–verb (used with object)
1. to convert (animals, plants, etc.) to domestic uses; tame.
2.to tame (an animal), esp. by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.
3.to adapt (a plant) so as to be cultivated by and beneficial to human beings.
4.to accustom to household life or affairs.
5.to take (something foreign, unfamiliar, etc.) for one's own use or purposes; adopt.
6.to make more ordinary, familiar, acceptable, or the like: to domesticate radical ideas.
Last night, two of our domesticated cats tried to become un-domesticated (if that’s a word). They were standing up at the screen door (since it was a nice, cool night) when a stray cat came up to the door and started to get aggressive with them. Rosie Girl got up and closed the door, but (from what we can tell from the incident and from reading some information about cats) Sassy and Silver were now afraid and were taking out their fear as aggression on each other, reverting to their wild state. And let me tell you, wild cats are crazy!! They hissed, screamed, cried, and bowed up and each other and then tried to kill each other, taking out large parts of the house in the process. They spent the night separated and will now spend the next few days getting re-introduced. (Deep Sigh.)
All of this made me think about how the Christian faith in our time and place has become “domesticated” and safe. Not only is it safe to be a Christian, but in my town, it’s actually a pretty good thing. When bad things happen, we’re all off to church, even people who don’t normally go to church. Most funerals are still held at churches. There are Christian bookstores all over the place. As Christians, we get our self-help books from Christian bookstores. (I suspect they say largely the same thing as non-Christian books, just with a Christian veneer.) Our family is going to a Christian camp for a week of relaxation and fun this next week. It’s quite easy to be a Christian around here – or at least to say you are. Go forward in church, fill out the papers, and you’ve joined the club.
That’s not how it is in other parts of the world. “ . . . in China, India, and the Muslim world . . . there is no Christian subculture that allows a person to participate in a Christian life that amounts to little more than expressing a preference for a particular type of religious entertainment. In those societies, if you aren’t willing to suffer, go to prison, or die, you aren’t going to be a Christian.” (Mere Churchianity, p.192) And yet, these are the places where the Gospel is taking off. These are the people who want to be like Jesus.
When you think about it, what Jesus taught was counter-cultural and “undomesticated”:
- Seek peace before your own needs (Matt. 5:9)
- Give freely to others (Matt. 5:42)
- Love your enemies (Matt. 5:43-47)
- Seek first God’s kingdom and don’t worry about your physical needs (Matt 6:33)
- You must be willing to leave your family to serve me (Matt 10:35) (Talk about your “family values”)
- Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 3:16)
- Jesus claimed to be God (John 4:26)
- And much, much more!!
Yet, here I am, in 21st century USA, living a very comfortable, “domesticated” Christian life. Do I give freely to others? I’ve been to Caracas and seen the barrios. I know the grinding poverty in which they live. Is my hand truly open to those in my own neighborhood as well as the world? Do I speak freely about the Jesus I say that I serve or is it easier to be silent? Am I worried that people will think I’m some kind of Jesus freak? The disciples certainly weren’t worried. And I certainly talk a good game about making sure to not stay secluded in the Christian ghetto.
I want to live a life completely directed by God. And I doubt that’s going to be a domesticated Christian life, because that’s not the kind of life Jesus lived. I may not be a homeless, itinerant preacher in 1st century Palestine, but I want to live the way Jesus would live if he was a 42 year old homeschooling mom in the Upper Midwest. Hmmm.
What do you think of the concept of domesticated Christianity? How can we “undomesticate” our faith and start to live like Jesus?