April 8, 2020

Kansans in Oz

Kansas v Oz

We Christians don’t often make the connection between progress and ideas. We live in a world of our own, where we think it’s all about ideas, about “what you believe,” and we fail to see that advanced technology and the freedom and autonomy it has brought to much of the world has dramatically changed the way people today view life.

For example, that which is “moral” or “ethical” is defined by most people today as “that which gives people the most access to personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” while not causing undue harm to others. Christians have tried, with extremely limited success, to argue against this idea and to argue instead for the idea of limiting our personal freedom under the authority of God’s revealed will (Christian morality). However, in these days especially, arguing on the basis of ideas doesn’t seem to hold sway with people. The Christian perspective is more than just a set of arguments with which people agree or disagree. This goes beyond a “worldview” problem.

It is as though Christians are citizens of Kansas who live in Oz.

Kansas is all sepia, beautiful in its own way. However, Oz is technicolor, and it is hard to explain the attractiveness of sepia to someone who has only and ever seen brilliant colors all around.

Kansas is mundane. It’s about being at home with kind and good, but frankly boring people. Kansas is about tending to chores. It’s about childhood fears and small ambitions. Oz, on the other hand, is about having access to strange and wondrous places, interacting with interesting and surprising characters, experiencing the wonders of technologies we can scarcely imagine, getting caught up in vibrant mythologies and battles of good vs. evil. Oz is music and parades and perpetual stimulation. Oz is the colorful “over the rainbow” life of freedom.

What would be attractive about Kansas to a citizen of Oz? What would be his response when I come to him with the argument that it’s wrong to live his life in color; he must turn to the sepia lifestyle in order to be pleasing to God? No matter how many intellectual arguments I could marshal, I’m not sure I could win my point with this citizen of Oz. Not because my reasoning is necessarily bad, but because my friend has no imagination for Kansas.

Christians try to overcome our Kansas/Oz problem in various ways.

  • Fundamentalists practice separation from Oz, or so they say. Theoretically, they advocate that Christians live a “Kansas” mindset and lifestyle in the midst of Oz, while at the same time severely criticizing the Oz way of life. Fewer and fewer seem able to maintain this. Today’s technology and the culture it creates is so pervasive and powerful that it has become virtually impossible to remain untouched by it. I would wager that even the strictest fundamentalists watch quite a bit of “Oz TV.” Their children and grandchildren certainly do. It no longer takes a tornado to bring Kansans to Oz.
  • On the other end, progressive Christians willingly embrace Oz and claim that the reality in which Christians find ourselves today requires that we redefine Kansas. We no longer need to live in sepia, we can access and make use of all the benefits of Oz with little concern or guilt. God is involved in every aspect of Oz and no longer requires the “old ways.” What is important is taking the side of those who haven’t yet had access to the personal freedom and opportunities for happiness that the rest of us have. Work for that, be yourself, and if you must keep some of Kansas in your heart to give you meaning or significance, that’s fine — just don’t slow the rest of us down.
  • Evangelicals and those who practice church growth methodologies have sought to walk a middle way. These Christians identify with Kansas, but try to make their lives and communities look and sound and feel as much like Oz as possible so they can enjoy an Oz-like lifestyle without guilt and so that their neighbors will feel comfortable joining the faith. We talk Kansas, but walk in substitute Ozes of our making. In essence, evangelicals have failed to see the water in which they themselves swim with their neighbors. For, underlying all the words about the glories of Kansas, they have actively pursued their own autonomy and satisfaction here in Oz right along with everyone else. Another problem with this approach is that it subtly involves a “bait and switch” tactic. They attract people with Oz-like entertainment, then somewhere along the line try to turn them into people who think like Kansans.

In my view, what is lacking in all of these approaches is the failure to realize that “Kansas” and “Oz” are about more than ideas. What is needed are ways of helping folks “see” the beauty of sepia landscapes, down home living, familiar people, and devotion to chores. Somehow, we have to prompt people so that they’ll sing “Over the Rainbow” in Oz! To have people come to feel that: “if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard [in Kansas]. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”

There’s no place like home. But you won’t convince the citizens of Oz about that with ideas alone.


  1. I can’t really go along with the idea that we as Christians should be going back, or in the business of getting others to go back, to anything (call it Kansas of whatever you will), because I don’t believe that there was ever anything like what is described as Kansas to go back to. In those immortal words of Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there”; more precisely, “There never was any there there”.

    I guess you could call me a progressive Christian, but my own feeling about this matter is not what is described under that category above. I just don’t believe there was ever any Kansas to begin with, so there’s no returning; what people think of as Kansas now is really their “own private Idaho”.

  2. Still trying to wrap my brain around why Oz is the world but Kansas is the Kingdom. Methinks that’s backward. Kansas had Miss Gulch; the same sort of vengeful evil we find in this world, far less subtle than the heavenly battle between Michael and Satan. Oz’s evil, in comparison, was crushed and melted.

    But yeah, okay; two worlds, trying to juggle ’em, not doing so well.

    • Al Rider says

      I completely agree with K.W., and in fact I came here to make the same comment that she/he just made above, only to find him/her having made it first.

      In my experience as a progressive-but-converted Christian, life in the merely secular world is sepia and everyone who is stuck there is LOOKING for some kind of Oz, and settling for the shallow Hollywood/ Wall Street/ Washington DC/ Nashville versions of it, all of which have a lot of color and flash, but turn out to be run by disappointing guys behind the curtain.

      My own Oz-experience comes from having come to know Christ and having been inhabited by the Spirit; and I have come home to my personal “Kansas” again with hope, not with disappointment like Dorothy’s. I “can go home again”, however, and I find that everything looks different when I come back from my Oz adventure than it did before I left.

