Out Of Pessimism

I read about the pessimism of Americans, and it disappoints me.

In a recent AssociatedPress-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, 54% of respondents felt that life was better in the 1970s in America and that life will be worse in America by 2050. Only 23% of respondents said that life would be better by 2050.

Seriously, we need to stop being Debbie Downers and Negative Nellies. No offense meant to the Debbies and Nellies out there. And really, where is the negative male name?

We can make a better tomorrow. But we can't if we are discouraged and give up. We can throw our hands up in the air, adopt the victim mindset, and let circumstances control us. Or we can dream and work toward something greater.

Get involved in an organization making your community better. I'm biased toward the church, but even if you are an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, or Hindu, get active in some organization making the world better. Stop attacking and start improving. Stop hating and start loving. Stop sitting and start changing.

If we have a gloomy outlook about our future, then our future will be gloomy. That is nearly a given. Don't confuse this with me saying that a positive outlook will automatically bring a better tomorrow. It may not, but a better tomorrow will not come with a gloomy outlook.

Start living today the way you want to be tomorrow.

And my Christian friends, abandon the escapist/combative mentalities that have infiltrated our Christian culture and start making this world a better place. Your faith is supposed to spur you into action, not make you feel comfortable about complacency.

I recently ran across an amazing story. This is an edited version from the original told by Mark Forstrom, a youth minister from that community who just celebrated twenty years of youth ministry at the same church.

On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine School Shooting, Marilyn Manson was scheduled to perform in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The shooters following of  Manson and the lyrics of his songs sparked some Christians into outrage, spurring a local protest movement that planned to picket, protest, and petition the concert. The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Manson supporters. The outlook was grim. In contrast to the opposing and aggressive approach, a small band of faithful believers had been fervently praying for four weeks that God would be glorified through the Manson concert. God was about to answer their prayers.

Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Another movement sprang to life that believed the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. They perceived that the heart of Manson and his fans had been hardened by their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental. Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure love of Jesus to these fans.

The concert day finally arrived, and tension filled the community. The media geared up for an ugly battle between Manson fans and the Christian opposition.

Instead, they observed an amazing example of the love of Jesus. Scores of Christians converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center to show unmistakable love.

The list of tangible loving actions is a mile long, but here are some of the highlights. One church purchased 100 pizzas and gave them to the fans in line. Over 1,200 cans of pop were given away. Cookies were given out. Candy bars were distributed. After the concert, Christians paid for the parking of the concertgoers.

People continually asked, “Why are you doing this?” and listened to the answer about the love of Jesus. Faces of fans looked surprised as they approached the arena, expecting conflict, but finding love instead. Motorists passed by and did “double takes” as they saw tables heaped with food instead of picket lines. In school the next day, many reported being impressed with the love showed by the Christians.

As for the concert itself, God worked there as well. After only an hour, Manson abruptly ended the concert early. During his "Nazi/antichrist” stage set, he suddenly flew into a rage throwing his microphone to the ground, knocking the drum set off its platform, and storming off the stage. Everyone in the audience looked around, puzzled by what they had just witnessed. The crowd shouted, “Manson! Manson! Manson!” but he didn't return, never reaching the point in the set where he would have ripped up a Bible.

What was the cause of his temper tantrum? News reports say he went into an absolute rage when he saw a large “smiley face” on a stage prop that had been placed by one of his own crew members, presumably as a joke on the last concert of the tour. God can use the “simple” things of the world like a smiley face to humble the "wise." Many fans felt the concert was a letdown.

To summarize Marilyn Manson’s visit to Cedar Rapids in early 1999, it can be said that many fans came to the concert convinced that Christians were irritating and that Marilyn Manson was impressive. Many left the concert feeling that Marilyn Manson was irritating and that Jesus was impressive. Think of how much closer to the kingdom thousands of kids might be as a result of this unforeseen outreach event.

We need to not spend our time and energy being opposed to the world. We need to spend our time and energy being the Kingdom Jesus died to establish. Let's be for something; not against something.

If we went to a pagan nation as missionaries and they were going to have a pagan concert/celebration, we wouldn't ask, "How can we protest this event?" Instead, we would ask, "How can we love these people?" Why do we find it so hard to live as followers of Jesus in our own culture?

Jesus taught us to pray, "Your (that's God) Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." His will. Here. Now. Can you see that kingdom? Through us loving, growing, changing, and giving. Drop the pessimism. Live for Jesus.

Live. Truly live.