Theology on Thursday: on going to church
Recently, Blonde Sagacity, aka ALa, who usually blogs about politics, decided to share her spiritual side in a terrific piece title Organized Religion, Hypocrisy and Personal Belief. It's a good piece, well worth reading if you're interested in the perspectives of people who have become disillusioned with what has come to be called "church."
ALa isn't the first blogger to articulate a disillusionment -- or disgust -- with the hypocrisy of organized religion. Also recently, a good friend who posts comments to this blog on occasion sent me a link to Rabbi Marc Gellman's column about the five most important religious trends of 2005 and directed my attention to No. 5: the "revolutionaries" -- borrowing a term (and book title) from George Barna) -- who, Gellman writes, are more than 20 million strong in the USA and "who are pursuing their Christian faith outside the box."[T]hese revolutionaries, as Barna labels them, are really passionate Christians who have no patience for the moribund bureaucracy of organized church life. The havurah movement in Judaism is fed by the same spiritual energy. For many people faith comes from a fire within, not a cup of coffee and a Danish after services in the social hall. And let us say, amen.As ALa describes herself, she fits the revolutionary mold. So does my friend who sent me the link. So do others who visit this blog on occasion, and many throughout the blogosphere who have had it with organized religion. (For the longest time a few years ago, Rachel Cunliffe wrote extensively about her struggles with organized religion. Browsing her archives this morning, I found a link to another post about leaving church that also seems to apply. The money quote from that post: "It's not fair to accuse the church 'leavers' of abandoning church. They have abandoned a form of church for another one that is more effectively meeting their immediate needs. One of their major needs is recovery from the dysfunction of traditional churches. Let them recover.")
As the husband of a preacher's kid, the son-in-law of a pastor, a bivocational youth pastor, a musician in our church's "praise band" or whatever you want to call it, and someone who has been involved in a small, non-denominational congregation in rural Missouri for nearly 21 years now, I've seen a number of people abandon the "church" (as defined as a physical gathering of people, believers as well as seekers and skeptics, who join together at a set time on a regular basis for the purpose of communing with God) for any number of reasons. Most of the reasons offered by ALa and the others -- hypocrisy, petty church politics, cliques and exclusion, hidebound traditions, etc. -- are valid. Plenty of people abandon the gathering together for other reasons as well: the desire for a different spiritual experience, the trendier church across town, pressures from family members and friends, etc. For many, it's the sense of not belonging, or not fitting in, that pushes them away from church.
For me, that sense of not belonging, of not fitting in, is one thint that keeps me coming back.
I love my church. Politically, theologically and philosophically, I probably don't agree with the majority of the members of the church I attend. After watching The Book of Daniel a couple of weeks ago, I joked to my wife that I would probably make a better Episcopalian than a Charismatic, which is (in name at least) the type of church I attend. But on further reflection, I'd probably make a better Calvinist. That is to say, I'd probably fit in better in a Reformed church setting. (What do you think of that, Gideon?) *grins* But the fact remains that I feel called to the congregation I'm a member of. I guess I have an Anne Lamott-ish kind of relationship with my church. I don't always fit in, but that's OK. It's not like I fit in much anywhere else.
We're all misfits in this world, in so much that this world is not our home. I'm a hypocrite. So what? We're all bastards, but Christ loves us anyway. If we were all as holy as we thought we were, how boring it would be. Besides, what fun is it to mix and mingle with your own kind all the time? Even revolutionaries need to mix it up at times.
We -- the believers, in church or out of it -- are the body of Christ, and God puts us together not as we choose, but as He chooses. To abandon regular fellowship with other pilgrims on the path to salvation is, to my way of thinking, to abandon an important aspect of the faith.
So, to all you revolutionaries out there who have abandoned regular fellowship with your fellow misfits, for all who have forsaken the ritual of gathering together with other pilgrims to commune with your Maker, I say, "Take a risk. Go to church once in a while. Rub elbows with a fellow hypocrite. Sing a hymn. Take in a sermon. Drop a dollar in the offering plate. Down a stale, Chicklet-sized, dough-like substance with a thimble-sized grape juice chaser, and contemplate the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ."
Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold fast to the scripture that encourages us to continue to meet together on a regular basis.
Can I get an amen?
church, religion, theology, Christianity, George Barna
:: Andrew 07:39 + ::