I recently had the pleasure of strolling through Times Square with my wife and small kids. It was overwhelming, to say the least. It is hard not to feel small among the hundred-foot screens and lights. I felt like we walked into New York City Disneyland. Out on the street, we had to hold on tight to our little ones. The crowds were enormous and moving faster than a river in spring. And that was just the other spectators. As we walked past restaurant after restaurant, costumed characters and superheroes jumped out from all sides. They were all desperate to overtly entertain our children, pose for a picture and perhaps glean a few dollars in the process. It was, to put it succinctly, an entertainment madhouse.
As we walked among the madhouse though, I started to look closer. The hundred-foot screens were playing TV commercials and movie trailers I had seen hundreds of times already on much smaller screens. Most of the restaurants I passed were commercial chains that I could visit in any major city in the U.S. And my new costumed friends… well… on closer inspection, most of them look like they had picked up a slightly used outfit at a second-hand store. No one was going to mistake them for real-life comic book superheroes come to life. As I took this all in, I felt rather disappointed. Although perhaps underwhelmed is a better word.
The real New York City
That underwhelming feeling kept gnawing at me. I felt like I was seeing a cheap imitation of the New York City I have experienced and loved for the last few months. I started to feel sorry for the flocks of tourists there. This was not the New York City experience I knew. It was not the beautiful mix of culture and experiences I had come to know. I found myself extremely grateful for my little Bronx neighborhood. The New York City I have come to know is a place where cultures and people from across the world have found a place to make a new home.
The New York City I have come to know is one of rich cultural experiences. It is a place where I can walk down the street and hear ten different languages and smell ten different cuisines. I can turn a corner and find a small booth were someone is churning out delicious food from recipes that have traveled along family lines from across the globe. It is a place where I can meet a new friend on any given day, at any given park, and hear an entirely different worldview and experience from my own. That is the New York City experience I have come to know.
The real Christianity
More importantly, it got me to thinking about the brand of Christianity I was carrying into the world. Was I bringing Time Square Christianity to those who do not know Jesus? Was I trying to just bring a big flashy show? I am not even sure what the proper metaphor would be for the opposite of Times Square. Neighborhood bodega Christianity? Probably not. What I do know is that I do not want to be a flash and fizzle Christian. I want to be a follower of Christ. A man that seeks to know him and to praise him with every waking breath. I want to be invested in the body of Christ. Not just passing through a show.