      We all noticed this in the Judy Garland movie, didn’t we?… Every character in “Oz” was doubled by the same actor playing a different character in “Kansas”… Their real soul-identity was their Oz character, even if they didn’t know it. And once Dorothy goes home again to Kansas with that insight, she is a missionary who can help them to embody who they really are and can be. That’s our calling as believers. We can see Christ in others now, even before they can. We’ve been to Oz and back. And as Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home”, because that’s where we have our calling in life.

      • That’s meant to be the striking point of the metaphor, Al (and K.W.). You have presented it in the usual fashion, from the Christian perspective. I’m trying to help us see that, from the world’s point of view, Oz is much more interesting and imaginatively stimulating than what they see in Christianity.

        • I think the metaphor fails. There are good decent people in Oz–they just look different. This works better as a metaphor for how some missionaries confuse the particulars of their culture with the Gospel. God doesn’t care about sepia vs. technicolor.

        • I see what you’re saying. What I would say is that, when the world actually gets a glimpse of what God can do through changed lives, it gives them a glimpse of (our) Oz in comparison to their Kansas. Our problems are 1) we do a bad job of displaying our Oz to the world’s Kansans and 2) there is an Enemy whose goal is to distract and/or blind the world to what God has done and can do. This isn’t to say that there’s a demon behind every bush and tree, but to recognize that we are in a war. The war has been won but the implementation of the victory remains to be completed.

          • “we do a bad job of displaying our Oz to the world’s Kansans”

            Perhaps not as bad as you think. Consider the possibility that people reject YOUR Oz not because they don’t understand it but because they do.

        • CM – i get what you were trying to do, but think it is a false dichotomy. Oz is something that exists in Dorothy Gale’s imagination, complete with an even scarier version of Miss Gulch.

          Besides, Oz isn’t synonomous with the Emerald City, nor is there anything wrong with the Emerald City per se. I think that sometimes – every once in a great while – you get nostalgic. And i wonder if this isn’t one of those times? (Think particularly of some of your post from a few years back, that celebrated small-town, circa 1950s-60s, life.)

          • Not my point at all, numo. Like many who responded today, you’re overthinking the metaphor (though again, I’ll take any blame for lack of clarity).

            I am trying to come to grips with why people in our day don’t seem to have the imagination for the Christian faith and Christian ethics. I think it may have something to do with this world of technological “miracles and wonders” in which we live, where everything seems more interesting and stimulating than the way of faith – which appears in contrast to be outdated, colorless, and undesirable. That is the point of the metaphor and contrast.

          • CM – i don’t think that fascination with tech is anything new – radio and TV were revolutionary, as were phonographs and LP records and the telephone and… See, i really do think that there is nothing we haven’t seen before, just repackaged in new ways.

            Does that make sense?

            If anything, it might be the way that media is being used that’s problematic, and honestly, i don’t think the analogy holds up.

          • I know you talk a lot about how much freedom people have to make choices, but for those who do have it, i don’t believe it’s a bad thing. Equally, i think it is lwrgely restricted to the midfle and upper classes. Not to stretch this too much, but your images come from a film that was made during the Depresdion, when movies were one of the primary means of temporary escape for people facing hard times. I think they needed to dream, and the whole of Oz wasn’t at all a bad place to escape to for a while.

            Besides, the Emerald City pretty much = Dorothy Gale’s 1st trip to *any* city, and of course she’s dazzled.

          • OK, my comments are going to moderation and i have no idea why…

  3. Danielle says

    Hmm. Why do you have placing a strong value on:

    “…access to personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness …”

    Counter-posed to

    “…being at home with kind and good, but frankly boring people. Kansas is about tending to chores. It’s about childhood fears and small ambitions.”

    True, the freedom to leave your small town (literally); or take on new ideas, lifestyles, or affiliations; or marry, or not; or have kids, or not; or what-have-you can be acidic to living by a restrictive moral code or committing to a simple, boring life in a particular place. But plenty of people who espouse the freedom principle of “Oz” are quite willing to voluntarily live by rules and connect to communities that make sense to them. And most people are, most of the time, pretty content about being boring. People have commitments and work to do; so they do them. Almost every other thirty-something semi-liberal person I know on FB thinks their toddler is hilarious and wants to get a bottle of wine this weekend, and walk by the Farmer’s Market for onions. B-o-r-i-n-g.

    I’m a huge fan of people having freedom to make meaningful choices for themselves, and of technology improving life and allowing these kinds of human choices. And it is for this reason, not in spite of it, that I am also a big fan of my own cracks at making humane choices, which include integrity to moral principles I recognize and putting down roots in a particular locale.

    To put this another way: I think you are right that contemporary society places great value on freedom, but that isn’t the sole principle by which people operate. What many people do think is the a civil society that values freedom is the ideal framework within which they and others should be making choices. And that freedom is thought by most people to have limits.

    • Danielle says

      Let me add this: Those who believe they have deep roots in “Kansas” are often tempted to think “Oz” is full of libertines. If Oz would just grow up and pay its bills, it’d realize it needs the moral system Kansas is selling!

      But the real truth of the situation is that Oz is mostly already paying its bills. It has many feelings and obligations. Perhaps it lacks imagination, but it just doesn’t see much coming out of Kansas will help it pay its bills.

