What Do I Stand For? (July 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Adam Metz

Most nights I don’t know. How’s that for a postmodern answer?

There I was, on my way home from the office one day enjoying the local Top 40 radio station, and I hear someone belt out the following words,

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck<br>Some nights, I call it a draw. Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle<br>Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off But I still wake up, I still see your ghost…Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh…What do I stand for? What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know anymore…/

I’ve been wrestling with the meaning of the lyrics for a couple of weeks now, and I’m not sure I’ve made much headway. Having checked out a few message boards, I’ve been led to believe that the lead singer of Fun. is either wrestling with the group’s rise to prominence or reflecting on some family issues. Here’s a place you can read other’s interpretations. Here’s another. Maybe they’ve got it figured out, but it seems to me there’s more going on here – and it seems, at least to me, to be a pretty heavy message.

After I heard the music, I wanted to check out the video. Go ahead and give it a watch. (They do drop the “F” bomb about two-thirds of the way through at 3:50, so if that’s going to offend you, you’ll just have to skip over it.) Really, you should check it out.

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In the song, Fun.’s lead singer Nate Ruess’ powerful vocals give way to a powerful, rhythmic beat worthy of the battle scene they choose as the setting for the video. This adds another layer of complexity as to the meaning of these lyrics, and gives my opinion further credence – these guys are doing more than simply talking about relationships … they’re making some heavy social commentary.

Ever since I first heard the song, I’ve been wrestling with the question myself: “What do I stand for?” What do I stand for? I’m a minister – have been one for a long time, so you’d think the answers would flow easily off my tongue. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so bothered by the song. I haven’t received some easy answer. As a matter of fact, I seem to resonate more with the ambiguity of the lyrics, “Most nights, I don’t know, anymore.”

I grew up being told that I had to know. I had to know, so that I could tell everyone else who didn’t know. Every week, for forty minutes, we were told what we believed. We were told why we believed it. We were told why they were trustworthy, why we could stake our very life on their truthfulness. But strange things started happening.

Those true things that I could “know without a shadow of a doubt” didn’t line up with my experiences. The New Testament pattern that I was told laid out in detail how to do church today didn’t hold up under scrutiny – even a little scrutiny. I had been told my whole life that using instruments during worship was a sin that God abhorred. That just didn’t jibe with any kind of reasonable reading of the Psalms (also in the Bible, by the way). I always kind of felt like Kevin Bacon going before the school board in Footloose, reminding the pastor leading the meeting that David danced before God – so how could dancing be wrong? [OK, it has come to my attention that that reference is almost twenty years old, so you better take a moment to check this out]:

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I was told that our particular brand of church was the only authentic one. That, too, just didn’t jibe. I began meeting people from all different branches of Christianity – many with a stronger and more passionate desire to follow the God of the Bible than anyone I had ever met. I remember going to a Catholic friend’s house and observing as they prayed before we ate dinner – my family never prayed before dinner, but were we to be more justified because of how we managed our Sunday gatherings? That just didn’t make sense to me.

I began reading books by Christians who were from other theological persuasions that me, and yet who immensely blessed my life. It just seemed so strange that God would condemn such good-hearted servants of God. That just didn’t seem like the kind of God that I read about in the Bible.

It’s certainly been a humbling journey. You see, when I had all the answers (at least the important ones), it was a much safer position to be in. Everything more or less revolved around my perspective. I got to choose who was in and who was out. I got to prepare the litmus test, and if you didn’t pass it – hey, maybe you’ll come around after awhile – but I’ve got the answers. Take away my certainty … well … that takes away my power, and I like power.

It was nice living in the luxurious (luxurious, at least, for Christians) world of Christendom when we could spend our time bickering about certain theological particularities with other brands of Christians and spend a whole lot of effort debating who was in and who was out. This entire article, to this point, pretty much serves a time that no longer exists. And yet so many of us are still spending our time here.

Our church is in a pretty conservative, Midwestern setting that is mostly white … and yet, times are a-changing. In the past year, our small, affluent suburb has seen the completion of two noteworthy construction projects: the Sri Sabab Hindu temple around the corner from our church building and the Jain Center of Central Ohio [www.jcoco.org] just down the road. As we sit around and try to figure out which Christians we’ll associate with and which ones we won’t, a more complicated socio-religious situation has been brewing, and it’s a situation where sectarians will eventually fade into irrelevancy.

This burgeoning pluralistic world is teaching me that I have not been trained to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in this setting. It is humbling me – helping me see just how few answers that I have. After having realized that so much of what I believed in my early Christian years I no longer profess, I speak much more humbly. I look for points of convergence instead of always looking for a fight. I try to see the image of God in all those whom I talk with – Christians and non-Christians. I have come to realize that God has got a pretty good handle on things, so I should trust him and seek to live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, and to be as much like the early disciples as I can – seeking to live peacefully among all men (Hebrews 12:14).

To say I don’t know what I stand for is to use hyperbole to some extent, but it is true that the list of things I’m willing to fight for seems to get smaller and smaller with each passing day. May the Jesus people once again be known as people of peace.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataDecember 6th, 2013
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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