Apart from a small area in the south, Australia is severely drought stricken, the severity and longevity of which depending on where one lives. This has been so for several years. Some areas, five to six years. Consequently there are rigid restrictions on our use of water in most metropolitan and urban areas. Many farmers simply cannot plant crops or grow feed for livestock; many have sold everything. Some have simply walked off their farms. Water is the subject of most conversations.
The water supply for S.E.Queensland, the population of which is 2.8 million is now down to 15% of storage capacity. This is where I live.
I have always been a keen gardener, mainly growing a wide variety of vegetables for our own consumption and to share with neighbors, but restrictions on water usage have meant that is not possible.
I like fresh vegetables, so, a few months ago I decided that I would experiment with hydroponic growing as a means of using much less water (growing without soil). No digging and bending for people like me who have backs which don’t bend painlessly.
The vegetables are just as tasty as any grown in soil, despite my initial skepticism, and what the purists will tell you, and every bit as nutritious, and the plants look really beautiful in their glistening white tubes, and so very clean, nothing to mar their appearance, but without doubt their environment is certainly very artificial.
As I was contemplating the setup in my backyard, it struck me how similar this was to the Christian scene I grew up in, and sought to function in, for the early years of my life in Christ.
Artificial! That’s the way I would now describe those years of orthodox evangelical “christianism” I experienced, and tried to live, in those early days, and ministered in in later years.
During my teen years I struggled to feel that I “belonged” with the “perfect” people who surrounded me. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth! Their public persona was immaculate; smiles, hugs, clinical precision in matters ecclesiological, legal carefulness in everything spiritual, sartorial splendor in the pulpit, fashionable elegance in the pews. Of course, everyone carried the biggest, blackest Bible (KJV, of course) they could find, in the most prominent manner they could muster. The church building was a somber place in which children couldn’t utter a sound. Laughter in that place was irreverent.
These were the real Christians! How could such an imperfect creature as I possibly fit into this scene. I knew that in me there was a “natural man” who, sometimes said the wrong thing, in the wrong way. I knew that, no matter how much I read the Bible, went to church, and prayed, that my mind was still capable of sinful thoughts and urges. When I hit my finger with a hammer? Hmmmnnn!
The longer I spent in this scene the more I became uncomfortable as much effort was expended to instill in the younger ones the need to never be seen with those dirty, ignorant people who sinned, such as the fellow who lived with his girlfriend, the unmarried girl who was pregnant, the convicted criminal just out of prison from serving his sentence, and especially it was important to stay away from those low creatures who frequented the pubs. We were to be separate from such unholiness.
And then I began to understand the Scriptures for myself. Reading it became an eye-brow-raising event. I studied everything I could get my hands onto. I read the Arminians and the Reformers and Puritans. The revelation was mind-blowing. No matter what their theological leanings, the writers, including those who wrote the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were nothing like the “christianists” amongst whom my formative years were spent. They and I were of the same stock, children of Adam, with the tendrils of the “old man” still hanging on, sometimes tenuously, sometimes more firmly.
They were the real Christians, like Peter and Paul whose fingernails weren’t nicely manicured, but dirty and broken from being human, and whose feet, like the Master’s bore the filth and the dirt of the ground from which their father Adam had come, but whose hearts were changed and still being changed, by the work of God’s amazing grace; a continuing process.
Like my hydroponic experiment, those in the artificial atmosphere of institutional “christianism”, looked so beautiful and clean. My plants in their little plastic hole, sit as long as I don’t disturb them, unable to move and stretch their roots. They have no need to do anything because they are comfortable in their artificial “clean-ness”, every last miniscule amount of nutrient is passed across their roots.
The plants in their natural environment get dirt on them, and their roots reach out in all directions seeking nutrients from the soil, and they don’t seem to mind when the cabbage roots reach across and touch the carrots roots, or the cauliflower leaves find the pea vine embracing them.
If it wasn’t so dry I’d shut down the hydroponics and go back to the garden, dirt and all, with Dave Black as my sidekick, Hall of Shame or no!