I’d like to introduce you to Tony Kriz. He’s not afraid to grapple with challenging, contradictory, or seemingly impossible concepts. In his book, Aloof: Figuring Out Life with a God Who Hides, he speaks openly about the spiritual questions and failures of his Christian journey with God. After all, Immanuel (“God with Us”) isn’t exactly with us in a way our physical minds can grasp.
Watch this short video, in which Tony explains why our tendency to group with like-minded people makes us feel safe, but limits our growth. We don’t want others to challenge our ideas, especially our ideas about God, so we isolate ourselves from anyone who could question us. But Tony says our ideas are like Play-Doh and they need to be poked. This doesn’t threaten the idea; it actually strengthens it.
Homogenous Christianity and the Need to Mix Things Up
Book Excerpt from Aloof by Tony Kriz
The vast majority of societal patterns gather people into affinity organizations. What I mean is, there are forces all around us (and within us) that cause us to want to be with people who are just like we are. Rich people tend to gather with rich people and poor with poor. We stick to our cultural subgroups. We tend to organize in racial and class distinctions. We are naturally drawn according to political, educational, and recreational distinctions. You could say that this is most evidenced in the Christian church of North America. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning is one of the most, if not the most, segregated hour in Christian America.”
In our affinity gatherings we make unspoken contracts with one another. There are ideas that we are allowed to explore (and others that we are not), sins we are willing to confront (and others that we silently agree to ignore), and we subtly enable together our shared lifestyle patterns. All of this is quite easy since we all come from a similar background; we tend to have all the same blind spots. With no “minority report” present to change the rhythm of exchange, the group tends to continue on the same, year after year. It is no wonder that so many churches feel like they never “grow deeper” or expand to new forms of transformation.
My new “group” intentionally existed to shatter those patterns. Young people were invited to confront the elders in the group. Poor men could prophetically speak into the lives of the rich. And, Lord have mercy, the African Americans took our white behinds to task.
There are many times that I have found myself on the operating table of this communal confrontation. My prejudices, my patterns of false validation my arrogance, my cowardice—these were all the open privy of the circle. It was a process that we referred to as “surgery without anesthesia,” and while on one hand I wouldn’t recommend it, there may, in fact, be no greater gift.
My Uncle Richard, who died unexpectedly this year, is a Lakota Sioux, born on the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota. He was a husband, a father, a friend, a scholar, and a dear resident of our circle. Uncle Richard once said, “Before I entered the circle, I never knew God was black. I had never before heard God speak to me through the mouth of a black man.” And when I look around our circle, I am learning to understand exactly what he means.
There is a unique power when we dare to listen to God speak to us through the mouth of those who are radically other, to discover that God is black, God is red, God is poor, incarcerated, sick, or a stranger (“as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me”).
–Tony Kriz, Aloof, page 191.
Are you willing to let others—especially those who may hold different beliefs from you—poke at your beliefs? If you are willing to separate your beliefs from your sense of identity, you won’t feel personally threatened by looking at your beliefs from different angles. How does this make you feel?
How do you feel when people hold different beliefs from you? What can you do to be more accessible so others can interact with your beliefs and compare them with their own?
|Aloof: Figuring Out Life with a God Who Hides
By Tony Kriz / W Publishing
“God, are you there?” is a near universal cry of the human heart. We have all longed for God to be tangible. Some might sway to worship music, others go on missions, others fast from food. The universal quest is to feel the divine . . . and yet the divine seems aloof, even shy. In this narrative-driven book, Tony Kriz leads the reader on a journey of “orchestrated epiphanies” along the eternal quest to tangibly encounter God, including the unpredictable moments that give us hope, and even more so, the long gaps between those moments that challenge our faith.
Written in an authentic, conversational style, Aloof is easily accessible to those who don’t know much about the Bible, yet the message is still theologically informed and culturally relevant. This book will help you process how God acts uniquely towards us, depending upon each stage of life. The chapters include contemporary real-life stories that normalize the experience of an often hidden God, while also aiding the reader to acknowledge the very real moments (rare though they may be) when God has shown up in a tangible way.
This post is part of the Virtual Book Fair: Christian Authors A to Z. See the list of other authors featured in the Virtual Book Fair.