|Do you love Christ but despise the church?|
|Well, golly gee, you sure do have your reasons.|
Let me count the reasons you could have contempt for the church - it's homophobic, patriarchal, bureaucratic. It builds buildings instead of lives, it has rules instead of guidance. It is effectively conservative but overrun with flaky liberal talk: the worst of both worlds:. Local parishes in the U.S. are too often expensive social clubs with bad programs, not communities for support and growth.
What most burns me, though, is its persistent, steady anti-intellectualism, its preferential option for the mediocre. Over and over it prefers the cliché to truth, the pretty to the beautiful, the safe to the breakthrough.
The church has turned Bible study into memorization, spiritual direction into pop psychology, worship into a duty, spirituality into being good, tithing into financial planning, and prayer into nothing at all.
Ahh, but are you still taken with the splendor of God and the wisdom of Jesus? Do you wish to have that be the foundation of your religious life? I have no idea how or where, but we have to find each other and build a new church.
In my vision of the church, it owns little. Its purpose is not the building of its institution but to refresh people with a vision of their ultimate calling and ministry. It sends people back into the world to do their ministry in daily life. Its' priests teach, lead worship, be with people in times of pain, and nothing else. The central office is the trunk of the bishop's car where he keeps his/her laptop while she/he drives around to help the priests with their problems.
This church respects the wisdom found in other religions, knowing they chart different paths to enlightenment and God, and knowing that the forces of sin and destruction are our common enemy.
In giving up the trappings of power the church will recover its real power. And the world needs this. Across the world, fundamentalist, anti-intellectual religion is on the rise and confronts a renewed secular scientism that is starting to call for the abolition of all religion.
But confronting these problems, and receiving God's beauty will not occur without fundamental reform. For make no mistake, the church as institution's greatest impact has been it's power to squelch interest in Christianity, in the society as a whole the church is next to irrelevant. Those who hunger for meaning and transcendence come in our doors and are repelled by the banality and dullness they find there. Christianity may not be dying, but the church is. And that is a good thing.
The case against the church
The possibility of reform
However, what the church has done has been against what the Bible proclaims, and therefore a renewal is possible. Reform has happened before and can happen again. Some who have urged reform.
A program for renewal
Worship must become faithful and effective.
The Bible must be restored to its place as guide for life, saving it from the conservatives who want to make it a book of laws and the liberals who think they are more progressive than God.
The Institution must surrender its focus on its own life and exist to enhance the lives of its members.
The Christian church must recognize its own unique gifts and accept the plural nature of God's revelation of truth to the other religions and admit that salvation is found there.
|Last updated 1/11/07; first posted 3/19/01; © 2007, 2006 John P. Nordin|