Now and then I’ll find myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, skimming the status updates on my home page, growing more and more dissatisfied the longer I do it. I’m not sure what it is I’m looking for as I troll through the entries, but it’s clear I’m probably not going to find it on Facebook (so why do I keep trying?).
Here’s the thing; I think I turn to facebook at times, to find (or, rather create) a sense of meaning. Usually (like earlier today) there is very little to be found, since the friendships I maintain on Facebook (with a few exceptions) are fairly artificial, and I would argue that artificial relationships are the last place to find, build, or maintain a sense of meaning.
At the same time, I have found Facebook to be an amazing source of negativity. Some of the best “Christian” blogs are promoted by all kinds of my “friends”, and they all start with some line advertising how hip, edgy, and cynical the author has become because of their experience in a church environment. I’m at the point where I’ve stopped reading most of these posts, simply because I can save time by guessing where they’re heading just by reading the introductory blurb that’s posted in the status. “The church hasn’t given much attention to X-issue that I care about because I am someone who cares about X” the tagline might read. Or “The church isn’t doing nearly enough to address Y problem, as indicated in the following witty story that illustrates how poorly the church is doing in that area.”
It’s amazing how many Christian bloggers can blame the church, hold on to their pain, and yet remain blameless themselves. Didn’t we used to call that throwing stones from glass houses?
We’ve (Christians) fallen in love with blaming the church (and I’m trying to reform my ways). That’s the beauty of an institution. It exists so that we can cast judgment upon it rather than accepting responsibility ourselves for the evils and the injustices that we perpetuate. It’s true with schools (“I can’t believe those teachers are teaching our kids that way”), it’s true with government (think about any conversation you’ve ever had about politics, taxes, or road construction), and it’s true of church.
The institution of church serves as a fantastic scapegoat. We can attend, we can contribute, we can volunteer our time, we can join up and be counted among God’s faithful…but at the end of the day we can still criticize the institution of church to our heart’s content, simply because we still contain, within our individual selves agendas, ideals, and interpretations of scripture that have not been satisfied.
In other words, we have great expectations. The institution of the church lets us have it both ways. We can participate and release our burden of responsibility through worship, prayer, and fellowship; and at the same time we can heap the responsibility to change the world upon this third party; this mysterious institution that is not doing ‘its’ job.
This is why I think we find so many “Christians” who are not “religious”…or find no need for a community of faith (otherwise known as a church). It’s really a way of sloughing off both the blame for a world that continues to be broken, as well as the responsibility to do what we can both individually and as a community to construct a new one.
What would happen if we stopped ripping on the church for not jumping on our agenda? What if, instead, we spent our breath sharing good news, and signs of life, and plans for a better future?
For example, after church today (I’m writing this Sunday afternoon, but it won’t be published until Monday morning at 6 a.m.), we shared a meal with a family at our church who do a lot of traveling. He is going to India shortly to spend some significant time training, resourcing, and developing a number of rural health clinics among some of the poorest people in the world.
That’s awesome, isn’t it?
We have another three people connected to our church who are currently in Haiti. They are visiting a dear family that our church hosted after the earthquake drove them to seek alternative living arrangements. We have maintained that relationship, and now they are there, exploring partnership options that could benefit not just this family, but possibly their community in Haiti as well.
Isn’t that awesome?
There’s a thrift store in our town that was started by people from our church, is managed by people from our church, and is staffed many times, by volunteers from our church. Because of all that, tens of thousands of dollars (maybe more) are given to MCC every year to relieve some of the pain and suffering around the world due to wars and natural disasters.
Isn’t that awesome?
I know I could fill just as much space in this thing called the blogosphere by ripping on all the areas where the church “just isn’t getting it”. I could call out this bigot, or criticize that denomination, or I could simply point out all the flaws I see within my own.
There might even be a time for that.
But can we just for this time; from now ’til Easter, could we just try to name a few things the church is doing right instead of laying the guilt trip down so thick?
Life is hard enough, it’s dark enough, it’s broken enough without us Christians adding to it with our cheap shots and criticisms (no matter how easy they come).