"Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell." Frederick Buechner
Come in! Come in!
"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein
Friday, August 02, 2019
What's Love Got To Do With It?
Well, Good Friday Morning, kids. I've had a little something on my mind and I'd love to hear what you think about it.
Many of you who know me know that it's no secret that while I love The Episcopal Church, I struggle with the Institutional Church vs. the church as the Body of Christ.
Always have. Probably always will.
On the one hand, the institutional church is its own entity - separate and apart from the people. It has, necessarily, rules and policies, doctrine and canons, as well as its own hierarchy. Which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It's just that I wonder, more and more, what all of that has to do with Jesus and the movement He started.
Indeed, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night (as I did last night) and hear Tina Turner singing "What's love got to do, got to do with it?" I'm talking about the institutional church, of course, which often does not seem very loving to the People of God. And, in turn, sometimes the People of God can be very harsh and sometimes even cruel to others of God's children.
Oh, yes, there are the terrible cases of "clergy boundary violation" - sometimes referred to in shorthand as "Title IV" because that refers to the Church Canons developed specifically to deal with clergy who violate boundaries of professional behavior. That involves everything from breaking confidentiality to sexual abuse/rape and pedophilia.
I know one complaint of Title IV which involved "cyberbullying" (True. Hand to Jesus!)
But, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what some people refer to as "Christianity vs. Churchianity". By that, they mean that the institutional church becomes more important than Jesus; more important than being The Body of Christ.
1. In more than one Christian community I've heard people complain that the service takes longer than an hour. When I ask them, in essence, "What's the rush? Where do you need to be after church?" I generally get a blank stare and either "I need to get on with my day." OR: "Sunday is really my only day off." OR: "The previous rector always got us out in an hour. YOUR services always take an hour an 10 or 15."
2. In more than one Christian community, some of God's people have taken a less direct approach, asking, " Do we HAVE to pray for EVERY person on the Prayer List?" Or, "Do we HAVE to sing EVERY verse of EVERY Hymn?" Or, "You know, if you can't say what you need to say in a sermon in 10 minutes, you're message will be lost. " Ten minutes, I've asked. "Yes, that's longer than any TV segment before the commercial break," comes the answer.
3. In more than one Christian community, some of God's people have said, "I hate it when we go to 'summer hours' and only have one service. I like my 8 o'clock Rite One, no music. That's why you won't see me in the summer months. I'm giving God a vacation."
These are some of my own personal experiences of "Churchianity vs. Christianity." I'm sure you can provide some of your own. (Like the time a new organist - who happened to be a Millennial - decided to select hymns for Easter that didn't include "Hail tee festival day" or "Welcome Happy Morning" or "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." and that's all anyone could talk/complain bitterly about on their way out of the church as they headed toward the Traditional Annual Easter Egg Hunt after the service. Sorry, that was years ago and I'm obviously still recovering.)
Millions of people are leaving the church. MILLIONS. That's no exaggeration. We call them "The Nones" or "The Dones".
We blame it on church music. Or, the language of the service. Or, the music. Which we should change and make "more relevant" and/or "more modern/contemporary".
We blame it on generational divides, which are completely the distinctions of some social scientiests, which then become "proxy wars" for the real issue of "Churchianity vs Christianity".
So, obviously Boomers have "ruined the church" with "identity politics" and their ridiculously desperate need to "attract" Millennials with "modern language and contemporary music" because EVERYONE (Oops, now I've pissed off a Millennial b/c all caps means YELLING) knows that Millennials like ancient ritual - even Rite I (DUH! What's wrong with you that you don't know that?).
Besides, Millennials would change it if they could but there are still too many Boomers and Gen-Xers who control EVERYTHING like liturgy and governance and when governing bodies meet and for how long and they do this intentionally to keep Millennials out of the decision-making process (insert favorite Gif here because, you know: Millennials).
It seems to me - but what do I know because I'm just a Boomer female, you know, who has already ruined the church - that we are fighting each other when what we SHOULD be asking is "What's love got to do with it?"
It seems to me that the generational infighting is just a proxy war between "Churchianity and Christianity".
It seems to me that the questions about the length of the service or the time of the service or the fact that most church budgets have higher line items for clergy compensation packages OR the highest line item is building and grounds maintenance and repair (even more than clergy compensation which is reduced to seriously part time or simply supply), each one of these being larger amounts than the line item for mission (or outreach), is yet another indication of the sad fact that we value Churchianty over Christianity.
So, there is an entire movement called "Unchurching" which is developing a fair amount of steam. It mirrors the "home schooling " movement and is pretty much based on the same philosophy. A man named Richard Jacobsen has developed a blog and then a webpage and, of course, a FaceBook page which produced a comic book and a book, and, by modern necessity, a TED talk.
It is now a bona fide thing. "Unchurched" is a movement. People are being "fed" and "nourished" on The Word in their homes with their families and friends. Just like the early church. Not in "church".
So, what are we to make of all of this? We who are supposed to be about 'evangelism'? Are we to be more concerned with bringing more souls to Jesus or putting more 'bums' in the pews' and 'green stuff in the plate'?
I'm thinking that before we embark on any serious effort of evangelism, we need to get very clear about what we're doing and why.
I'm thinking we need to move past demographic charts and community development growth projections and ask questions that have more to do with The New Commandment Jesus gave us to "love one another as God loves you."
I think we need to ask, "What's love got to do with it?"
And, the second is like unto it - especially for the institutional church which is so good at defending itself against vulnerabilities with rigid doctrines and rules.
"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"
I'm excited to hear your thoughts. You might have noticed that I have some of the smartest friends on FaceBook - and this blog.