Monday, September 26, 2011

Okay, a Rant (part I)

If you intend to read all of this, you might want to go get a beverage or maybe something to eat. This might take some time.

As I said in the last post, I'm not a very good mood for talking about churchy matters. The whys are mostly not for public discussion. But Miles has pushed me on this, and it's fair. So I'll start here.

I realized that I was carrying some anger and maybe not fit for blogging on spiritual matters when this fairlyinnocent, pleasant, well-intentioned video set me off. Watch it here and see how pleasant it is.

* * * * *

Okay? Now, what about this pleasant video, a friendly invitation to church, would set me off and make me want to rant for a few pages?

For the most part, I think this video sets up unrealistic expectations for a visitor looking for a church. And . . .

Well, let's just take it piece by piece, excuse/answer by excuse/answer.

1. "I can't come to church until I get my life together."
Lisa, hairdresser, says, "Church is how I got my life together.
tag: A place for new beginnings.

I'll start by saying taht I find this actress really appealing. (I assume it's an actress, not a real hairdresser. I'm willing to be proven wrong.) And I've known people who have the experience of joining a church and it being a very grounding experience for them. Thanks be to God. This is how it's supposed to be.

That's not my experience, exactly. I grew up in the church and it was a great way to grow up. I mean that and stand by it. As an adult, however, I tend to find deeper involvement in the church to be a little . . . I don't have the right word. Stifling? Damaging? Those words sort of work.

I'm reminded of a line from Sting: "Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one." That's more my experience.

But again, I find the actress to be appealing in her quirky, awkward way. She pulls off a sort of redeemed ledge-sitter. I'm happy for her. I just don't believe it's everyone's experience and I'm not sure it's an expectation that many congregations can meet.

2. "Church is filled with a bunch of hypocrites."
Randy the pipefitter says, "And there's always room for one more."
tag: Imperfect people welcome.

I admit, this always sets me off when people say it. I used to work with a supervisor who always said the definition of "religion" was "hypocrisy." Of course, he was also the supervisor who was constantly telling workers to do more work and less talking while he spent hours most days in spirited conversation about college football.

I can't deny the church deserves its accusations of hypocisy, but that's because it's always easier to preach morals than to preach grace. Once you set yourself (plural or singular "you") as a paragon of morality, you're going to screw up and probably in some really big public way. It's just that simple and we all do it, with or without religion. It just seems the church does it in flashign neon.

So in this case, everyone kind of annoys me, the excuse-maker and the promise of welcome tot he imperfect. You're going to get judged at church. Someone's going to shun you at church. And at work, and at the grocery store, everywhere you meet people.

Maybe---and this is only maybe---at church, there's a mutual understanding that repentance from judgment and shunning is desirable, a goal to move toward. And I do believe that's worth something. It's just a far cry from a promise that imperfect people are unconditionally welcome.


Okay, I see that this is going to go on longer than I even realized. I actually have this written in long hand (which is not how I usually blog), and I think it's best if I break this up into individual posts. I'll try to add some everyday. It looks like it might be a 4-part rant. Feel free to tell me how unreasonable I'm being so far. I feel a little unreasonable, which is why I stopped blogging for a while (even before I saw this video). Just don't stop here. I think I'm going to come to a point . . .

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