      • Danielle says


        “…it just doesn’t see much coming out of Kansas *that* will help it pay its bills.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Wagging-finger lectures (or screaming denunciations) from Kansan Church Ladies do not inspire positive reactions.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Those who believe they have deep roots in “Kansas” are
        > often tempted to think “Oz” is full of libertines


        > If Oz would just grow up and pay its bills

        There is so much which is not about Christianity, and all about America, wrapped up in this. I know it is an issue I spend a lot of time reading about, researching, etc… – so maybe I sometime see it where it isn’t – but it is very hard not to see America’s Urban-vs-Rural Norman-Rockwell-vs-the-big-city inner conflict here; America is riddled through, roots to rafters, with this discomfort about herself [self-image vs. reality].

        It is too culturally burdened of a metaphor to get where I think the author wants to go – a destination I think I agree with.

        > But the real truth of the situation is that Oz is mostly already paying its bills


        > it just doesn’t see much coming out of Kansas will help it pay its bills

        And why does Kansas keep asking for money?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > And most people are, most of the time, pretty content about being boring

      Yes, this exactly.

      It is easy to critique the metaphor, but I think the point is “””In my view, what is lacking in all of these approaches is the failure to realize that “Kansas” and “Oz” are about more than ideas”””. I’m just now sure “””What is needed are ways of helping folks “see” the beauty…””” is adequately more than an idea itself.

      I get the statement “””if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard””” … I was a Fundamentalist/Evangelical [the distinction is false, IMO – just two styles of achieving the same end]. When I fell out of those circles I could for the first time [or maybe the second] see the beauty of my back yard. Great themes of Spiritual Warfare, Good vs. Evil, and … honestly, now I’m not sure what… where the illusion, the Oz. All they did was distance me from what was beautiful [and mundane].

      > And most people are, most of the time, pretty content about being boring.

      Exactly. If there is a tragic flaw in the metaphor it is that much of the Evangelical remains in the Post-Evangelical – the wildest loudest shrillest voices are still given too much of the picture. The dark specter of the Progressive with his insidious ‘social gospel’ looms large in the imagination… and pretty much nowhere else.

      > Almost every other thirty-something semi-liberal person … and walk by the Farmer’s
      > Market for onions. B-o-r-i-n-g.

      Yep. I have become convinced that this simply renders ‘my people’ [you are describing me] invisible to the Evangelical. We don’t fit in the vision, so we are filtered out, just noise in the signal. If ‘my people’ are in this metaphor it is as drones in clueless silent support of the evil Progressive… meh.

      > And that freedom is thought by most people to have limits.

      And limits they will happily accept. It depends greatly on how people are approached about those limits – understandably.

      Something like 76% of local tax-related ballot initiatives succeed – people choosing to tax themselves; limiting their own power to some other end. They are generally supportive when those ends are clear and concrete – which looks like primarily being interested in the mundane.

    • Robert F says

      Danielle, Couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said here. Technology and freedom to choose are the friends, not the enemies, of sustaining a humane and human life. For its part, small town “Kansas” life was never the rosy picture that some people remember, or imagine; much harm was done there, and the people weren’t always good, and for many it never really was, or felt like, home.

      • Robert F says

        For these last people, “There’s no place like home” was all too true. That’s why they left the place they were born in, in search of a home they had yet to find. Many of them are still on their sojourn through the wilderness; Godspeed to them.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > For its part, small town “Kansas” life was never the rosy picture that some people remember, or imagine

        I do not believe the author is asserting this – it is a metaphor.

        However I think the metaphor is too culturally burdened to work – it is very hard NOT to read it as you do, and other comments already indicate this as well. The taint of the Norman Rockwell mythos is too pervasive; it lenses almost every issue in the American mind – either through the desperate nostalgia/longing for such a world, or the bitter rejection of it as a falsehood.

        The metaphor is meant, I think, to relate Kansas to the mundane and ‘real’ life and the ‘modern’ world of technological progress with glitz, distraction, and a fascination with moving on to the next new thing. I’m not certain it works there either – but there is some nugget of validity in their somewhere.

        • Robert F says

          I think that it’s no typological mistake that, in Genesis, human life starts in a Garden, but in Revelation human life finds its destination, its fulfillment and goal, its home, in a City; even the Garden finds its place within the City. Kansas is the dust bowl wilderness that is traveled through on the way from one place to the other.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            We agree on that.

            As far as the Norman Rockwell myth is concerned I am in the bitter rejection camp. Always felt that way about Pastoral/Romantic poetry, etc… as well. I worked as a shepherd, the real kind, with animals. It is called Work for a reason; the same with farming. It is exhausting and physically dangerous. The image of the shepherd leaning on his staff upon a bright green hill side overlooking his sheep/goats on a cool summer day – having all that time to contemplate the mysteries of the universe – … yeah. total crap. It is hard work, mostly spent either wet and cold or blistering in the sun, with lousy pay and no medical benefits.

          • But Robert, there are trees and a river of the purest, likely best tasting water imaginable, at the end of Revelation.

            I have never liked the city section of Revelation, or most of the rest of it, truth be told. It’s all so deeply and profoundly weird.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Technology and freedom to choose are the friends, not the enemies,
        > of sustaining a humane and human life

        Yes, but one significant *potential* downside is that amidst a sea of choice it is too easy to not choose – to drift, at least until one is griped in a rip-tide. I do not mean this as a evil over-and-against a lack of choice; I think the metaphor of Oz can illustrate this – to always be fascinated by the next wonder, and never get into the meat of a truth, or to be distracted from the suffering and need of those one’s proximity [neighbors, the mundane].

        > Technology and freedom to choose are the friends, not the enemies,
        > of sustaining a humane and human life

        In the same vein I have learned to take some comfort from the bully preacher standing on the sidewalk shouting at passing women about their immodesty, or going on about perverts [usually “gays”], or general iniquity of some kind or the other. As long as he is free to choose to stand there, unmolested by authorities, and make a fool of himself, then I am free to walk right past him to the farmer’s market to get onions. Many more people are walking past him to get their onions than are standing yelling at other people. Most of the onion fetchers are pleasant and congenial, and seem in some sense of the word to be happy. So something about this scheme works.

