Sorry, I disappeared again. Life has been insane with school concerts (I'm a teacher) and Welcome to Kindergarten and family visiting from England and just general "my life is too busy" kind of stuff. I'm finally coming out the other side of this season of crazy and it feels really good to be back here. I doubt I was missed but I missed writing so that's all that really matters to me.
I don't know whether other people do this but I have this little Facebook problem. The problem is that I check Facebook way too often. I'm not addicted, really, and I am not interested so much in the little fluffy stuff that people post about how popular they are or links to Huffington Post articles or various quizes or top 80's trivia. I just get bored REALLY easily and if I'm in the car and unfocused, I scan my feed, looking for anything that will hold my interest. That's when I get in trouble. I have a bad habit of clicking on articles that people have posted and then, I get enraged at whatever I find offends me. I am usually pretty good about not saying anything or even commenting (I tend not to comment unless I agree) but sometimes, it's all I can do to keep from either writing an inflammatory rebuttal or posting a link to something that directly attacks whatever the person has said. I feel as if it would be truly satisfying but deep down, I know that it's not worth it and I would end up feeling like a nasty person.
Today, it was a link to this article, criticizing all of the op/ed pieces about what is wrong with church. Facebook suggested this article below it and I am guessing that the first article is a response to the second I am linking but it's possible not.
Why did it bug me so much? Because the first article, which is attacking all of the writing that is against church these days, expresses so clearly what is wrong with so many churches these days and why so many people ARE leaving. More personally, it expresses some of what I was feeling at our last church that led us to finally and very painfully, leaving after being there a long time. What is it about church that makes people so blind? They feel as if they are getting their needs met (whatever those needs might be), anyone who is not or, worse, anyone who dares to name what isn't working, is just being selfish and greedy and wanting to change what isn't broken. Given how the church is declining, let me say it - IT'S BROKEN, FOLKS (at least in affluent North America - interestingly, in more impoverished parts of the world, and even in some struggling spots in urban North America, it's thriving and alive and gospel fulfilling).
I'm probably not at the most reasonable point for discussing this right now because I am just finishing reading Jesus for President by Shane Claibourne and Chris Haw. It's a brilliant book but I am certain that it offends most of the world. While I would call these guys extreme expressors (which I think is a dog breeding term I picked up but I digress), they hit the nail on the head. If you actually read and take seriously what Jesus says, so much of what "church" is now is not based on anything Jesus said. Jesus was certainly not an advocate of big, flashy buildings, of constant fundraising drives to make our spaces more luxurious or of hugely expensive lighting and sound systems that make us feel like we are at a concert at a major venue. The message of the early church was not mega-churches in which people would come week after week without making any meaningful connections to others. Church was about relationships and relationships not only within the church walls but outside of them. Jesus did not endorse only helping those who are "one of us" or that charity only counts if it is done within the walls of the individual congregation. The church is not a denomination or a building or an exclusive club - it's a group of people who follow Jesus and his teachings and who look for the needy and the suffering and the marginalized and try to meet their needs. It's people who forgive, who love, who ignore nationality and language and class structure and who use their resources to live out their faith, caring for others, including those with whom we strenuously disagree. It isn't comfortable or easy or in keeping with the culture around us but it is rewarding, loving, meaningful and powerful.
I need to point out, as well, that I am not anti-church. Given the number of hours of my life spent at church and involved in church activities and the fact that Dh and I spent so much time talking about how we love our church community, we are "church" people. I think, though, that years of being in and around churches has taught us that the institutional church IS killing itself slowly (maybe not so slowly these days) with its focus on the superficial (e.g., the setting and the light show), its being a self-rewarding institution (e.g., the church we attended whose Advent focus was "random acts of kindness" and most of them happened within the walls of the church to other people who were equally blessed and it required no sacrifice) and its lack of credibility outside its own walls (with its lack of effort to improve the lives of others or to stand up against injustice).
I guess I should just let these self-absorbed people continue to be "the church" (or, should we say, "their church"). They will gradually eliminate themselves while, I hope, those who are listening hard for the words of Jesus and trying to put them into action can transform "church" into something more meaningful and relevant and world changing. It still makes me angry through, the hypocrisy of it all - how can you claim to be listening to Christ when you are so against listening to the cries of those around you? The cries are deafening and those with earplugs in are making it harder for the rest of us.
There, my rant is over and I haven't offended anyone on Facebook and I don't have to feel guilty. That was satisfying!