Disruptive Witness

Through coffee and the ever brilliant breakfast of toast (like a true millennial), I shared with my friend the answers beneath the normal, “How are you?”

James and I had decided on the fourth of July, it would be a perfect day to see the new documentary out on Mr. Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? For all of the dissonance we have been feeling as this world seems to be groaning louder than usual, or rather, I finally have ears to hear it; it felt fitting to watch someone we felt actually embodied the call to love those around him, including those deemed as "other." We sat in our seats frozen for a few minutes while credits rolled, with tears in our eyes and not a whole lot of words to say.

We jumped into the hot car, immediately our legs sticking to steamy leather seats, and words began to flow.

It’s been a difficult season that begs for much prophetic witness. The path of the Cross does not seem to be the mantle of the Church anymore, at least, not here in America. The fraudulent cries of the wandering sheep find themselves worshipping a Savior they don’t want to be crucified, desiring the same as many before us, a christ that is the biggest, toughest protector of self instead of the Christ who was humble and suffered, undoing what we thought the blessed looked like, compassionate to the hungry crowd before Him. While calling themselves Christians, even the basic markings of repentance seem to be lacking.

Mr. Rogers was a man that was burdened. There was a righteous anger set before him as he observed the world around him and thought of the plethora of messages that not only was he hearing, but soft, moldable children were hearing as well.

Love is at the root of everything—all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.
— Fred Rogers

This man embodied a walk living as witness to the world around Him that there was another way, a better way. While the world continued to make a consumer out of the masses, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood welcomed them into thoughtful reflection and careful introspection, through story, song, and conversation. Though the gospel was not explicitly preached or taught, which is certainly the crux of our witness, much of what he did gave rise to the question of: “How are you this way? Why are you this way?” It seems so simple, and yet, there is so much that feels lost in our distracted world.

Alan Noble’s book releasing next week, Disruptive Witness, is a thoughtful voice for the many of us that embrace thoughtlessness throughout our days. Although we blindly take in the liturgies of the world, we have been given a grace that unsettles and upsets the whole of our lives, scales peeled off piece by piece, that marks us as different.

We have an obligation to examine ourselves and see how we may unknowingly find our meaning and justification in one of the billion micronarratives that fill our culture. In fact, I would venture to say that most of us have already adopted parts of these secular visions of fullness. To take the most personally convicting example, many of us who profess faith in Christ actually find most of our existential justification in romance or career success or intelligence or beauty or popularity, and we find our meaning in a secular telos of achievement. If we try to bear witness to Christ’s finished work on the cross, but in practice we have set our eyes on some secular vision of fullness, our faith will be perceived as just another consumer preference, something we can add to our current lifestyle.
— Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

I told my friend that I felt heavy, but in an odd sort of way, paradoxically thankful to feel the burdens. Something as little as a documentary on the late Mr. Rogers and his lasting impact, provided another model for what it looks like to live faithfully in this world, a disruptive witness himself, creatively showing the world something different altogether to behold by neighborliness. It is not an ignorance of the world and sin that heals, but an acknowledgement of the way things are and of the God that is here that will reveal sight and birth hope. There are an immense amount of ways in which we can actively practice and even make a habit of enjoying the great commission and greatest commandments; need is something abundant everywhere.

The gospel is not a preference. It’s not another piece of flair we add to our vest. It’s something far more beautiful and disturbing. The gospel is the power to raise the dead, to proclaim the greatness of God in a fallen and confused world. To be a follower of Christ in the early twenty-first century requires a way of being in the world that resists being sucked into the numbing glare of undifferentiated preferences we choose from to define our identity.
— Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

For someone who has overwhelming tendencies to be perfectionistic, consumed with appearance, hungry with ambition and lusting for constant approval (truly, a child of America), the gospel upends and flips my world into Truth. Putting on the new and running far from the old forces every part of me to look up, to confess, “I believe; help my unbelief.” As I once more open my phone to scroll through instagram, mindlessly thumbing on, distracted and undisturbed, may I allow this circumcised heart to be cut through by the Spirit again, and listen. We become what we behold, what we worship, what we thoughtlessly plunge our hands into, and Jesus breaks in through His sufficient sacrifice that we might follow.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
— 2 Corinthians 5:14-15