there is hope.

ha250.jpg

lately, i have been feeling defeated. i am often excruciatingly overwhelmed – to the point of non-action – by the fact that the christian church is not what it should be.

all too often i feel that i disagree with too many stances, too many practices, too many economic exercises of the church – and it’s handicapping at times.

… the priest scandals … the criticisms of homosexual believers/pastors … the denominational squabbles … religious outcries against a NON-FICTION book about a FAKE religious mystery that questions the truth of biblical stories … pastors stealing church money …

it seems that the church is always in the news for the wrong reasons.

i just sit and stare at walls, banging my head against them (figuratively, of course) trying to come up with ways that things could be better.

those i often attend worship with place their trust in the same GOD that i do. we read the same book. we say similar prayers. we profess to believe in virtually the same theology.

yet i seem to have a drastically different view of what GOD values and what GOD professes as truth than do many of the other believers i often find around me. (not that i’m always heroic in carrying out these ideals, but starting points are crucial.)

i used to think i was ignorant of teachings that i wanted to discount or simply stagnate enough in my own faith that my views of reality had radically skewed off course.

in my own search for truth, i snuffed out these anxieties. my faith has even further confirmed that i am exactly where i need to be in my dedication to spreading christ’s message by loving those around me as fully as i can.

love is really what HIS message was about. our GOD is a very relational being. much more relational than even we are. he built us to crave relationships. this is meant to persuade us to embrace each other and to remind us of HIM.

this is the problem i have with the church.

where my beliefs differ from a lot of christians that embody today’s church is that so many believe we should love each other UNTIL it appears to “dilute” our religion, UNTIL it makes us question what we believe, UNTIL it draws us closer to people that are a little or a lot different than us, UNTIL it’s uncomfortable.

basically, they huddle together and “love” each other UNTIL even that gets old or tiring.

this is where i disagree.

the church should not be a place where leaders, preachers or members are filtered by race, social class, sexuality, past missteps or gender.

the church should not be a place where homosexuals are shunned, where deeds are counted, where prayers are used as coverings over our faults, where church hierarchies attempt to prop some of us up closer to GOD – creating power struggles and ego trips, where men are schooled to be consistently absent of emotion – always secure in themselves, where women are taught to be de-sexed, void of any passion – servant-minded house-moms and silent observers (NEVER leading church services or holding positions of authority within church bodies).

the silver lining (you knew it was coming) …

YET i am renewed when i hear a sermon like this one (to hear: search itunes for theatrechurch.com podcast, battle of the sexes, women) that reminds me that i’m not as far off course as some christians may have me believe.

this podcast is produced by a church that i’ve been attending in dc called the national community church, which is a creative body of believers in clever locations (movie theatres & a coffeehouse), which has already been an inspiration to me since i’ve arrived here in washington.

their talks are real. they’re a little radical sometimes. (shouldn’t christianity constantly be?) they’re always eye-opening.

the podcast mentioned above is from a sermon on women and feminism – but it’s also about the differences we see in those around us and how we should approach those differences.

i was refreshed and affirmed that i’m not as far off base when i heard the speaker, heather, say a little while ago that GOD created us as relational beings so that we would connect to each other and need each other. she said that when many of us see differences in ourselves and others, that triggers bells in our head going off with a warning that something is missing or something is terribly wrong. these triggers are acted upon all too often. with femininity issues, she said we need to remember that the godly women in the bible are each drastically different. GOD did not create women (or any of us) to be cookie-cutter individuals; we are each strong in our own unique ways.

she explained that she disagrees with most “christian” books and conferences for and about our differences as humans, specifically the differences between men and women. (i do too!)

she said she hates it when the church tries so hard to be a counterpoint to the rest of the world’s views that they create huge barriers for those curious about the church to really get involved and be a part of the church community. (i do too!)

she said that our differences as people should strengthen our communities, not bring us to hate each other. (amen!)

the church has a million gazillion problems – big and small – but it was completely refreshing to hear another woman so passionately standing up against some of the most distressing.

ebeneezers.jpg

tonight’s message (downstairs at ebeneezer’s coffeehouse, next to union station) was another non-conventional lesson on GOD’s reckless pursuit of us and what that says about HIM and what it teaches us about how we should deal with our own relationships.

something that stood out to me:

GOD’s love for us is super-abundant in quantity and superior in quality to any other love we’ll ever experience. it’s a passport to enjoy life and the riches of our world. GOD doesn’t want us to worry so much about day-to-day stuff, but to have the benefit of all life has to offer! HIS word is saying to us: travel! take time for your hobbies! relax! don’t worry about the differences between you and others so much! love people more! (i think the bible even teaches not to worry too much about the church being perfect … if we concentrate on loving people, we’re doing our job better than focusing on anything else!)

to me, this exemplifies the fact that GOD cannot be understood with the cerebral cortex inside our tiny little skulls.

we want to compartmentalize and label everything in our lives; HE doesn’t work this way. HE is so much bigger than us.

this speaks so clearly to me because one of the reasons i believe in GOD is BECAUSE the story of HIS abundant love for us is so unbelievable. i mean, who wants to believe in a GOD that’s as small as our limited, cognitive understanding?? i know i don’t.

thank goodness for true bodies of believers.

if you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great christians of old, he would have replied, Love. you see what has happened? a negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. the negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. i do not think this is the christian virtue of Love … if there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, i submit that this notion has crept in from kant and the stoics and is not part of the christian faith. indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our LORD finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. we are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. we are far too easily pleased.
-the weight of glory, c.s. lewis

i’m eager to hear comments on this weighty topic of “church.” what do you think?


(this is a monster-of-a post. if you made it this far, i’m amazed! heck, if you even made it halfway through and skipped to the end, i’m still amazed… i guess i have a hard time covering topics half-heartedly that seem so important to me.)

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. i often feel the same way you described your feelings on the church in the firts few sentences … it’s comforting to know i’m not the only one. i think these problems that you (and i) get frustrated about sometimes are problems that have plagued the church for decades, centuries! the bible is full of stories where the church body is reminded not to be racist, sexist, seclusive, etc. we often forget that history has a way of repeating itself over & over again …

  2. Not sure how I ended up on your blog, but I am glad I did. This post is helpful to me, a pastor of a rather conventional church in the south. Thanks for real.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: