Keith Wishum: Replicas or the real thing?

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, September 13, 2015

Beverly Buchanan is a popular Atlanta artist who “who explores Southern vernacular architecture in her art.” It seems that Ms. Buchanan established herself in the 1980s as the leading creator of imitation shacks. In 1988, she was paid $14,000 for a 12 sq.-ft. sheet metal shack that was placed in a park in southwest Atlanta.
The sculpture was intended to be seen, but not occupied. However, some citizens of Atlanta had other ideas. Local homeless folks cut a door in the sheet metal and moved in.
The city, finding a real shack to be somewhat less attractive than an artistic one, soon removed the sculpture from the park and stored it. Officials then spent $2,000 to restore the shack to “mint” condition (minus the door) and gave it to a private arts group.
Apparently, there was more interest in a replica than in the real thing. Might we do the same thing religiously?
Is it possible that we want lives that look religious without the messy bother of the real thing? Might we sometimes want to be thought of as good, church folk – Christians – without having to actually be like the Christ?
After all, Jesus was a radical vagabond. He upset people. He caused trouble. He was forever rocking the boat, mixing with the wrong crowd, crossing racial lines that weren’t to be crossed, challenging the respected leaders. Do we really want to be like that?
When Christmas rolls around, do we prefer our nativities without the dirt and smells of a barnyard? When we tell the Christmas story, do we leave out the part about the slaughtered babies of Bethlehem? We want church services with sweet, cherub-cheeked innocence. (Who is this Jesus who would storm the sanctuary kicking over tables and calling the pastors “snakes” and “gilded graves”?) We buy our crosses polished smooth and shiny. No splinters and blood for us, please.
But Jesus doesn’t want a replica home; He wants our hearts to be places where he really lives. Places where his radical ideas come alive and show up at work, or at school, and in the way we treat our family and neighbors, even our enemies.
Is there a door in your heart? Is it open to this radical? If so, he promises to move in and turn your little shack into a glorious palace fit for a king. That, after all, is who will be living there if you let him in.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.