The 7 Rabbits of Slyly Defective People

or What’s Beneath the warm fuzzy appearances within the Christian community

Larry Crabb once wrote:

We must learn to tell the story of our lives—how we impact others, how we’ve been damaged by others, how we feel about God—in order to disrupt the sinful attitudes and practices that still remain. Telling our stories requires us to face painful truths about ourselves. And once we’ve faced those truths, we will again feel the noble passion to love, to be and to worship, passions planted in our hearts by God’s Spirit.“1

I wish rabbits could talk.

When I was about 5 years old, I saw my first magician on television. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with tails, white shirt and a black bow tie. Those were the finest pair of black shiny shoes I had ever seen. He was sporting a black, handlebar mustache. He was so graceful it was as if he was floating across the stage. He looked magical to me. He explained that he was about to pull a rabbit out of a hat. He even showed the audience the white silk lining in the empty top hat. I was mesmerized by the thought of it. He motioned his magic wand over the empty hat two or three times and then, “Abracadabra!” He pulled a big white, floppy eared rabbit out of the hat. I went berserk!

I was laser focused on the television jumping up and down shouting “Mom! Mom!” I was screaming like an alien was abducting me. Mom dashed into the living room, as I pointed frantically to the television. The magician was parading around the stage proudly displaying the bunny for all to see. He was holding the rabbit by the scruff of its neck, which I thought was kind of cruel. Mom explained that this is the way rabbits prefer to be carried. I was relieved. The magician passed the rabbit to a scantily clad woman, took a bow and departed stage left. I stood there vibrating with awe.

Pulling rabbits out of hats is what this book is all about. We humans adore being entertained, even when we know that there’s more than meets the eye. My parents didn’t ruin the rabbit pulled out of the hat thing for me. Church did. Christianity and Christians did.

I’ll never forget that Easter morning Sunday when, after the service, I went out onto the church lawn for my first Easter egg hunt. After I found my first piece of candy, I looked up for my mom and there he was: Chet, our next-door neighbor, dressed up like an Easter bunny. Believe me, Chet was nowhere near anything remotely resembling the pictures of any Easter bunny I had ever seen. Chet was short, stocky and had a huge beer gut, like a woman about to give birth to twins or quadruplets. He always smelled like beer and chain-smoked Camel straights. When I saw Chet, with those phony bunny whiskers painted on his mug, my Easter bunny world began to crumble. Chet had a big black hat in one hand. I saw him put a bunny in it. He made a few awkward moves with one hand over the top of the hat and then pulled the bunny out. Some kids were amazed and squealed with delight. Me, I ran as fast as I could to my mom, screaming and crying my brains out. As we walked to the car, I threw my Easter candy toward Chet, sobbing, cradled in the arms of my mother.

I’ve had the same kinds of experiences with the Christian church, Christians, and those tilling the spiritual growth field…sometimes it seems as if rabbits are being pulled out of hats. Although I have been an intrigued spectator, and even a participant, I have concluded that there are some practices, rituals, popular thought processes and events that claim the name of Christ that have absolutely nothing to do with sewing good seed, raising high yield disciples of Jesus, and becoming the transformed harvest that God yearns for, capable of creating His kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Christianity in the western, developed world continues pulling rabbits out of hats slyly, yet deceptively, attempting to persuade those around us, and even ourselves, about the validity of our act. Yet, we’re the one’s on life’s stage each and every day, claiming we are Christians, performing this deception! What’s wrong with us? The rabbits aren’t the problem. It’s the people pulling them out of the hat! These are The 7 Rabbits of Slyly Defective People this issue will explore.

Imagine that you wake up, surrounded by 7 Rabbits. They have been living within the Christian community during the past several decades. These rabbits have heard every sermon, every song, every prayer and all the conversations that have taken place. They have been daily observers our behavior. These rabbits can talk. They became concerned and began to pray. God heard and answered their prayer. He sent them to the Christian community to deliver His message. What does God tell us through these rabbits about 7 characteristics we Christians presently possess that must be unlearned, discarded or grown out of?

First, I wrote a poem entitled “The 7 Rabbits of Slyly Defective People” that provides the context for this theme. You can find it here. I hope you enjoy it and it causes you to think about this question on a personal, missional and community level. It is designed to not only spur contemplation, but dialogue with others.

