I HAVE THESE MOMENTS where I feel like I am Liam Neeson at the end of Schindler's List. I look at everything around me and see its uselessness, and more than that I can see what its value could be converted to. I think, "See that ginormous book about the tv show Lost. I could've used that money to buy a cow for a village in the Bangledesh." Sometimes it hits me really hard at church. I look around and see all the decorations (which are beautiful) and I think, "What are we doing?" At the same time, my brain recognizes that I like stuff, and to be honest, if I went to a church that had no decorations I would probably think, "They really ought to add some decorations."
I fell down a rabbit hole on the internet the other day when I went to cratejoy.com. It is this website where you can check out all these different box subscriptions that are available. Now, I have Blue Apron which is a box subscription that delivers the ingredients to healthy meals, and we gave The Girl a subscription to Kawaii Box which means we get to listen to ear piercing squeals once a month when she opens a box filled with cool Japanese stationary, toys and snacks. While cruising around cratejoy the other day, I discovered that humans are crazy. You can get a subscription for just about anything. The ones that really tripped me out though were the "Christian" themed boxes. You can get "Christian" workout clothes, "Christian" stationary, and "Christian" motivational posters. I thought that the workout clothes were mad specific. I mean, am I more of a Christian if I work out in a Christian t-shirt, or maybe I am less of one. I sweat like you wouldn't believe at the gym and that seems kind of disrepectful to my Christian shirt. And what makes a shirt Christian any way?
I used to teach at a pretty uptight private Christian school with a strict dress code. On certain days students could wear their "Christian" t-shirts, which was about as close as they ever came to free dress. I had a student show up in his AC/DC shirt once, and I asked him, "Uh, that's a Christian shirt?" His response was immediate, "Yeah, I was wearing it when I got saved, so it's totally Christian now."
Sometimes I wonder if we aren't doing church all wrong. I enjoy going, and usually leave thinking about deeper things, but is that what is supposed to happen? Sometimes it just feels like a club. We have club meetings once a week where we gather and particpate in some really specific club activities. We use our own special club lingo, and often even club shirts that we wear around town to recognize each other. We have special events at our club house and spend quality time hanging around each other. It can feel very comfortable. It can feel like a home, but is that the purpose of church? Are we supposed to just hang around people who agree with us and think like we do?
It has been said that Sunday is one of the most segregated days. churches tend to be focused on a single group of people. The people who attend that church not only think similarly but often even look alike. I wonder if that is because we are comfortable. We don't really include ideas that challenge us or are too radical. In fact, if someone comes in that has a specific agenda, we look away and say, "This isn't the place for that."
According to scripture, we were commanded to do two things under the new covenant: We are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems that those two activities should be the focus of our lives, and of our church.
I taught at school once, that had a very brief meeting each morning. It wasn't to talk about policies or strategies. It was like a daily mini-ralley to get us hyped up to do our job. We would gather and encourage each other -- reminding one another of our purpose -- to lead and encourage the next generation. Sometimes, we would talk about one particular student who really needed extra encouragement and recognition. As a staff, we would determine to make a group effort to encourage that student before the last bell rang. We gathered to connect, encourage and regroup. We gathered to remind ourselves of why we were doing what we were doing. We gathered to support each other, but also to hold each other accountable to the great cause before us.
What if church were like that? What if each Sunday we not only received an encouraging word, but we shared areas of need. What if we began to pinpoint families and neighborhoods who need a little extra TLC. I can picture it. A group gathered around a city map. The leader of the group says, "Okay, so for those of you who've got time, we plan to head over to this neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon. We noticed a lot of the homes have yards that are overgrown, and Paul over here, pointed out that since it is one of the older neighborhoods in town, the people living in these house might also be older. Maybe they can't do yard work. So, bring your equiptment, and let's see what we can do. Also, there's a group meeting at the church kitchen on Saturday afternoon to put together some snacks for the local school. If you can help be sure to be there."
The Husband got sucked into a FB conversation the other day. After a back and forth exchange, he chased me down. "I blame you for this." He told me. "You've turned me into some kind of radical! I used to be just fine minding my own business, but now I'm trying to point out the flaw in people's logic. I hope you are happy!"
Most people get radicalized in college and then mellow out over time. I feel like the opposite is happening to me. I can't seem to shake the crazy idea that maybe loving the people around us is a direct correlation with our loving God. And it doesn't seem to be enough any more to just sit and say, "Yes, I will love my neighbor now. I won't get angry when they play their loud music. See, I am following that command." That seems a weak substitute for what the Man who spoke those words actually did: going into the homes of the reject, defending those cast aside unjustly, and sitting down to eat with prostitutes and tax collectors. I am often told that dealing with social injustice and poverty are too radical and controversial. "That's not what we are doing here." Why not? The leader of your organization was a radical, after all.
P.S. Two things:
1. My Sunday thoughts are my thoughts. They are based on my experiences. I am a pretty flawed human, but I like thinking about things and asking questions. I fortunately attend a church that isn't opposed to questions. My thoughts about church in -general are NOT necessarily directly related to the church I attend, other than the fact that sometimes I think about them whilst sitting there.
2. Our current church is the exception to the Sunday segregation rule. As a biracial family we are thoughtful to look for opportunities for our children to see families that are like their own. We were stunned, our first Sunday at our church to watch no less that 4 biracial families walk in the door. That is something fairly unheard of in church, and threw us for a loop -- being the biracial family at church is usually our gig! It has been a wonderful experience to see our kids connect to friends whose life experience is fairly similar. I overheard my daughter tell her friend, "I know!! We couldn't find any light brown barbies, either! It was so annoying!" That is powerful stuff, friends.
I'm working on the Barbie thing. I know. For the record, all The Girl's Barbies have been presents, and whenever I play Barbies with her, my Barbie is working on the Thesis for her PhD.