meet in
- often don't have Bibles to read
- don't have sound systems, PowerPoint screens, and latte bars
- don't get vacations from the hard work of daily survival
- and "gather each week on the very brink of survival to praise God while crying desperately that he will send help." (Ib., 49)
Stearns writes: "Most Magic Kingdom Christians don’t know much about the Tragic Kingdom; in fact, they go out of their way to avoid it. That’s because it is terribly unpleasant, and even acknowledging it takes them out of their comfort zones." (Ib., p. 50)
There is another Kingdom. Called: The Kingdom of God. "The world doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, God does not want the world to be this way. There is a different way of living, a different vision of human thriving. Jesus called it the kingdom of God." (Ib., p. 51)
The KG is the central message of Jesus. Stearns writes:
"It was Jesus’ vision of a new way of living, a new dream for human society that turned the values of the world upside down. Men and women would live under God’s authority and be governed by God’s rules. It was to be a kingdom without borders, a kingdom within kingdoms, which would survive, grow, and flourish apart from the rise and fall of human kingdoms.
Every citizen of this new kingdom would be equally loved and valued: rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, black or white. The rich would share with the poor; the healthy would care for the sick; the strong would protect the weak. His kingdom would be characterized by the attributes and values of God himself: integrity, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, faithfulness, justice, and love. Jesus’ followers would love their enemies, be generous with their money and possessions, live lives of integrity, and seek justice for all. It was not some pie-in-the-sky dream of a kingdom in the clouds; it was a concrete vision of communities of God’s people established in every nation of the world. God’s people living in God’s way would be a blessing to their neighbors, resulting in people of all nations being drawn into God’s expanding kingdom." (Ib., pp. 51-52)
I'm stopping here. I'm not sure I can bear to hear more right now about the Real Jesus, the Beautiful Savior...