|Image credit: http://funnycollectionworld.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/angry-girl-face-photos.html|
I attended church on the weekend. The little church I have been going to is a lovely little community in so many ways. There is a "holding loosely" of doctrinal ideas, that allows people of different persuasions to feel welcome. There's room for discussion, and for difference. Sometimes it looks pretty "churchified" and other times it looks pretty free and relaxed. Sometimes, what happens there challenges or softens me and my 'Bolshie' prejudices, and other times, I think I challenge others, in a good way (at least, I hope so - a lot of the time I'm afraid I just look like that spiky, mistrustful "outsider").
Anyway... I turned up on Sunday after a couple of months absence. It was lovely to see familiar friends. We sang about Jesus and love. That was beautiful. Cathy shared communion, and it was a message of hope and gratitude. It did my heart good. There was a baby dedication, where friends and family gathered round and committed to supporting one another to bring up little William (he and I are good mates, in spite of our 46 year age difference) to know God's love. Then there was a guest speaker. I kinda think that's when "Church" (in the sense of community built around the love of God - that kind of church) finished.
He definitely got me a little off-side by starting with a "joke" that was actually rather nasty and misogynistic. Oh well... doesn't mean he really takes that attitude, does it? Let's see how things go... The message began with the guy saying that God had always been there for him. So far, so good. He recounted his born again experience, and miraculous healing of broken ribs that happened unexpectedly as he was baptised. How he'd been filled with enthusiasm, and life had taken on new colour and meaning after experiencing God. Okay. But then it kind of started to sound more and more like an endorsement for Amway - oops, I mean institutional Christianity. I began to get more and more restless in my seat as he recounted how his faithfulness to the church had resulted in "ministry" opportunities, how friends who had originally been "on fire" for God had drifted over the years, hopped from church to church, or even ceased to attend at all - and how he could see the detrimental effects of this in their families and personal well-being. How trusting God and being faithful in 'ministry' had led to financial blessings. Even an awesome car. He talked about the righteous "leaving an inheritance for their children" which could "also" include an inheritance of faith... By then I was definitely turning into cranky, Bolshie Kerry. I showed my graciousness by leaving my seat quietly and only muttering under my breath.
Normally, when someone is speaking out the front in our church, it's okay to stick your hand in the air and interject - question, add something... I wanted to do that, but because he was a "guest", and also likely not accustomed to such informality, I thought it would just appear rude. I'm still wishing I had - though it would have been a challenge for me to do so graciously - I was getting a bit hot under the collar, so perhaps it's just as well I bit my tongue. Or not.
Seriously! That kind of crap makes my blood boil! And it goes UN-QUESTIONED!! I'm mad at myself for not challenging it at the time. But not just that - for not BEING the antidote. There's the sticking point.
It's easy to poke the finger at people who seem all caught up in a horrible religious culture. Who think they are promoting God, when in fact they are only using his name to endorse the system that supports them. And to say that this kind of "us and them" mindset is what feeds hatred and bigotry in the world. It's easy to point out that this is all very small-minded and that God has to be a whole LOT bigger. But unless I'm living that reality; and God is showing himself bigger in ME - All I'm going to do is add to the noise of conflict.
So my challenge to myself, is not just to talk about it, but to LIVE into a better reality. And to put Jesus to the test - right where the rubber hits the road. I haven't been living that out very well. That's the truth. I'm sorry for being spiky and difficult; and for my own inability to love well. Because I think the answer really does lie right there. And next time somebody gets up in front of a bunch of people and starts subverting the message of love - perhaps I'll have the right words, and be able to say them in the right spirit.