        • Robert F says

          It’s just as possible to “drift” in Kansas…and to be insulated from anything outside your little world.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        For its part, small town “Kansas” life was never the rosy picture that some people remember, or imagine; much harm was done there, and the people weren’t always good…

        Then why in Left Behind, Volumes 12 & 16(?) are the New Heavens and the New Earth nothing but one huge Kansas full of Mayberries and Pleasantvilles spreading out for all eternity?

        • HUG, that is somd seriously terrifying imagery!

        • If eternity is a place with no more sickness, pain, suffering or tears, it’s hard NOT to imagine it being a place filled with Mayberrys and Pleasantvilles.

          • Not if you felt stifled by dmall town life growing up, or as an adult! Besides, those towns are all-white. So very much reflective of an extremely nartow slice of midfle class Ametican life; the reality is very different.

            Not somewhere I’d want to live for etetnity – sounds more like the Village of the Damned to me! (Not j/k.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Story I heard once (can’t remember the source):

            A preacher and a Rabbi dreamed of each others’ Heavens.

            The preacher was pretty agitated, and described the Rabbi’s Heaven as a big bustling city full of people living their lives, laughing, buying, selling, playing, talking. (Like a cross between the Emerald City and The Big Apple.)

            The Rabbi said this was odd, “I dreamed of your Heaven last night, too.” And went on to describe a rural Pleasantville full of little clapboard houses with perfect manicured lawns and white picket fences.

            “What were the people there like?” the preacher asked.

            “What people?” the Rabbi answered.

  4. It’s not surprising that you see the Reformed/conservative evangelicals moving more and more into the fundamentalist camp or adapting fundamentalist patterns of life. For them, Christianity has ALWAYS been about the Ideas first and foremost, and a good chunk of them will lash themselves to the master rather than abandon ship.

    • The foundation of fundamentalism is fear. When people feel distance from the Father, they may feel they can’t trust him because he is hard and out to get them. When they believe they can’t please the Father, they get into what the Church has so often gotten into, in almost every denomination, the merit/demerit system. They need to make sure they are right with the distant Father.

      In Catholicism it takes the form of legalism and near idolatry of the institution. In Protestantism, at least today, it takes the form of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism creates a system of words, bible quotes and techniques for salvation that are supposedly certain, so you can always know the ground on which you stand and keep the feared Father on your side. It’s very popular today in America, and wherever else the family system is collapsing and fathers are absent or abusive.

      I would say that people who are attracted to fundamentalism are suffering from a lack of masculine energy, a lack of union with the Father. When you are in union with the Father, you don’t need petty certitudes to overcome your fear. You can relax with God; you can even feel free to make mistakes You resonate with the words of the Father, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” and such perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

      From A Man’s Approach to God, Richard Rohr

      • Bingo. I was just about to post something about “fear” being a primary motivator in people, whether it’s a reason they remain in Kansas or don’t want to move to Oz or vice versa or however you see the metaphor. Fear keeps people rooted to what they know and trust, and fear solidifies beliefs, spreads its roots deep, and prevents people from seeing things differently.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      For them, Christianity has ALWAYS been about the Ideas first and foremost

      AKA Purity of Ideology.

  5. “Mast” rather than “Master”. If they actually did lash themselves to the Master rather than their conceptions of His moral laws and biblical history, we’d all be a lot better off.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >For them, Christianity has ALWAYS been about the Ideas first and foremost,

      I believe this an accurate reading of history.

      > conservative evangelicals moving more and more into the fundamentalist camp
      > or adapting fundamentalist patterns of life

      I have always – even when I was one – found the distinction between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals to be of little substance, more about style.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Hence the term “Fundagelical”.
        Evangelical has become Fundamentalist with a coat of camouflage paint.

      • Danielle says

        Jerry Falwell: “A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is mad about something.”

  6. Robert Tyrrell says

    Guess I am one for whom the bright lights (OZ) have always had attraction. but I do believe that one day “the humble and ordinary” will be transformed into something more dazing than can be imagined. and yes I am not sure that lashing yourself to the Master but going down with the ship is all that bad if one believes in the resurrection. My experience suggests that the wind and seas are not always calmed

  7. Well this is all nice and good. I often wonder why we have to use other things to describe what we really feel. Oz and all. Nice story should I liken it to Genesis or Jonah or some other nice story. Even Jesus referenced Jonah. Belly of the beast for 3 days. Hmmmm.

    I wonder why we think ancient man was lacking or deficient because he “didn’t have science”. Guess I don’t believe that. I wonder at how different my life would have looked had I been raised in such a world that isn’t today’s and all it’s trappings but I fear I would have been one stoned or on a cross because of the culture wars of those days for sure. I probably wouldn’t have made it to 55 and for sure would have been a stonemason. I like pounding on things.

    People want to live their lives. The way they want to live them. They travel through a place and hope to reach it’s end only to find most of what they thought important doesn’t seem important anymore. What was important is gone and can’t come back to them. We can warn them. In a way I wish the warnings I somewhat heard would have sunk in at a much younger age. It’s okay.

    Oz is make believe. Kansas is rotting and passing away. I choose door number three. What’s behind it. Maybe behind door number three is truth, honesty and grace coupled with love so I can go home where I have always belonged and maybe some of that can break out here even among the culture wars. Getting stoned meant something different to me when I was young. This Stephen guy is one of my heroes. Now there’s something that makes me stand up and gets my attention with a big Oh yeah. Now that is strength to the max.

