Gentle Fudge
religion, politics, current events, and other fashionable dinner conversation.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Because I will never arrive
My husband can affirm this: I argue with preachers during church. Quietly. Under my breath. I am not malicious. I am not mean. I just have opinions and teachings and personal challenges that I wish to share and I haven't been asked to preach. Yet.

I'll admit I'm a highly opinionated person when it comes to challenging the traditional, safe, vanilla-protestant with a twist of classic Baptist religion of my childhood. We dunk; we don't sprinkle. We don't listen to "heathen" music. We don't allow women to lead churches. We view our "unsaved" friends as convertable sinners only. Funny. For something that is supposed to be so freeing, there are a lot of don'ts. Which only inspires me to do more research on doctrine. But back to my point.

I tire easily of the Sunday school answers that flow so easily from our lips. We don't think any more. Or maybe we think that we think since that's what we're told to think. For the most part, I get along with differing opinions-- even pastors-- but every once and a while, something tweaks my consiousness and I spout off in the car as we drive home. Or it sits at a slow simmer for several days and I mull it over, chew slowly and politely with my mouth closed, and let the flavors mingle until I sense the heat and then sent off my short thesis to a small audience. Everyone should have a sounding board.

A while back, the Theme Of The Month was Forgiveness and Grace. Very tricky to put into practice. There are many pretty songs about both. We are familiar with the story of the good Samaritan and how Jesus forgave everyone and how we should do the same. Yet we still have problems with those who don't share our viewpoint
. We pick and choose based on our personal biases; avoiding those who don't fit into our definition of worthy. Anyway, here's that spout about forgiveness and being honest [about] yourself.
With thoughts from the "but how do I forgive THAT person?" topic of the past couple weeks and tangent into a deeper realm of purple. Warning: Xtian abbreviation usage. I'm sensing that many are feeling pulled into doing the "good Xtian" thing because that's what "good Xtians" do. Such as the Forgive-Others theory. Or Love-Others. These concepts kinda go together. This includes the terrorists that flew the planes into the Twin Towers, your coworker with an alternative lifestyle, that guy in Washington you didn't vote for, televangelists who fleece our widows and orphans. Insert Name Here. Nice thought. Easy to do when you're five. Harder to practice when you've reached... a more mature stage in life.

So often when we struggle, we're told to give it over [blindly] and then magically everything will be all right. G-d will wave his cosmic wand, sprinkle the pixie dust and somehow, we are assured, everything will work out. For [our] good, it is implied, which usually is interpreted in our Westernized ear as instant gratification for vengeance, material wealth, companionship that will incite covetousness among the neighbors, instantaneous healing, or really cool shoes. Even if the process is extremely uncomfortable and we still have questions that we can't really ask because that would indicate doubt, either in G-d or in G-d's "messenger". And if we have no "faith" then are we truly "good Xtians"? And the vicious cycle continues. Notice that the focus remains on ourselves.

Which brings us to the topic of the moment. How do we change this culture? Should we? Is this healthy -- to doubt and ask questions and say, "Y'know, I really don't get this whole thing and I really would rather take a two-by-four and slap him upside the head"? (Now I don't condone acting on violent tendencies; just being honest with the emotion.) Can we be honest without spitting back Sunday school answers? And is religious regurgitation really honesty or simply parrot-speak?

From the blog I read earlier today which addresses the importance of honesty and inclusion, especially in The Church:

Today's young adults see a generation of baby-boomer Christians that has striven for "excellence" in every part of church life... The nurseries have got to be sparkling clean, the church buildings are marvelously functional as opposed to artistic, the music is as close to FM radio quality as possible (even if they must hire a band), the Sunday services are seamless with perfect transitions (just like television), the preaching is entertaining and informative (but not so deep as to offend visitors), and the plants on stage are beautiful (but artificial).

...the next generation has concluded that "everything is image," and therefore nothing can be trusted. Church is too slick, too good, too polished to be real. And the twenty-something hunger for raw authenticity just doesn't fit in...

It's been my experience that twenty-somethings simply want permission to struggle. Most fear that they are not good enough for God's family. Each week they are told about the standards they are expected to keep, and each week they are led to believe that the rest of the church is somehow keeping up. This "silence about the struggle" quietly drives young adults away from churches all over the country. One of the highest compliments the pastor of an emerging church can receive is to be told that his/her own difficulty in following Christ has given someone hope that they, too, can fail and still keep following Jesus.

Twenty-somethings also see a generation ahead of them in the church that cannot live well with moral ambiguity. Boomer Christians tend to divide the world into three categories: the holy, the secular, and the downright sinful. For example, there was a debate years ago about whether or not Amy Grant had "sold out" when she left the Christian recording industry and crossed over to the secular market. It wasn't evil, boomers would say, but neither was it holy.

I'd replace twenty-somethings with a broader age group and include Xers and disenchanted Boomers. But this does address the concern that many of us have regarding the Image of Honesty that many churches-- small c-- have. *raise hand* Permission to struggle? Can I leave the Oscar nominated performance at home on Sunday? Monday? Tuesday?

There is no neat, tidy way to wrap this up as I'm anti A-Better-Life-In-Six-Bullet-Points. Because faith is a process. I like the thought of a race, but races are short and you know where the end is. I have no clue where the finish line is or in what shape I'll be when I get there. But it is affirming for my personal faith to hear those speak out about their own doubts and struggles and knowing that they "aren't with it" along with me. And that is the foundation for an honest, genuine, living faith.

Y'all have a good weekend.

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posted by Sara @ 12:49 PM  
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Name: Sara
Home: gypsy wanderer, United States
About Me: Those who know me find me stubborn, opinionated, open-minded, strong-willed, of some intelligence, and yet they still hang around.
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Love God. Love all. Serve both.

There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor. -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

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