Next, I wrote seven poems that, for me, illustrate the heart of the 7 points I would like to share with you, pertinent to this theme. These 7 poems address the following question: What are the 7 things we Christians must unlearn, discard or repent of (according to the 7 Rabbits sent by God) – Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Selfishness – Enjoy my story entitled “Sell Fish.” Return here to contemplate the following from C.S. Lewis: “The natural life in each one of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and the air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right. It knows that if the spiritual life gets a hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.”2

2. Survival – I hope you appreciate the poem, “The Sky is Falling.” When you’ve finished reading the poem, return here to contemplate the following: “We have learned that maintaining the status quo serves neither God nor the people He loves.”3  There are those who recognize that “Christianity cannot survive in anything like it’s present form.” 4

3. Promises – My prayer is that “Promise Says” provides you with food for thought. Upon completing the poem, return here to consider this from Charles Handy: “If the new way of doing things is going to be different from the old, not just an improvement on it, then we shall need to look at everything in a new way. The new words really will signal new ideas. Not unnaturally, discontinuous upside-down thinking has never been popular with upholders of continuity and the status quo.” 5

4. Cynicism and Doubt – I hope my poem entitled “Do You Believe This?” will provide you with some additional fodder to ponder. After you read the poem, return here to pray about this from author Lee Strobel: “It’s the decision to follow the best light you have about God and not quit. The idea of choice runs all through the Scripture. Look at Joshua. He says to choose this day whom you’re going to serve, but as for him and his house, they will serve the Lord. So faith, at it’s taproot is a decision of the will….Consequently, at it’s core, faith is a decision of the will that we keep on making, but we’re given an option by God’s grace. We’re empowered to keep making it by His Spirit. And, it’s a choice we must make without having all the complete information we’d like to have.” 6

5. Illusions – My poem entitled “Illusion” should get things started. After you read it, return here to consider the insights of Daniel J. Levinson: “As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions; a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”7  Maybe the tendency to be perplexed is a gift, rather than something to be avoided. I hope you appreciate my poem entitled  “Illusion.”

6. Hypocrisy – The unveiled face of a current social issue in the U.S. provides the basis for illustrating this reality. The poem is entitled “Discrimmigration.” When you’re done, contemplate this: George Barna, pre-eminent scholar, author and social researcher on Christianity in the U.S. writes; “We witness a born-again population that is indistinguishable from the rest of the nation – and has very little credibility when it comes to promoting genuine Christianity.” 8

7. Counting the wrong stuff – We live in a world that counts. I wrote an article called “Counting Character” that I hope delivers the message. Return here to consider this: “What really counts (emphasis is mine) is whether we see the overlooked and forgotten in our midst.”9  Brian McLaren notes, “Faith that counts, (emphasis is mine) then, is not the absence of doubt, it’s the presence of action.”10  Furthermore, that we must embrace the risks that these opportunities present, whether we can see them at the outset or not. Faith without risks isn’t faith. Faith without works – well you know how this phrase ends.

Madeleine L’Engle once wrote:

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”11

Write your story. Share your story. Tell your story in new and creative ways. We hope this template provides you with just one example of how we might begin to tell our stories in new and creative ways. We are always interested in your comments, feedback, poems, letters emails, songs, thoughts and articles. Tell us what you learned, what grabbed you…tell us the story of your Porpoise Diving Life.

Until then, our blessings to you and yours.

Bill Dahl

Notes:

  1. 1. Crabb, Dr. Larry, INSIDE OUT, NAVPRESS, Colorado, Springs, CO. 1988, p.31
  2. 2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco – A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, (c) 1952, p. 178.
  3. 3. Caldwell, Kirbyjon & Kallenstad, Walt with Sorensen, Paul Entrepreneurial Faith – Launching Bold Initiatives to Expand God’s Kingdom, WaterBrook Press, A Division of Random House, Inc., Copyright © 2004 by Kirbyjon Caldwell, Walt Kallenstadt and Paul Sorensen, p. 1.
  4. 4. Jenkins, Philip The Next Christendom, Oxford University Press, New York, New York  Copyright © 2002 by Philip Jenkins p. 9.
  5. 5. Handy, Charles The Age of Unreason, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts Copyright (c) 1989 by Charles Handy p. 23
  6. 6. Strobel, Lee The Case For Christ, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. Copyright (c) 2000, pp.236-7.
  7. 7. Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1978, p.192
  8. 8. Barna, George The State of the Church: 2002, Published by Issachar Resources, a division of Barna Research Group, Ltd., 5528 Everglades Street Ventura, CA 93003 Copyright © 2002 by George Barna p.128.
  9. 9. Main, Bruce Spotting The Sacred – Noticing God in the Most Unlikely Places, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright © by Bruce Main, p. 223.
  10. 10. McLaren, Brian The Secret Message of Jesus – Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything, W Publishing -A Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright 2006 by Brian D. McLaren p. 109.
  11. 11. L’Engle, Madeleine and Chase, Carol F. Reflections on a Writing Life, Shaw Publications, Copyright © 2001

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