    Things happen here that aren’t “suppose ” to happen and we limit ourselves to our own understanding and become in love with intellect and all kinds of other things that have no meaning and are passing away. A man named Paul wrote about it 2000 years ago. Guess he didn’t get it.

    What is attractive will and is coming back. I have seen countless young people getting it. Now there is something worth cheering on. What amazes me is that those who still seek at sometime seek out those who started seeking earlier than them. They might or might not agree but God can work with an open dialogue. It’s the being still part that has always got to me. I never could sit still. Mom use to yell at me all the time because some part of me was always moving.

    I always felt bad for the tin man because he had no heart and I seemed to lose mine early in a way to protect myself from a world always trying to steal it. Cried myself to sleep when I was young learned to put stones up around it till God smashed through it completely 7 years ago. Now it still breaks but somewhere in those cracks Jesus gets in. This Jesus guy He’s my hero… I think He always has been.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Things happen here that aren’t “suppose ” to happen and we limit ourselves to our own understanding and become in love with intellect and all kinds of other things that have no meaning and are passing away.

      Where does that end and “I’m Proud I’m a Holy Nincompoop!” begin?


      • You got me hug. I really can’t do the you tube thing no sound on this comp.

      • Maybe you could answer your own question. Oh wait I’m sure you have.

      • Yeah getting drug into somethings I do not want and for some reason I ask for forgiveness. I have been called so many things in this life. Didn’t see that one. I am humbled. It’s a hot day here and the sweat in my eyes as I walked the mountain and prayed about you hug and what the hell am I doing here sometimes way above my pay grade and all. You make the point even though you don’t want to either. Adios amigo when we meet again someday. For real you couldn’t have pressed it home better.

        • w, HUG lived in the fundagelical world for an awfully long time. Please believe me when i say that he isn’t attacking you personally.

          • You probably won’t see this but hug pressed home more than he thought. In my prayers it became painfully obvious I need to go back out into the world in the humility I have learned and put it to use. It pains me so much more than you can imagine to not be here because a big chunk of my heart is praying for you all very much. Tears drop and seasons end but I simply can not come here for a good while.

            I have felt myself drifting into spaces I don’t want. Like making comments to get response or reacting in ways not really the way I want to be. I only seem to learn by doing the best. I’ll be pressing on in this and with a much more quiet way. I have always handed out poems from time to time even have tucked them in newspapers and such things. It’s been awhile since Cindy died. I need to put into practice some of the things I have learned here. Maybe in A lutheran church you will see me sometime.

  8. Nice metaphor.

  9. WOW. I can see that either I’m a bad communicator or you all are poor readers. I’ll take the blame here. But I’m not going to stoop to trying to explain and defend my metaphor. I still think it stands up and makes some important points.

    Is there anyone who sees them?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I get it! I even defended the metaphor. 🙂

      But I think there is too much cultural detritis caught up with this particular metaphor for the point(s) to really punch through.

    • I think what you are saying is that both sides see themselves as in OZ and the other side in Kansas. And both are confused as to why the other side doesn’t want to come over to the promised land.

    • LOL! I see it, Mike. I like it!

      The problem with metaphors is that they often aren’t truisms, just reflections of truisms, and only work to a certain level. You should know by now that the folks at this blogsite tend to be a hyper-analytical bunch, some even hyper-critical; most metaphors I’ve seen posted here get attacked pretty quickly and pretty readily. Jesus himself would’ve had a difficult go with his parables.

    • Andy Zehner says

      I think the metaphor works well to communicate the message. Any metaphor must be allowed to limit itself as, “This thing is like that other thing, or illustrates that other thing, in this particular way.” Probably the greatest extended metaphor in literature is Kipling’s “Brown Bess.” It draws lengthy parallels between a woman and a weapon. but it never insists that war is dancing.

      Chaplain Mike’s metaphor works well enough. The sepia world of Kansas is limited, as the Christian life needs to be limited by scriptural teachings. And those people who don’t acknowledge the validity (or the existence) of those teachings will scorn the Christian life. And yet experience shows that the sepia work of Kansas / the life of Christian obedience provides abundantly all that Dorothy / true believers ever wished.

      The metaphor works a little better when you think of L. Frank Baum’s book rather than the movie. In the book, the Emerald City appears wonderful because everybody there wears green-tinted glasses all the time. They are deceiving themselves.

    • It’s well written as you usually do and good for thought. As far as communicating I think you actually have once with me. Something about Luther poking fun at the Devil and all. Maybe like so many have found it with me you are too.

    • Whatever we think of the effectiveness of the metaphor, this post has succesfully generated a lot of positive, thoughtful comment, and criticism. Unlike some of the other ‘issues’ in evangelicalism, which split many readers into 2 oposing camps. In that respect, this is a great, refeshing post

    • Brian from Kansas (Really!!) says

      I really liked this metaphor! It help clarify some of my own thoughts of how a Christian should live in today’s world. Thanks Mike!

    • I guess I’m missing the point.

      What part of “‘that which gives people the most access to personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ while not causing undue harm to others” is a bad thing?

    • Chaplain Mike, I am dumbfounded that so many here have missed the rich depth of your apt metaphor. It’s spot on. I take it to mean: It’s the simple CLARITY of Kansas that is its redeeming virtue. Oz and the Emerald City, with their colorful pleasures and amusements, are ultimately gawdy distractions from the essential, sepia truth of understanding who we are and what makes for a worthy heart’s desire. In case somebody else hasn’t pointed it out, remember that Oz as Dorothy found it was based on a lie; the wizard was no wizard at all, but a mere mortal who held people in his thrall using smoke, mirrors and electric devices.

