Thursday, December 07, 2017

Small Sips: Infinity War

It's a fair question. In the aftermath of the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Martha Spong's son asked, "Why would anyone go to church now?" She had to think about that:
Why would anyone go to church now? Our boy doesn’t drop his questions until he gets a satisfying answer, and he usually asks them again, just to be sure. We will go because it’s what we do, just like we ride on a bike path, or go to the movies, or attend a concert. We will go because most of us cannot maintain the kind of hyper-vigilance required to be on watch at all times. We will go because we want to be with the people we know and love. We will go for solace, and solidarity.
I mean, his question is an honest one, and worth considering more deeply than pat answers. Martha names the tension between desiring safety but also connection, and the latter always involves some form of risk. I imagine that as churches consider their options, they will faithfully weigh for themselves how to address that tension and find the balance that works for them.

Another fair question. John Pavlovitz asks why would anyone consider Christianity today:
At this point, I don’t know why anyone would choose Christianity if they weren’t already a Christian. If all I had to go by was this homophobic, power-hungry, bullying, bitter thing I see running amok every day in America, I’d run from it to. If following Jesus meant signing-up for this, I’d have no interest either.
The American Bible Belt Evangelical Church has become the greatest argument for someone not becoming a Christian, for them rejecting organized religion and never looking back.
But there are other expressions of this faith here, though they may not have the megaphones and megachurches. There are loving, inclusive, beautiful communities filled with people of compassion and generosity and mercy. There are men and women of faith in every corner of this country who are striving to emulate Jesus and who are rightly embarrassed by the hatred perpetuated in his name.
I admit that I'm becoming increasingly weary with trying to differentiate the form of Christianity that loves attaching itself to power, coercion, and hatred from what really is of Jesus. There just comes a point where you wonder if trying to explain the nuances and trying to be the better example and possibility is worthwhile. Most days it is, but some days I just want to eat a sleeve of Oreos and shrug. But on my good days, I'm trying to be committed to being a witness to something loving, hopeful, and peacemaking, and I'm glad there are others doing the same.

A fair answer. Chris Kratzer is very up front about the real reason he doesn't go to your church:
You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.
Truth is, I don’t need to know anything more about your god or your faith community, because I see everything I need to see—in you, already.
With all due respect and appreciation, you can have all your services, traditions, events, conferences, retreats, revivals, groups, clubs, books, movies, schools, buildings, programs, prayers, and music, because I know true love when I see it—and tragically, I just don’t see it—in you. Don’t ever think you could possibly convince me that the god atop your steeple truly and deeply loves me, when it’s all so crystal clear, from the tippy top to the shallow depths of your own being, a love cannot be found that truly loves me.
Churches can make up all the light shows and present the trendiest music and hippest-sounding sermons, but how their people actually treat others, what they support politically, how they view people different from them is doing to be the bigger difference.

Movie trailer break! Last Wednesday, Marvel premiered the first trailer for next year's Avengers: Infinity War, which brings together most, if not all, of the characters they've introduced over the past 10 years for one epic battle against their biggest enemy yet. I've lost count of how many times I've watched it. On the off chance you haven't seen it yet, here you go:

A question I'd love to be able to answer. Jan Edmiston reflects on the state of volunteerism in the church, and how much more difficult it seems to be to organize:
I’ve heard church boards hear about needs in their congregations and beyond, only to sit there with no response. There’s simply no energy to do more than what they’ve always done even if “what they’ve always done” isn’t working any more.
This kind of stuck-ness will be the death of the church – or at least the death of some churches. We have enormous power and opportunity to transform the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. But many of our people won’t even try to be the Church we could be.
Jesus suggests that leaders shake the dust off our feet and move on but that seems unnecessarily dramatic if all the pastor wants is for the congregation to try something new.
No energy, no time, no interest, no felt incentive. I've heard it many times as a pastor. There's no easy way to address that. As Jan observes, getting to the root issue (e.g., trust, fatigue, finances) will help. But they can also serve as excuses.

Sigh. A recent cartoon from David Hayward, aka nakedpastor:

Misc. A new survey examines trends in religious affiliation and the "spiritual but not religious." It's long, but informative. Rockey Supinger thought we understood consent. Christopher Xenakis on Facebook and "fake news." Peter Marty thinks we should give up the term "pass away."

(Top Image via Max Pixel)