This week marks the one year anniversary of my wife and I being excommunicated from a church we were already leaving.... or being tossed out of a church we had already left.... or however you want to look at it....
The last year has been filled was some difficult stuff.... my Dad died, we learned some painful lessons, my wife learned how much more cynicism ends up being right than optimism (sadly) we learned a lot about ourselves, our faith, our talents and our values.... we each had wonderful triumphs, brutal failures and eye opening realizations. At the end of last year I think we thought we were crusaders against a sick, unhealthy pattern in western Christianity.... As the months went by we realized that this sickness that exists within the church, this focus on marketing, profit, growth, and marriage of western pop culture and church culture is a product of hundreds of years of missteps, greed, selfishness, and worldly desires creeping into decisions made by leaders.... We could easily spend our lives crusading against the injustices, inconsistencies and distortions that the church has adopted in the main. We could push back against the misuse of spiritual matters for earthly gain... we could shed a light on the ideals and ideas promoted by the church that are fundamentally antithetical to the message of Christ, the nature of God and the true power of the Cross and what it represents to humanity.... or we could cash in our chips and live out what we were preaching.
Truth is that the Church is horribly polarized and terribly unhealthy. Society views it as hateful, predictable, judgmental and archaic in its thinking. Its treatment of women and the LGBT community, its intolerant views towards other world religions, its inability to discourse with opposing viewpoints without becoming horribly shrill.... have left secular society mistrusting, and wary of it.... It's habit of holding up a humble impoverished Carpenter from 2000 years ago as its model for living while sitting inside multi-million dollar campuses, watching sermons on jumbo-trons..... Its a spectacle that society rolls its eyes at.. Hypocrisy is the word my non-believing friends at work use most these days. Past couple of weeks they gave me these nuggets:
"Bunch of hypocrites trying to get rich off a fairy tale."
"I'd thank God too if I could talk a thousand people into giving me their money every week so I didn't have to work."
"Yeah I would be willing to consider the idea.... but I can't buy that crap.... If they love God so much how come they need to get paid to talk about him? There's a lot of money in that game"
"I know two dudes who are going to school at Biola.... They talk about the Bible like a text book.... they aren't in love with God, they're in love with the idea of being Christian superstars. Only difference I see between them and my friends at Chico is they want to be Pastors when they graduate. Its such BS!"
The Mainline church is losing touch with God and as it desperately seeks to grow and grow and grow it has taken on the likeness of pop-culture in order to win favor with pop culture..... While simultaneously moving ever more sharply towards an intolerant level of orthodoxy and downright hateful right wing viewpoint. We think men are kings, women are helpers and want you to come join us for our American Idol Pastoral Sermon showdown on Friday Night.
I have, and the church has plenty of reasons for me to be criticizing it. But I found that the more I pounded on the door..... the more I tried to bring to light the problems I saw.... The more I sounded the same.... I was just arguing away, like any other obsessed cultural Christian.... arguing theology except now I am on a different team.
I like to say things like "Let your love trump your theology" and I believe that I practice these words in the real world.... but I really don't.
If my love trumped my theology, it would trump my dislike for Mark Driscoll right? Agreed he needs someone on earth to hold that runaway train of unbridled psychosis accountable..... but if I love before and above my theology..... then he, Piper, fashion passion Pastor Furtick, Ed Young, the looney tunes over at 9Marks etc.... should all fall under that umbrella as well right?
Truth be told the more I read the counter cultural voices, the more I hear the same thing with a different angle..... Rachel Held Evans is fighting against injustices, battling it out with the Corporate church and bringing awareness to women's issues..... but she's still arguing one side vs. another on theology.... and she's still making her living from spiritual matters.... There are dozens even hundreds of people in this counter culture who knock the Mainline Church for being power hungry, money hungry corporatists but they spell out their arguments against the mainline church in books (Buy Now on Amazon!) fee based appearances (click box on the right if you'd like ****** to speak at your next event!) and are ultimately doing the same thing in a smaller and maybe more honest fashion... but ultimately they still want to get paid for knowing God (or knowing a lot about him) and talking about him. Only difference is that they are on a different team.
I understand that just like Politicians, the Mainline Church and it's billion different factions need watchdogs. Watchdogs serve a vital purpose to our country protecting freedom and abuse of power..... likewise so do the watchdogs of the church protect against unbridled ambition, power hunger etc.... But I have come to realize that I can't endlessly argue this or that .... go tit for tat with people of opposing view points for my egos sake...... I either love and live and walk the walk.... Or I'm bullshit.
So to that end, this blog (UnReformed's) may be on borrowed time..... Walking the walk, meeting someone where they are at in their life, has a lot more powerful effect than shooting my effing mouth off on the internet. Talking with the homeless guy and girl for a half hour the other night like friends rather than just giving them 5 bucks and patting myself on the back.... they needed someone to treat them like a human being, not a lost dog on the side of the road..... We Christians will throw them a twenty and basque in our own generosity but won't ask them their name.... His was Charles hers was Linda.... They'd been on the streets for almost 8 years and I was the first person who had spoken to them in over a month. I don't say this to pat myself on the back but rather to compel you, whoever waste their time reading this to do the same.... These are human beings who are essentially treated like animals in our society.... It doesn't take much.... next time just ask a panhandler what their name is.... Everyone wants to be known.... that's a good place to start.
There is a whole world of people around you.... all of them struggling with something.... all of them could use a pick me up..... So I have chosen to be HERE for people NOW rather than sit at my keyboard scathing people like Driscoll and Piper for being such neanderthal megalomaniacs.... which they are.... and they do deserve the shots for some of the shit they pull....
But my love has to trump my theology with them too.... and my LOVE needs to be evident to people, not just a matter of fact that I keep to myself..... We can all talk ourselves till we are blue in the face.... we can scream at the top of the lungs that what SO and So is doing is wrong (which it may be) and we can argue theology endlessly till the Good Lord returns..... But all the words in the world.... all the talk and chatter and sermons and teachings and critiques and arguments on the planet will not lift so much as a single rock and we outta think about that.