I started writing this post on August 28.
This post has been rolling around in my head for a while. It may still take a while until it is fully formed and ready to be read, but I have to start, at least.
Please be aware that I will probably step on some toes here, if you consider yourself a Christian. You are warned.
This school that our daughter is attending is a Christian school.
The school she transferred from is a Christian school (which both Jason and I also attended).
Another of the schools my husband attended is a Christian University.
The last school I attended is yet another Christian University.
You could say that we have a bit of experience in relating to Christian-based institutions of higher learning.
Additionally, we have lived and attended churches in all four quadrants of this country. Our foundational years, and longest number of years, were spent in the Southeastern states. We spent a couple of very short years in the West, and four years in the Northwest. Now we are living in New England.
Over these past 16 years of living in different parts of the country, we have experienced many different churches. We have attended little bitty churches that met in schools, medium-sized churches, and a couple of really large churches with lavish buildings and lots of staff members. We have experienced acceptance and rejection in equal parts in those churches. We have been part of the inner circle, while also being excluded.
Through all of these experiences, my thoughts about how we do church have been evolving.
I love observing people. I learn a LOT from them.
One of the interesting things I have observed throughout our times in different churches is that *most* have an attitude of "our way is the RIGHT way" to worship, to "do" church. This has been true of the very VERY conservative church in which I grew up, of the slightly-less-conservative church in which we were married, and to varying degrees in every church where we have had the opportunity to worship over the past few years, with very few exceptions. This seems to be a thought process that happens across denominational lines, in almost all churches that would be considered Protestant. It does not seem to matter how educated or cultured the church leadership or members are...this thought process still seems pretty deeply ingrained.
I also have been watching what my friends who claim Christ post on social media. Election cycles are always interesting and eye-opening. And my Evangelical Protestant friends seem to been some of the more polarized, evangelistically preachy political people I have ever been exposed to. Also, every new issue that comes up tends to draw out more polarization and anger.
Trump vs. Clinton
Breast vs. Bottle (aka, Mommy Wars)
War, military, government, etc.
Yoga pants. Leggings. Skirts. Jeans. Dresses.
Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, you-name-it....
Spanking vs. not-spanking
Homeschool, public school, private school, unschool....
Vaccines vs. no vaccines
Almost any contemporary problem you can think of stirs up anger, contention, and polarization in the greater Protestant community, and to some degree in all of our society.
As a student of people, all of this anger concerns me on many levels.
It concerns me that this show of anger is really a symptom of other, underlying concerns, fears, and frustrations that are not being addressed because the anger is more urgent.
It concerns me that our Western churches are so distracted by things on the self-esteem level, that we no longer feel like there is any need below that. In a word, we are blinded.
WE ARE BLINDED.
I am reminded of the Biblical account of the wealthy young man who came to Jesus asking how to attain eternal life, but didn't like what Jesus told him to do. (Mark 10:17-27) I am afraid that we as a Western church have gotten to the place where we are unwilling to give up our comfort to help others, or even to help ourselves. We are blind, and we are selfish.
We go to our comfortable churches with others who are as comfortable as we are, or who hide their discomfort well because it is not acceptable to talk about at church. We don't see it, so we don't think it exists, and thus we deny the need to fix problems that we think are non-problems.
In our selfishness, we see no need to give up anything in order to be able to reach out to others. In our selfishness, we refuse to budge from our places of comfort to even consider that others are hurting, are in need, are oppressed, are worthy.
WE ARE FEARFUL
This may seem not to fit with the two points above, but I believe we have let our fears get in the way of doing almost everything we have been asked and/or told to do in Scriptures. I see paranoia robbing God's people of peace, of friends, of a witness, and of ANY credibility. I don't think we're the only paranoid ones, but when God gave use a command for each and every day of the year to "FEAR NOT", it is time time recognize that fear should not be running our lives.
As a part of being blinded, we must remember that we cannot see what it is that we cannot see. We do not know what it is that we do not know. For that, we MUST be willing to learn from others who are different from us. We must be teachable.
I am afraid that part of the blindness of the people I know in the Church is (in part) from the leadership. In recent years, I HAVE seen a few brave and bold leaders who are stepping out to make a difference in their churches. I applaud those leaders. Sadly, they seem to be few.
In business, if there is a problem or something to be investigated, the main thought-process is "follow the money"...where is this flowing FROM?
Most pastors and others in leadership positions would often say that they are following what Scriptures teach. I would challenge them to examine themselves and their teachings from a different perspective.
Every single person approaches life from a unique perspective. Our views are tainted by how we were raised, the community we currently call home, the friends we have made, the education we have received, the privilege under which we operate. This biased, tainted perspective is no less true for pastors and church leadership than for their church members. What we have received is not something we can change, but it MUST be acknowledged before change can happen.
Which brings me to my next thought.
The education we receive plays a HUGE role in our perception of the world.
Our parents educate us before we even know we are being educated.
Our siblings, our grandparents, our neighbors, our pets, our schools....all contribute to our education.
If you have had the opportunity to attend college, you are among the privileged.
If your education was at a Bible college or Christian school or university, your education is a rare thing indeed. The privilege to learn about the world from a Christian, hopefully Bible-based perspective is not something to take lightly. I am quite certain that my friends who are educators at Christian universities and colleges feel the weight of the job set before them of imparting a unique perspective through which to view the world.
Many of my online friends hail back to our years together at a Christian school, and many other Christian schools and universities are represented in my friend list.
Given the vast number of my friends who have roots in a Christian education in some format or another, it always surprises and saddens me to see Christians misrepresenting the God they claim to love. I know I have seen others do it. I am quite sure I do it. I am human. We all are. This is NOT intended to cast stones, or to point fingers. We are all just as guilty in one way or another of blindness. We all need others to help us see our blindness.
Education does NOT eliminate that need. Frankly, I believe it makes that need even greater, because we tend to get lazy with time, and with others lauding our learning. Like any other profession, there is an incredible need to stay current with our study...of Scriptures, of current events, of how God is working in our world, of the experiences others have, of the traumas they face, of the needs they may have that we do not have. It is so tempting to look at others from the comfort of my privileged position and to judge them based on my experience. BUT, based on my experience, there is NO WAY I can fully understand their perspective. I need to get down off of my self-constructed pedestal, and walk a mile in their shoes, see life from their perspective.
Since I am posting this in December, we all know the results of the election have been more polarizing that ever, and I believe we need this reminder even more now, as we embark on an unknown future...may we place our unknown future in the hands of our known God, and allow Him to guide our responses.