      To your larger point–how Kansas can possibly compete with Oz in an age of amusement, ease and autonomous fulfillment–I would simply posit that a reconsideration will begin when we prodigals (the three categories of Christians you so accurately describe) finally “come to ourselves” and realize we’ve really been eating pig slop. In Oz, our lives so easily become corrupted and co-opted by the unreality of it all. When God’s people–or His remnant–finally come to that moment of crisis, a change might happen that starts to make the clear, uncluttered vistas of Kansas look appealing again. But let’s don’t expect anything real to happen in society before it happens in the Church.

      A very thoughtful and much-needed post, CM.

  10. Burro [Mule] says

    There is a lot more I’d like to say, but I’ll leave this as a placemarker –

    Isn’t Kansas just yesterday’s Oz?

    • Stay in the metaphorical world, Mule. It’s important not to overthink this.

      • Kansas = Paul and First century Christians
        Oz = Rome and all the aristocrats were practicing at the time.

        Rome was pretty far along technologically. People with money and power were free to do whatever made them happy (though it could be at the expense of others).

        Paul could have easily found a way to incorporate Roman lifestyles, thoughts, actions into the Christian faith, after all many were already doing it. They were progressive. It was not foreign, but accepted in the empire.

        We compare a Kansas, with its black and white look, to the 1950’s – and we abhor that. Yet we are ready to accept everything Oz is about and say to each his own, its ok, I did not read that Paul did that while he was in the midst of the Empire. I am not talking about legislating morality, I am talking about people being responsible as a group, looking outward instead of inward, being free to choose but also being responsible.

        • Radagast – 1930s, actually… and no doubt other writers have tackled the Depression-era reality (when the film was made) vs. the fantasy world od Oz long before now. I think most people would have liked to take a trip over the rainbow during that time period.

      • “It’s important not to overthink this.”

        The iMonk crowd is full of people who like to overthink articles like this. (Me being one of them.)

      • OldProphet says

        I think its really a thought provoking piece you penned. I haven’t liked at the comments, really have not. It’s very disappointing when you look at a post like this one that could spawn a deep and critical discussion as to Christians of different traditions see where the Body of Christ is from many different perspectives. Unfortunately as usual, most comments have gone off n idiotic references of old rock songs, stupid videos, unknown books, and the usual cacophony of Evangelical bashing! Hey, is Trump Lutheran?

  11. Michael Z says

    If there is a “Kansas,” I think you’d find that as many non-Christians as Christians live there. Non-Christians are as generous in their charitable giving as Christians. They have equivalent rates of divorce and domestic abuse (although those are actually *more* prevalent in predominately Christian parts of the country). Christians seem more likely than non-Christians to worship guns and military power and violence, more likely to express racist sentiments, and less likely to welcome “the foreigner among us.” And many Christian churches are full of gossip and secrets and jockeying for power.

    So, this narrative we tell ourselves where we Christians are people trying desperately to be good and decent in a world full of wanton libertines, is really nothing more than a comforting myth. I completely agree that it is worth knowing Jesus and making Jesus known to others, but let’s not lie to ourselves about our own sins and failings.

    • I’m not sure that is the point of this metaphor. I think the point is that Kansas represents an approach to ethics that believes ethics should be proscribed by “God’s will”, and Oz represents an approach to ethics that is proscribed by causing harm to others.

  12. Kansas, Oz…it really does not matter. It all comes down to that void in the human heart and that sense of ”lack” when a person is alone in the dark without the accompanying noise of the world around them. The knowledge that life is short and that when facing oblivion there is no hope of ”something more”.

    “‘Kansa” and ”Oz” are merely human constructs built around the human need to belong, to find meaning in the midst of uncertainty and chaos and pain. But it is only the IDEA around which the artificial construct of ”Kansas” has been created that can solve the issue of the human heart and, let’s face it, SIN and separation from the Creator. Being free to live rather than furiously trying to live to be free.

    If this idea is too simplistic or retrograde for some then I’m sorry, because it is still true.

  13. It is an interesting perspective. If we restrict ourselves to life of sepia out of worn out superstitions (techno-color will invite the wrath of God upon our precious monochrome world), then perhaps its time to step out of the monotone into a more expansive reality. I don’t think the post-modern view is reality is based on ones personal happiness; rather, it views reality as unencumbered by the restrictions of the past. Talk about being dragged kicking and screaming into the 17th century.

    • The nineteenth century novel “Flatland” comes to mind.

      Sadly, Christianity should reveal to the world a greater reality; instead, it is obsessed with constricting reality. This is a matter of majoring in minors.

    • In the perspective of John Bunyan, we are the sojourners through Vanity Fair. Be it Kansas or Oz, this is not our home.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Where does “This World Is Not My Home; I’m just Passin’ Thru” end and “It’s All Gonna Burn!” indifference begin?

        • HUG! Good to see you back!

          I think what fundies consider monochrome is more vividly licentious in a modernistic sense than they are willing to recognize.

          To paraphrase the Apostle Paul a bit, we are no worse off if we fast and no better off if we eat (1 Cor. 8:8). Life is so much more. It isn’t indifference; abundant life isn’t about floating on a cloud with a harp. But it is certainly more than a game of pin the tail on the worse sinner.

    • I sometimes think some of you have been burned so badly by fundamentalism that it has shot you 180 degrees in the other direction. Yes, from my perspective, the fundamentalist view is very narrow and from my observations controlling. But many times I come away from this site with an almost anything goes taste in my mouth, and to object to anything labels one a evangelical bigot.

