Right off the bat I should probably tell that there aren’t going to be any cool/goofy pictures in this particular post (I’m as disappointed as you are). I hope you’ll keep reading, anyway. Also, this post will probably be pretty general in its language without a great deal of specifics, mainly because I’m not trying to call any one out here. In fact this isn’t really a call of any kind — a call to action, to arms, or to repentance. It’s really just a plea from a grieving and broken heart. Full disclosure: it’s after 12 am, and while I’ve tried to keep this concise, I’m pretty sure I’ve failed.
I see so many young Christian thinkers of my generation using their God-given minds to do theology not out of love for the Church or for the sake of the Church, but rather as pain- and/or embarrassment-fueled acts of self-vindication against the Church. I see brothers and sisters lashing out against the Church that hurt them, pointing out the ugliness of the Church that made them feel unworthy, and rejecting in disgust the Church they feel rejected them. And they write about why they ultimately left the Church not out of a desire to draw Christ’s Bride closer to Him, but to justify the act.
Don’t get me wrong: the Church hurts people. I don’t know why this surprises or shocks us. The Church is a community of faith founded upon, among other things, the common belief that we so royally screwed up everything that it took the death of God Himself to start the process of making it right. The Church consists of people being made right, not people who are in the right. And so we hurt each other. And so we sometimes weekly confirm in our interactions with each other the fact that, yep, we definitely need a Savior. Sometimes people are hurt so badly they leave — sometimes that local church and sometimes the Church altogether. And in leaving or in the way they leave, they often end up hurting others. (I am not saying there is never a good reason to leave a local church, though there is never a good reason to leave the Church.)
And many times it seems those who (justifiably!) feel hurt and wounded level the sights of their creative and brilliant minds right back on the Church to whom God gave their wonderful minds as gifts in the first place. Rather than working to fix the flaws of the Church, they flay the Church wide open through books and blogs so that the world can gawk and stare. They join nonbelievers in mocking and disparaging the Church — even going so far as to try to separate Jesus from His Church so that He becomes more palatable … as if God ever offered Himself separately from the community He creates.
I’ve been guilty of all these things. But I’m trying to change. I’m trying to see the Church as Christ says she will be. I’m trying to love the Church as Christ loves her .. and remembering that I’m part of the Church! If I leave the Church, all I’m doing is contributing to the problem.
I try to help fellow Christians think through Christianity not so that they have to admit that I was right and they owe me an apology, not so that they feel ashamed or put in their place, and not so that I feel vindicated against those who have abused me and abused the gospel. I try to help the Church think through its pervasive folk-theology, its sometimes sentimental, yet meaningless art, and through its empty jingles, rhymes, and sound bites because the One I love loves her. In fact, if I understand the Scriptures correctly, I actually cannot claim to love God without loving the Church, as well.
So please, fellow bloggers, authors, song-writers, artists, and thinkers of all kinds — we of a generation that feels so utterly alienated and put off by the Church in so many of the manifestations left to us by our parents and grandparents: Fight. Fight! Fight for the Church. Not against her. Fight for her right belief and right practices. Fight for the value God sees in her. Fight for the beauty He will bestow upon her. Fight on behalf of your fellow mess ups — the ones who have abused and hurt you because they themselves have been abused and hurt.
This does not mean that we as a generation give up the prophetic voice. The Church needs correction and reproof in every age, and God always manages to raise up men and women of faith to do just that. But prophetic does not mean abusive, and it most certainly does not mean unloving. Do theology out of love for the Church, or not at all. For as Paul reminds us, whatever we may accomplish, if it is not done in love, it is worthless. That includes the products of our rage, anger, and self-vindication — no matter how clever the theology may be.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)