Fun: an Essay

by Marc Zeedar,

I have experienced a revolution.

It started when I realized I hated being a Christian. I've known for a while that I was reluctant to call myself a 'Christian,' but I thought this had to do with my hesitance to associate myself with the hypocritical and stereotypical Christian images.

I now know that I perceived Christianity to be such a burden that I wanted no part of it. Christianity, to me, was the politics of churchgoing: semi-sincere smiles, long and hypocritical preaching, the 'universal' desire to be elsewhere, and the public show of prayer. In short, Christianity was hell.

I hated church and it was a mystery to me why I or anyone else tolerated being there. (Those there always seemed to be anxious enough to get out.)

So in the latter part of my senior year of high school I stopped going to church. In part this was a boycott; it was my way of protesting hypocrisy. Mostly I did not enjoy church, and I usually found I could reach a spiritual "high" even better on my own, just me and my God. There was no value in church.

It has now been over four years since I have gone to church regularly. Yet it is important to understand that this had relatively little effect on my spiritual life.

In high school and in college I was learning to think; so of course I applied the techniques I had learned in debate and essay-writing to Christianity. Under this analysis Christianity sank like a stone boat, but God stood up to scrutiny. There was no hypocrisy in Him.

As I result I began to intellectualize God; I needed Him to be explainable, understandable, convenient. In time I formed my own mental image of God, infinitely rational and logical.

It was thus that my faith remained unshaken. Unfortunately there were problems. I knew that God wanted me to go to church and He wanted me to tell others about His Plan. But I couldn't (wouldn't) go to church, and I couldn't tell others about God because He only belonged to me. As an image in my mind I could not fully explain Him. Worse yet, based on my debate experience, I knew I could in no way engage anyone in a test of knowledge about God-they would probably know more scripture than I did! I mean, I did not even know what the Assemblies of God believed. And there was that church obstacle-if Christians couldn't understand my view, how could non-Christians?

Now the logical conclusion to the above obstacles would be to clarify my values and to diligently devote myself to learning all about my God. But doing that would mean studying the Bible, which would be boring, and I wasn't going to do anything boring.

So for the past couple of years I drifted aimlessly in the spiritual cage I built. I was happy inside, but could not communicate my happiness to anyone, and I could not escape.

Over the past few months I began to feel God pressuring me to take a stand and believe something. (Every time I heard the verse about being either cold or hot-not warm-my blood would run cold.)

I was becoming my own nightmare-the ultimate hypocrite. (I guess you've noticed that I abhor hypocrisy.) I had a personally relationship with Christ that I couldn't explain, and I wasn't fulfilling a Christian's duties.

Then God gave me a book. It was by an author I heard speak at Bethany, and whom I had a great respect, mostly because he so bluntly stated the Gospel, regardless of whether or not it was what people wanted to hear.

The book is Who Switched the Price Tags? by Tony Campolo. I noticed it had something to do with Christian values in a modern world, and that was enough. I was confused and I knew it, and though I knew the Bible would have the answers I needed, I was reluctant to open it.

But I did open Campolo's book. Every word spoke to my heart as though he had been studying me for years and written the book just for me.

The first shock was Campolo's use of the F-word. I had never heard a Christian use it, let alone use it to describe Christianity. I described Christianity with the B-word, Boredom, but Campolo called it Fun.

What? Christians are allowed to have, God forbid, FUN???

This I had never heard. But in the very first sentence of the introduction Campolo writes: "This book is about having fun."

This was revolutionary. It so fit my philosophy of life that I was stunned. Was there hope? Could I be a Christian and have fun too?


Before I continued I must backtrack for a moment and tell you about an important philosophy of my life and how I came to believe it.

In fifth grade I had a teacher named Mrs. E. Now this was while I was in Africa, and this teacher was a personal friend of my mother, and as a result, of my own.

However, in class, this made for awkward situations (at least for me). I was rebellious and rude, and not at all nice to this person who was a friend when not my teacher. I remember one particular incident in which I wanted to read instead of listen, and proceeded to do so in spite of Mrs. E's admonishments. Finally she told me to put the book on her desk, and in a rage I threw the book at her desk, knocking off a potted plant of which she was fond.