      Maybe there has been a lot of molding of the minds that I have not seen in evangelicalism being I am a Catholic. In some ways you can say I am coerced too. But there is still common sense, and if something within your head says it’s wrong then maybe it is. And yes… I will go kicking and screaming into the world of complete relativism…..

    • I recently watched a documentary on Germany following the first world war. Berlin was a den of sin and socialism, but it was also fertile ground for innovation and creativity that produced the likes of Einstein. When Goebbels and the nationalists moved in, they drove out the artist and innovators along with the communists, the homosexuals, the foreigners, and the Jews. The occupying forces were dark and ugly.

  14. How would the metaphor change if we took into account history and power?

      • A good article, but what I had in mind was the history of what has happened when Christians have the power to enforce their ethics and morality on the world. The article mentions the idea of limiting our personal freedom under the authority of God’s revealed will (Christian morality). The problems with this idea are very real and very severe. For starters, Christians can’t agree on “God’s revealed will” – during the Christianity wars of the Reformation, the Germans used to quip, “Whose reign, his religion” – even though all the “religions” were versions of Christianity. Second, such a view fails to grapple with the socio-political problem that has been the root and bole of all post-WWII ethics; namely, who has the power to enforce ethics? Personally, I think “Oz” in this metaphor (the ethics represented by Oz) is the best possible construct for allowing Christian religion and ethics to flourish.

      • I found your link interesting J thanks….. Dr. I would not want to go back to the reformation wars or before if we think culture war is bad now. I was impressed with your power lifting numbers at what weight are you doing that lifting. Sadly my body is breaking down and my power days are over. I still can get 120’s on inclines for 6-8 but I’m really just trying to hold that line. Working on my knees for 40 years tile laying has me very limited now. One more question Dr. are you from central Pa.?

        • Thanks for the kudos. I just like to lift, and it turns out I’m pretty good at it. Sounds like you are holding your own, too. No, not from central PA, although I was born in Philly. My family has lived in the New Orleans area for the past couple of decades, and I have been calling Louisville home for quite some time now.

          • Oh, my body-weight is around 220 right now, at 6’2″.

          • Perfect weight 220 for all around at that height. Did my best at the same height at 235. Sure wish I could see that weight again only in a healthy way though. Really been thinking about seeing someone who could write me a diet. Seems I did my best when it was written and all I had to do was follow it. Central Pa is big on power lifting. You probably know that though. I always just like lifting too, just me and the weight and a prayer nowadays.

          • Rick Ro. says

            What part of New Orleans? I lived in Metairie ’62-74.

          • Sister lives in uptown, and brother at Loyola (I think). Parents live on the North Shore (Mandeville, I think?)
            w, I can work on diet plan for you if you’d like. Send CM an email and ask for my contact info, and I’ll see what I can do. I have my ISSA performance nutrition specialist certification, so I actually know what I’m doing.

  15. africord says

    I understand the analogy and the viewpoint expressed. However, rather than convince others that they want to go to “Kansas”, shouldn’t we share the reality of our experience of knowing our origins, identity/purpose, understanding of relationships, and ultimate destiny? Oz may be colorful, but it exists in a fogbank of self-definition dependent on our own viewpoints and understanding rather than the certainty of truth and love.

  16. Okay . . . but where do the flying monkeys figure into all this?

    • Oh and: Remember that both Kansas AND Oz are needed in order to line up with the movements, lyrics and chord changes of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.

      Puzzle that one out, I dare you.

    • Clay Crouch says

      I’m sure you realize that this is a blog written by and primarily for believers of various stripes, the majority of whom are Christians. When you were growing up, didn’t anyone ever teach you that arrogantly treating people you disagree with as if they are fools is boring and childish and rude? If you have any REAL or intelligent interest in Christianity, I’m sure you will find folks willing to engage in civil dialogue and debate.

    • “…but where do the flying monkeys figure into all this?”

      When you showed up.

  17. The two pictures present a choice, a dichotomy, an either/or, a dualistic perspective. Jesus saw these two pictures superimposed as in a stereoscope, both/and, and tried to teach that vision to a world that still largely rejects it today. Seemingly genuine near death experiences often show the vision of the heavenly city to people who then choose to come back to Kansas to help those trapped in sepia, and they bring their stereoscope with them.

    This has little or nothing to do with ideas and belief, a swamp the western church has been mired in since Rome took on Christianity as the State Religion. But all along the way there have been misfits and recluses who saw the Kingdom of God as Here and Now, even in Kansas, not something you were rewarded with upon successfully toeing the line until final departure.

    Tom Volkmar quotes Richard Rohr above. Others here do from time to time and a link to Richard’s web site is now included in the list of links above. If you go there, you can find a place to subscribe to Richard’s daily meditation by email, which I encourage anyone curious to try for a couple of weeks. The meditations are short and not devotional in nature so much as educational. Richard is a student and teacher and practitioner of the contemplative and unitive side of the teachings of Jesus and those who followed this path. If just subscribing it will be like starting a class in the middle of the semester, but that will always be the case.

    His messages right now are covering some of the more notable mystics from the Middle Ages. Yes, there are those who run screaming from any hint of mysticism or any acknowledgement that such knowledge sometimes showed up in other parts of the world. In my view this is the unitive path that cuts thru the antagonism between Kansas and Oz, a path that is opening up for 21st century followers of Jesus as we speak. I would hope more people here might check out Richard’s thoughts and teachings as an introduction to this much different and time-honored way.

