Monday, January 16, 2012

From Both Sides

I noticed earlier last week that a You Tube video had gone viral and was getting linked by people on both the liberal and conservative side of the faith. It is this rap poetry smackdown of the church titled, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus:

Well, there must be something right about it, I thought, if both sides are linking to it.Or something wrong. So I did some thinking and digging.

When I was done watching it I first sat there and scratched my head. I sort of agreed, and I sort of disagreed- and then I wondered what all the fuss was about. In one way or another I have been hearing these same thoughts for most of the nearly 50 years I have been a Christian.

(I also realized that these same words, perhaps in a different eloquence, were also posted on the church door by Luther, and preached by Hus, and, well, you get the point.)

Usually when these words are spoken it is to clearly aim the criticism at THEM. You know who THEY are. THEY are the ones who put Church ahead of Jesus. THEM. Not US. Usually, in my awareness of these past 50 years , this critique came from the evangelicals aimed at Roman Catholics and Episcopalians and the historic mainline Protestants. You know- THEM. The ones who value the church and tradition above Jesus.

Unlike US.

I did some more surfing and found some expected push back on the Internet from different positions but basically taking issue with
1) The smackdown of the church and
2) The ending with the same old, same old evangelical line.

In other words, perhaps, there is nothing new under the sun, even if it is found on You Tube.

My reaction went back to where I started- in spite of its seeming newness it is nothing but a reinvention of the wheel. It is a re-channeling of the old criticism against the "establishment"-type churches ending with the "party line" that in the end what counts is not the Church but me and Jesus.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that we in the church have far too often spent far too much time and money and energy on The Institution. We have defined ministry as what is done BY US, FOR US. We have, as the rant points out wanted to be a hospital for the sick. But all we have done is foster dependence on the hospital which has turned into a hospice or, at best, a nursing home. We never seem to get better- until we leave the hospital.

Thirty years ago some of us were involved in a valuable and deeply spiritual successful renewal movement. Like most renewal movements, however, it became an institution and lost the sharpness, the excitement. One of my friends who was involved in our initial founding of our local group, developed some exciting spirituality and ministry. He began to get interested and involved in some distant (i.e. non-local) work. The more my friend gave in time and energy, the more excited became his faith. The more excited about his faith, the more ministry became important. Happiness increased. A sense of fulfillment grew. And the less involvement there was with the activities of the local movement. You know, things like Bible study, worship, fellowship activities. Things were too exciting.

Which is exactly what we all saw as the purpose of the renewal movement: to GO and BE disciples.

But many in the local movement group began to make snide remarks about my friend's decreased participation in the local activities. When someone, like me, would try to justify my friend's ministry involvement, others would smile and agree with a gentle, "Yes, but they are needed here to keep the movement strong."

So I do see the point of the beginning of the You Tube video. But the simplistic approach seen in the whole video, the way too easy US vs THEM attitude hurts more than it helps. It takes the faith to a place it cannot survive. Alone. Just me and Jesus together forever. While I am not sure that The Church is doing such a great job of its task, I also know that the individualism approach won't get very far either.

Which in the end is what disappointed me most about the video. It only brought us back to our human failing and that, I am convinced, will never get us anywhere either.

No comments: