Kingdom of Heaven California Style
Having lived in California all my life, it is easy to forget about our peculiarities here in the land of odd. Just recently, I was reminded of our strangeness by the following newspaper headline: “Painted gnomes bring smiles in Oakland.” The gnome article in the San Francisco Chronicle states: “The gnomes are colorful hand-painted figures on 6-inch brown wooden boards, often screwed to the base of utility poles. Some are waving. Some wear kilts. A rare few are accompanied by mushrooms.” These little gnomes are popping up all over the city of Oakland. Far be it from me to pooh-pooh whimsical expressions of urban art. On the other hand, California abounds with unhealthy expressions of strangeness as demonstrated by an article I saw in the newspaper about a naked woman who injured her fiancé when she ran over him with a car. (I wonder if that little tidbit will make into the wedding toast or onto Pinterest.)
Yep, California can be strange. It also has a plethora of ethnic diversity. California is like a mission field right here in the U.S.A. (Perhaps that is why California is the number one importer of clergy.)California attracts free spirits, nonconformists, entrepreneurs, fortune seekers, job seekers, sun seekers, fun seekers, fame seekers, creative types, a fair number of “normal” people, and folks simply looking for something different in life. We have all types of people, from surfers to loggers. They come like moths to the flame. Of course, the old adage applies quite appropriately to California: “Wherever you go, there you are.” If a person had problems before arriving in California, they will still have problems after.
Still, California is an enchanting and beautiful place despite our idiosyncrasies. Unfortunately, a 2009 Pew Research study placed California in the bottom 12 states for people who say religion is very important in their lives. That means millions of Californians have embraced lifestyles without God, lifestyles that apparently offer some measure of satisfaction. I see a lot of Californians hopping from new idea to new idea, which is not always a bad thing. But Hebrews 13:8-9 is especially poignant for Californians:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace . . .”
The author of Hebrews was likely speaking primarily to Christians, but if my fellow Californians could just cut through the fads and get a little taste of God’s grace expressed in Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven would import some odd but beautiful souls from the Golden State.