A whole bunch of people seemed to be all worked up about gay marriage, marriage rights, homosexuality, and stuff. I should jump on the bandwagon and add my two cents, but why go with the flow? I don’t think it would improve my readership so I won’t make the effort.
Instead I want to talk about the church and church stuff (gasp). Another blogging Baptist and budding scholar wrote an interesting bitin his blog about leaving the church (do I get a prize for alliteration?). He makes a very good and impassioned argument about leaving the church when it is necessary to do so, specifically when one is put down, insulted, hurt, and made to feel worthless. I agree with my friend but in a nuanced way – that’s how I roll.
What gets me is the way he refers to “the church” in a universal kind of way as if it is an experience of everyone. I know he is not making such a claim, but I read the subtext in such a way. It may be because I hear in his comments a kind of hip, po-mo jargon that we need to be beyond the church and into the “new” (or nu) Christianity. Picture the beard adorning person saying:
We don’t do church, we are beyond church, we are beyond religion, we are only about Christ.
So because I “do” church am I not about Christ? Perhaps that isn’t fair, but such is the nature of discourse. You can't control the way I read things (but I can control the way you read things... muwhahahah). I suggest we look at the terms in a different way.
My friend is describing churches that oppress, that discriminate, that tell certain kinds of people that they are not welcome, and that use scripture to bully people, and these churches exist in great number. These are churches that have become so human, so devoid of the spirituality of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit that it can lead one to a grief. Here is what I suggest: these places aren’t churches any more. These gatherings, worship centers, multipurpose preaching factories, praise producing places of anger, fear, and manipulation have left the church (in a universal sense). So instead of leaving the church, leave those institutions and return to the/a church where Christ can be known and experienced. I guess I like the approach of embrace over rejection.
This isn’t to say that everyone in those fiendish institutions are not Christians, but the nature and ecclesiology of those institutions fall into a place that is so foreign to the Gospel that I would argue that they are no longer churches.
I know my friend would agree that there are many real, authentic churches in the US and the world. I don’t think he would deny that for a minute. I would cede that every church will have its own brokenness, will not be perfect, and will be as Augustine suggested, a mixture of sinners and saints. I’m not even really arguing with him, just doing the snob thing and offering a nuance. If I want to really be dic*ish I would write:
“What you meant to say was…”
How about this for an image:
There is that little boy or girl who grew up in the oppressive communities, or who sees the humanity reality of the brokenness of the church and watches the institution go further and further into the distance, into the horizon. That little boy or girl watches these institutions get farther away and yells with all innocence, “come back church! Church, come back!”