Thursday, May 13, 2010

Resignation to Drifting

We've been at sea for some time with our eyes to the horizon. We've longed for solid ground. We've swam towards shores we thought we saw, but none were ever found. Adrift, the question arises: If we haven't yet drown, then why do we long for shadows which resound? Drifting is our destiny.

I guess it's common to human nature to hope for a final arrival. By this I mean to say that we all have some vague ideas about a good that we hope for, and we hope on some level that one day we'll arrive. I've wished for years that I could stumble on a faith community that would meet my vague ideas of what a faith community should be. I've ceased to be surprised that this never happens. I realize that communities are made of individuals, and individuals are flawed. People aren't perfect, so how can I expect churches to be? These are things that I am reminded of every time I express my grievances to friends about the way churches are run in America. Churches are places where we must extend grace to people and their flaws. Yet, so often, this purported graciousness masks an expectation of complacency (perhaps complicity) with the worst evils to which our society clings. A few examples:

Implicit racism/ethnocentrism. In Dallas, churches come in a wide variety of flavors: white, black, Asian, yuppie, hipster, . . hell there's a wide variety of cowboy churches to choose between. The inter-racial churches I've seen all manage this by expecting all races to adhere to certain ethnic/cultural practices. In missions we referred to this as contextualizing, but more and more I just see it as self-satisfied laziness.

Failure of socioeconomic reconciliation. Perhaps this is evidence of me being a socialist, or perhaps I just find it to be the most blatant example of how "Jesus-followers" have no intention of following Jesus' teaching. I find that churches bear much of the guilt. We would rather pay for pews and stage lights than justice and righteousness. Were the salaries of ministry staffs across our nation diverted to pay for food and medicine, I imagine poverty could be wiped out in the Western hemisphere along with a good portion of the East. It seems that every church I attend views justice for the poor as an accessory. There's a bureaucracy that must be maintained, so that secondary functions like justice can be kept up. I find this to be a prioritization of values that is not compatible with Jesus.

Monologue. Sit in a pew, face forward, and swallow what your told. Let someone declare their own ideology to be the "Word of the Lord", and you follow with "Thanks be to God." We live in a world of monologue: TV, radio, editorials, pundits, movies, commercials. Where is the voice of the congregation heard? Where is the crowd given a chance to express doubts, its vague feelings, or hopes? If churches cant respond to these things, or allow them space to be voiced, then what precisely is its purpose? I'm not talking small groups, or wo/men's bible study. I mean genuine dialogue that shapes the face of the community; that determines its course. If there's anything good I see in the Emergent church movement, it's that at least they have this understood. The last thing our society needs is another place to have ministerial opinions and ideological stances projected at them.

These are three aspects, endemic among churches, that I've decided I cannot tolerate, and that I don't think anyone else should either. Thus, I've basically given up on finding a church. I now hope merely that some day by striving to "become the change I hope to see in the world", I'll find a community around me.


At 4:19 PM , Anonymous Jonathan Storment said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

I'd like to first say that I hadn't noticed you had written a blog beneath the later post, so I had skipped over this little jewel until now.

With that said...

You're second one was both the hardest for me, and the one I liked to most. It's hard for me because I just happen to make money off of church salary, it's the one I like best because it's the most true.

About monologue, everything you say there, I agree with but I also found myself saying, "yes, but..." I do think that there is a place in the body for preaching, granted I am biased because I feel the most alive and connected to God when I preach, perhaps there are some other alternatives to this that might navigate this tension better. Like more than one regular voice, voices that were deeply connected with the ethos that they were serving.

I see preaching as more than just espousing doctrine, but as a means of telling a story that the whole community has bought into. It is, a way of creating a world, and then living in it with others.

Good post Joe.


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