  18. Dana Ames says

    Ch Mike,

    I get what you’re saying. I also think that positing it the way you do, along with the tendency to misread the metaphor, is related to what you wrote about progress and ideas. It’s all of a piece; we swim in the waters of Enlightenment rationalism, and that’s all we know. We can’t help but fall into a strict dualism, even when we’re trying to talk about something that is decidedly not dualistic.

    Getting out of that intrinsically dualistic mode of thought is a big reason I started reading pre-Reformation, and then pre-Schism Christian authors, moving ever eastward… Robert Webber pointed me this way in his “Ancient Future Faith” – to encounter Christian ways of thought that didn’t have the tendency to dichotomize in this manner.

    That’s why I keep coming back to the Christians of the first 300 years in terms of praxis, and specifically “evangelism.” They had no program that was built on any system of ideas. They did have doctrine, but did not even introduce it to those outside until *after* someone was convinced enough to want to “sign up” (see St Cyril of Jerusalem’s “Catechetical Lectures – very enlightening, and reflective of what was believed and taught in that time period and earlier – see St Justin Martyr, St Iraneaus, the anaphora of Hippolytus). What people became convinced about – which was indeed contrary to the ethic of their culture (and ours?) – tribalism, patronage system, classism, seeking wealth to ensure comfort – was what enabled Christians (for the most part, there have always been some who fell away) to care for discarded children, nurse sick people not related to them in the face of the danger of infection, and not be afraid of the threats of death and torture. Supported by their worship of Christ and real communion with one another, they were on the path of living out what it means to be fully human: to relate to others in voluntarily self-giving love, – which was often anything but “comfortable” – without the need to be noticed by those around them for doing so.


    • we swim in the waters of Enlightenment rationalism, and that’s all we know. We can’t help but fall into a strict dualism, even when we’re trying to talk about something that is decidedly not dualistic. I’m not sure this is the case; essentially all of philosophy in the last 80 years has been built around the idea that enlightenment rationalism was woefully inadequate to address the issue of “the good life”. Even today’s “critical realist” epistemology (the foundation for the sciences, although most liberal-arts programs have adopted post-modernsim in the US) is significantly different from enlightenment rationalism, or even post-enlightenment empirical-rationalism (although to be fair, this does still seem to be the epistemic foundation of most American conservative Christianity). Admittedly, this observation does not change the substance of your comment, which is well put. However, I think sometimes a failure of Christianity to grapple with the advances of the academy leaves us talking about ideas and contexts which are irrelevant to the rest of the world.

      • Dana Ames says

        You’re right, Dr., I am not speaking of what is found in the Academy, but what seems to be tossed about in general parlance.

        I do think, though, that even in the Academy things tend to run toward the dualistic/materialistic side of the spectrum.


    • Christiane says

      Hi DANA,
      I was moved by what you wrote, this:
      ” What people became convinced about . . . . . was what enabled Christians . . . . . to care for discarded children, nurse sick people not related to them in the face of the danger of infection, and not be afraid of the threats of death and torture. . . ”

      if today, fundamentalist-evangelicals talk about this kind of behavior, chances are they would say it applied only to Christians helping Christians, and if they were confronted with more insistence that these acts were genuinely lived out by the early Christians, these same fundamentalists would likely deny this and say it was too close to ‘socialism’ to be ‘Christian’.

      How did they get so lost?

      • Dana Ames says

        It was a long and winding road…

        If you’re interested in what I think is a good explanation for that, you could read Philip Sherrard’s “The Greek East and the Latin West” (don’t get A. Louth’s book by mistake – it’s good too, but on a different subject). It’s a slim book, but very “chewy”…


  19. Anyone else read The Dark Tower series? Takes this metaphor to whole other levels…

  20. It is as though Christians are citizens of Kansas who live in Oz.

    In other words, so many believers are living physically in the real world and in their mind/spiritually are living in a fantasy world.

    So what elements of the fantasy world we bring back to reality? What elements of reality do we bring to the fantasy?

    What can Christians learn from the story of a young woman who murders an innocent government official and goes on a rampage through the countryside to murder her sister and the ruler of the realm? lol

    • “It is as though Christians are citizens of Kansas who live in Oz.”

      Or citizens of Oz who live in Kansas. Granted that Oz is a fantasy complete with wizard, if you knew nothing about it and saw the picture at the top of the page, you could be excused for assuming it was the Kingdom of Heaven as reported on by John in the book of Revelation and others. From this perspective, and that of which Dana speaks, that kingdom is the reality and this world we inhabit that includes you and me is the fantasy, or better, illusion. Like we are writing out own story or movie here with details and outcomes yet to be disclosed as we live them out.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Many years ago, I actually read L Frank Baum’s original novel.

      Near the end (and after his exposure), there’s an aside where The Wizard speaks of his backstory and why he presented himself as The Great and Powerful Oz:

      He was running a bluff to protect himself against the Wicked Witches of the East and West. He figured he didn’t have to worry about the Good Witches of the North and South, but in order to keep the two Wicked Witches from attacking him, he built up this public image of a Great and Powerful Wizard using various stage tricks and PR to appear more powerful. It was a bluff for his survival, and Dorothy & companions were the only ones to call his bluff. Once both Wicked Witches were gone, he no longer had any need to continue bluffing.

  21. Christiane says

    For one young girl, living in ‘Oz-West’ (Hollywood) at the height of her youth and beauty and talent, being recognized and celebrated by the entertainment industry just wasn’t enough. Seems she was visiting ‘Oz-East’ (NYC) and took a side trip to a Benedictine convent for a retreat in order to rest, and then ‘something just happened’:


  22. Eckhart Trolle says

    I thought of Oklahoma (the musical) as the perfect Kingdom of Heaven analogue, but then there’s that song about Kansas City. Anyway, Oz is Theosophical.