Almost immediately I felt ashamed. Here I had destroyed the personal property of a friend, and only because I was selfish. I don't remember exactly what happened after that, except that did not receive the punishment I expected. (I expected to be thrown off the balcony [we were on the second floor]. That's what I would have done if I had been her.)

In fact, I am not sure if I received any kind of punishment at all. (It didn't matter anyway, because I was truly sorry-and not getting punished only made me feel worse.) What I do remember, however, was a conversation that stemmed from this event.

I told Mrs. E that I hadn't felt like working, that was why I was reading. Then she told me something curious, so curious because it was coming from an adult. She told me I didn't have to work. She told me I didn't have to do anything. I didn't have to breathe, if I so desired.

Wow! This was great! The bane of my existence was having to do things I didn't want to (like going to church). This was the solution to all my problems . . . .

"Of course," said Mrs. E, "you have to live with the consequences."

Woah! Hold those horses! This didn't change anything. If there still were consequences . . . .

But I soon came to the conclusion that it did make a difference. A big difference. Because now I looked at every action I took as a choice. If I chose to take the consequences, I could. It was up to me.

At that moment I became an adult. From then on, every choice I made, from breathing to fighting, I made the choice. I lived with the consequences. I took the risks and reaped the rewards.

So at the age of twelve, I resolved never to do anything I did not want to do. (This might sound selfish, but I believe it is a freeing philosophy-it gives you the control of your own fate. A person who gives his own life to save that of another [the ultimate act of selflessness] is still acting under his own free will.) And since I was a kid, that meant I would never do anything that wasn't fun. (Unless the consequences were too undesirable, and much of the time they were.)

So, back to Campolo-my philosophy of life is to have fun, and here Campolo comes along and says that religion is fun! (Sounds like the perfect match, eh?)

I was so excited. Religion was fun!

Now I can guess what you are thinking: "If his religion wasn't fun before, what makes it fun now?" To support this, Campolo spends many pages showing how a person's attitude is all that matters. If you believe you are having fun, you really will have fun, whether you are washing dishes, kicking a soccer ball, or having your teeth drilled.

For me, however, those pages were not needed, because I was already well aware of that fact. Many times I have made unpleasant chores fun by simply deciding that they should be fun. Almost every routine thing I do (like driving) is a game to me. It is great.

And the same applies to whatever God wants me to do. A few weeks ago I would have rather died than become a pastor. Now that does not seem awful at all, if that is what God wants for me.

My problem with Christianity was that I regarded it as a necessary evil. It never occurred to me that Christianity was supposed to be fun. By simply mentioning the idea Campolo helped set me free.

Now am I excited about God like I haven't been since I was a little boy. You see, I now have something to share with others! How could I convince others to turn to a religion that I hated? But if Christianity is fun, well, anybody can sell fun!

That also meant I did not need theological knowledge to share the Gospel. All I need to know is the joy of Christ that sets one free. I can't explain it, I can't understand it, but I can share it!

I have always felt joy when I interacted with God (those "spiritual highs"), but I never had a mechanism to share them. Now I realize that Christianity is that mechanism-it provides a uniform set of ideas and beliefs that all Christians can relate to and communicate through. And church is simply a part of that mechanism-it provides an outlet for that unrepressable joy, a method for spiritual renewal, and contact with others of like mind.

It's all so clear. And so simple. I always avoided the complexity of religions, even Christianity. The church and its purpose always confused me. But now I understand.

As for those hypocrites, they become irrelevant. At a party, does it matter if a few don't want to be there? They should be encouraged and welcomed with such warmth and enthusiasm they should be reluctant to leave. And as Campolo correctly points out (and my own experience illustrates), we are all hypocrites, whether we like it or not.

I think Campolo's book is exactly the message that young people of today need. In a world where materialism (fun) is preached from every angle the Christian viewpoint is desperately needed. And the price of Christianity is no price at all-it is true freedom.

In George MacDonald's "The Wow O'Rivven" the author writes, speaking of the village idiot, "He lived a life without aim, and apparently to no purpose; in this resembling most of his more gifted fellow-men, who, with all the tools and materials necessary for building a noble mansion, are yet content with a clay hut."

Isn't that exactly what the world does with Christianity? God has provided the way to true freedom, to true peace of mind, to true Life; yet people perceive the price to high to pay. But the price is the reward! They are the same!

Let's go forth and preach fun!


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