Thursday, February 21, 2013

Canis Christianus

I once read that dogs run away to die.  I used to wonder why they would do that.  After all, I'm scared to death to die alone.  But I think humanity has some similar vestigial instinct in our compulsion to hide our pain.  Pain implies weakness; weakness generates shame.  I don't know if a dog feels shame, but I know how humans feel it.  I know both men and women have lied, stolen, murdered and died to avoid it.  Entire cultures have regulated behavior, morality and social rules based on fear of shame.  The church has at times relied on it exclusively.

I have often felt that the scriptures do us no favors here.  I have my suspicions as to why Martin Luther called the book of James an "epistle of straw."  "Count it all joy my brothers," says James, "when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."  Here's my knee-jerk response to the esteemed successor of Peter to headship of the Jerusalem church:  Don't be such a prick.

Offended?  Yeah, well, me too.  That is, until I recognize that it's not the words of James that trouble me so much, but it is hearing them as platitudes from religious people that evoke this overpowering urge to wretch.  How dare you hurl scripture at me as if it were a balm!  Away with your inevitable, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus."  In the mouths and hands of the right people, even scripture can be venom.  You feed guilt with guilt.  Must I be ashamed even of weakness?  "Buck up boyo!  We've no time for your self-pity.  Don't harsh our vibe."

Other people's misery troubles us.  Keep your shit to yourself.  But if you dare to bother us with it, we're going to make damn sure you fix it - and pronto.  We love you too much to let that shit smell up this church.  We've got a kingdom to build, and nobody wants a shitty kingdom.

Honesty is ugly, isn't it?  But there's a whole lot of ugly between here and there.  You can turn your back on it and pretend its not there.  You can sweep it under the rug.  You can build cathedrals over it.  It won't go away.  The alternative?  We can descend into it as Jesus did.  You can build Christ's church in the middle of it.  Where the love of Christ is, there is redemption - even if it's clouded by our own weaknesses.  God make me brave enough to go there with you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In the end

Its ridiculous how trained I am to see myself in light of my accomplishments and failures.  I have far more of the latter than the former.  Ultimately, I have to resign myself to death.  Finally, I am a failure.  A beloved, miserable, pathetic excuse whom you never stopped smiling over for no other reason than that you are real, selfless love.  I keep wanting to be like you, but I'm lucky to make it five minutes without falling.  Thank you for loving me anyway.  Forgive me for faithlessness.  Help me to trust you at your Word - Jesus.  Make me able to incarnate that love to those around me.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I suppose I'll have to reserve this blog for my frustrations, since the other blog is supposed to be constructive.

I opened my mail this morning to find a flier announcing another church launch.  It read:

"This piece of mail could change your life forever - Relevant Church"

Thankfully on the back it said, "Of course that is ridiculous."  However, I fear their teaser had already turned off anyone who might ever look beyond it.  Just after that, it read:  

"This piece of mail can't change your life, but we are excited to introduce you to something that can.  Imagine a place..."

Did you catch that?  Apparently this place can change my life.  

"At Relevant Church we believe that church should be exciting, meaningful, relevant and life-giving."

Big words.  A quick perusal of the advert revealed that what makes "Relevant Church" relevant are it's 

1.  "Engaging, powerful worship services (translated:  Hillsong music & dynamic speaker).  
2.  Programs for children from birth to 5th grade
3.  They accept you for who you are

Guess what?  Based on this information, the only thing that makes "relevant church" different from any other contemporary church in this area is it's glossy advertisement.  Oh wait, nevermind, it's not different at all.  We have more churches in this area than we have restaurants!  Why do we need another cookie-cutter church?  Bluntly, because somebody else wants to be in charge.

You know what I want?  I want a different kind of church.  I want an advert that reads like this:

"If you're looking for another church don't come here.  If you're looking for coffee, cool music and fantastic kids' programs... well, we have coffee.  There are better places out there for that kind of thing.  But if you want to love and be loved like Jesus, we welcome you to join with us in trying.  We hope to be good at that someday."

Monday, February 4, 2013


How ironic is it that all of us want so bad to be somebody, but to truly live for Christ we must live like nobodies.  I can't help but wonder how screwed up.we have it in organized religion, where the most.popular leaders are the somebodies.  Where we try hard to have bigger churches, more followers, more and bigger buildings and programs, more influence - as if that defined our somebodiness.  It all seems horribly topsy-turvy.  It seems like a power game.  I begin to think I want no part.of it.