Living in such a predominantly Christian area, just about everybody goes to church at this place or that, so it tends to come up in a lot of conversations. Dinner last night, with a couple from work, was no exception. It did go beyond those initial questions of Where do you go to church? and What is it like there?…
What turned you against the church?
I suppose my response was satisfactory enough, but the question unsettled me. Wondering why that might be, I won’t go into the whole “Church is a people/church is how they gather” conversation because that has begun to taste stale. I can only say that I do not consider myself against the Church or even just church. I don’t think I’m even turned away from it. Just…standing at a distance. I haven’t understood why, really…but I wonder if it is simply to get a larger view of what it is about church/the Church that makes me uneasy.
I get that churches are made up of imperfect people with quirks and hurts. I get that there is hypocrisy in the Church and sin and hidden agendas. I’m sure that’s part of why I’ve stepped back from things, but I don’t find myself ranting about how Christians are all talk but never live the life they preach. I get that we are tangled in the dailiness of life and that we slide, more often than we’d like to admit, into a sort of practical atheism. Fine.
I do identify myself as…Christian. But I believe that term, as a descriptive, is in need of renovation. I am not one who dogmatically adheres to a set of beliefs ordained by generations of people who knew the answers. I do not profess to have all the answers, in fact I have very few. As human beings, I believe that our ultimate point of reference for the way we live our lives is ourselves. I believe that as a Christian, I have committed to seek a shift in that point of reference, from myself to God.
But here I begin to stumble upon something, a large part of what makes me uneasy with church…
I believe that God, the word and not the reality and Presence to which it points, is a metaphor and only one of many that we use to explore the eternal and loving presence of our Creator. Creator, Redeemer, Lord, Father, Lover. These are all metaphors, little snippets or vignettes. Facets of the same Being. I believe it is the responsibility of Christianity (the Church) to explore and multiply these metaphors rather than settle for the existing ones and limit our thinking, our understanding of God.
I believe that it is also the responsibility of the Church to explore the boundaries of language, rather than limiting itself to high liturgy (on one end) or street talk (on the other). There is a grandeur to be embraced as we approach an engagement or any level of understanding God. There is also a certain grit to keep us grounded in the realities of where we are and speaking of God in ways that are accessible to many, not a select few (academics or those who possess to ability to read).
There. I said it. Kind of. I haven’t turned against church/the Church. I am standing at a distance. From there, I am beginning to see how much more the Church can be, how much larger a view of God we could hold and offer to the the world around us.