ecclesiology


The NY Times has posted a recent article about a child molester, recently released from prison, who is seeking to join a congregation in Carlsbad, California.

How sad that this is even up for debate. I don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine the feelings parents must have about this, but seriously: this is the church. This is the body of which Christ is the head, and people are arguing over whether certain people have the right to be members.

I wonder if they had this argument the first time a soldier, recently returned from the Middle East, tried to place membership. Did they question his right to belong, based on things he had done in his past? What about those who are greedy, who are racist, who are fill-in-the-blank.

The church is not a country club, and who are we to start denying entry into Christ’s body?

This is not really a response to Q’s last post (Is Religion the Answer?), but more of an attempt to further the conversation.

I hear people say, and I read, and I see on the television and the internet, that they are “Spiritual, but not religious.”

I’m sorry, but I have a few problems with that statement, which I don’t have time to really delve into here, so I’ll just enumerate them and revisit it when I have the chance:

1) What is “spirituality?”  Sorry, but a lot of times when I hear people saying this I picture some woman from a tampon commercial running through a field of flowers, a crown of daisies on her head or something, communing with Mother Earth.

2) Are “spirituality” and “religion” mutually exclusive?

3) What is their definition of “religion?”

A rant, I know, but this is just a jumping off point…

Something I’ve been thinking about over the course of the last few weeks is whether religion is the answer to our problems and to the question of God (some may say they are one and the same). In many ways I am sympathetic toward theologians who envision a religionless Christianity (be it through Bonhoeffer or Tillich’s concept of dynamics and form). In the spirit of genuine curiosity, what is your take on religion? Is it a necessary component or hindrance to the universal message of the gospel?

During our class this morning, we discussed the famous passage relating to love that can be found in Paul’s initial letter to the folks in Corinth.

Our teacher for the day, as he is wont to do, came at the passage from a side angle, springing from the shadows as it were.

Without going in to too much detail, we basically came to the conclusion that love is the opposite of being an asshole.  There is a book out now that addresses the problem of assholes, and our esteemed teacher brought it to bear on the Corinthian church.  It was fascinating.

So said Simon. Maybe it was Garfunkel.

I think it was Simon.

Anyway, I had this thought yesterday during worship. Something in the alignment of the stars and the planets was affecting my usually cynical self, and I was not preoccupied with the negative thoughts that usually make themselves known during that hour or so of corporate worship. I felt charitable. Beneficent, even. Instead of scolding my fellow church-goers for their poor theology or miserable hymns, I merely participated and thought, “Well, they’re doing the best they can.”

And then, other thoughts (formed, in part, by a post I read on someone’s blog, to which I shall not link for I am not certain we want to broadcast this little project quite yet), came to mind.

I have written before, in other venues, about my distrust of our current “liturgy.” I have stated that I believe we are formed and shaped into people by our worship, and quite frankly, most times I don’t trust the college-aged chappie up front with his “close your eyes” and “ask Jesus into your heart” and “Jesus, you’re the greatest boyfriend, like, ever” schtick. If I wanted to be transformed into an unthinking, overly-emotional, girlfriend of Jesus, then I’d be all over that stuff. But, call me crazy, I think we should be a bit more careful with what we’re putting out there.

So, I Am A Rock.

If I, if we, imagine ourselves as rocks, the stream we place ourselves in becomes very important. We could rehash the ex opere discussion here (or wonder if something *magical* happens when we worship, whether we’re singing the latest ditty from ZOE or Stamps-Baxter or Luther himself), but I think we all agree that what happens during that time is important. Like the un-named blogger said, there are BIG events in life that shape us. These would be the chisel blows, the collisions with other rocks, the lightning bolts that turn the water that has seeped into our cracks and crevasses into steam with explosive force, shearing off big chunks of our rock-ness. These, however, are for the most part unscripted.

Liturgy, however, is the stream, the flow of water bearing sandy particles that, over time, wear down our rough edges, make us smooth, shape us. Note: the first person to talk about being a smooth stone for use in the Lord’s slingshot gets docked five points!

Now, I have never served on a worship committee, so I am not speaking from experience, but what if the first order of business every week was to decide “What sort of people do we want to form here?” and not “Do we have the proper balance of new songs and old songs?” or “Has the worship team practiced this new song enough to lead us?”

Are there any “liturgical” services at any of the congregations in our little tribe?

This “Out of Context” quote from the Out of Ur blog popped up in my RSS feeds this morning. I thought it appropriate for sharing here, based on what appear to be some shared beliefs on the state of our churches:

“Few people see Christianity as a shift of allegiance that prompts us to make personal changes in beliefs, habits, and lifestyles. We must continually examine our churches to make sure our message is one that requires transformation.”- Sarah Cunningham

When was the last time your church leadership held a meeting to examine whether or not they were “requiring” transformation? In our numerocentric church cultures, it seems like requiring anything is frowned upon. .

I’ve been curious about the intersection between politics and faith and was wondering why it is that we seem to be so passionate about our politics and less so about our faith?

Talking to church members about loving the poor and showing love to one another tends to evoke little interest, but merely mentioning politics dramatically increases the collective blood pressure of all involved. It doesn’t matter that when we entered a room that we were “one in Christ,” for the true marker of our worth and identity during these times seems to come down to political affiliation, a two party system that often trumps and perpetuates the dualism inherent in Western Christianity. All of the sudden people assume that they are righteous because of their political proclivities, while others, whose perspectives differ from the majority, are easily tossed into the category of bolstering the cause of “the enemy” and others who make up the so called “axis of evil.”

What we are beginning to see is a incredibly influential yet damning use of language that reduces humanity to a single concept, that of being either good or evil. The remarkably multifaceted nature of humanity as created by God, and therefore ontologically good, yet fallen and in need of redemption is instructive for our public discourse intent on reducing individuals to the lowest common denominator.

How do we get to the point of inculcating a respect for all people regardless of their political perspectives and families, countries, and religions of origin? How do we call our people back to their baptisms in a way that allows for free discourse on political issues but that ultimately yields the need to be right for the sake of Christian community? Being apolitical is not a solution, for the bulk of humanity’s problems must be addressed on a political scale.

At the same time, our ecclesiology must become more robust and reformed if we are to become anything more than a place for political conservatives and liberals to gather as they attempt to spew surface level niceties at one another when in reality they harbor deep seated resentment toward those on the other side of the political spectrum. How do we get at this dynamic in our churches and in our world?