Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Christian-Controlled Marquee and a Need for a New Church Division

There are two Christian marquees that I encounter every day on my way to work. One is owned by a very conservative, King James Only, Baptist church. The second one is outside a Christian owned business (hair salon). Both of these signs are very visible.

I will mention the church one first because it seems, of late, to be the lessor of evils. For a while the Baptist church has provocative sayings such as “Thank God for Global Warming” as well as anti-gay sayings. For the past year or so their sign has been rather benign (“We are a Family of Families”) and doesn’t’ change that much, but it is very visible as it sits on the main highway.

The business though is a different story. It is held up, on our island, as the ideal integration of Christ into a business. I know nothing about the owners but like everyone else on our island, I know clearly their positions on a number of issues. Unlike the Baptist church, they change their sign at least once a week.

This morning the sign read, “We would love to change our Governor for the one in Arizona.” When I saw the sign, my immediate thoughts went out to the very large Hispanic population on our island. How do they feel about the sign?

Now, I honestly believe that good Christian people can have a variety views on immigration and there is not one clear view that is “Biblical.” But there is a tendency among Evangelicals to want to “keep the foreigners out of my country.” They attempt to wrap Biblical concepts around this view, but we all know it is personal and selfish. Not to say that the other sides aren’t the same.

However, I personally am perplexed by this America Fortification view.

I use to teach a Sunday school class on world missions. We prayed earnestly for missionaries willing to go to all parts of the world. We studied about great opportunities missed in history, when the church did not send missionaries to countries, like China, who were begging for them. I watch all kinds of TV preachers crying and telling how they are brining food to the poor in the developing world (with 50% going to support the up keep of their many vacation homes). Yet, when the people, whom we suppose to care so much about, want to come here . . . we hate them.

Before this sign, the beauty salon had up signs about the myth of global warming. I am still perplexed why Evangelicals are opposed to that. Is there some obscure verse that says that global warming is myth? There’s been signs by the Christians about defending our right to own guns, pro-life (which is more understandable), anti-Obama, anti-Arab, anti-electric cars and etc.

So seeing the sign this morning started me thinking again. The evangelicals, which I am no longer part, have defined themselves so precisely, from a cultural stand point, that I think a time must come where there is a major split between them and us simple Christians, “simple” meaning without a lot of cultural beliefs wrapped in Jesus.

Right now there is a huge abyss outside the door of the Evangelical church. That is why, when most people walk out, they fall into nothingness. Some do find people of like mindedness in the Catholic, Orthodox and some of the old-mainline churches such a Lutheran. Those can be good places for us, but they are not consistent. What I mean is, I attended a pretty good Episcopalian church when I was in college. But I tired to attend one last year and it was 90% New Age spirituality wrapped in Jesus the same way that the Evangelicals wrap the right-wing agenda in Jesus.

Mike Spencer talked of the demise of the Evangelical church. I do believe that something will grow from the stumps like mushrooms. I don’t know what it will be. I tried a house church and I had great hopes for the house church movement at one time. But now, every house church I’ve visited or been part of has one foot in the cult grave. Bizarre things can happen there. We are talking about spiritual manipulations, weird experiences (used to manipulate). I’ve known a couple of house churches that seemed good on the surface, but it turned out to be dens where the confident, charismatic (not literally but in terms of personalities) have secret orgies among the pretty girls under their control.

Now I know that I could find good places in some house churches, good places in some Catholic or Orthodox churches, but there is always a gamble.

But this is not about me. I’ve resolved that I’m not going anywhere right now as a gift o my wife.

But I’m thinking about the Church in general. I think there has to options to capture those exiting the back door and going nowhere. I do believe that there is a Bible mandate to meet together and to hold each other accountable.

I wish I had the confidence and talents to start a low-key “safe house” for Christians who can’t stand all the “plus” stuff. You know, Jesus plus this or that. It would be as much as a church as any. It would a way station to catch those who were on their way to nowhere.

The sad thing is that most of those leaving, who have not put the years of thought into it as I have, really do believe it is the Evangelical church or the devil . . . so they finally choose the “devil” rather than put up with the farce any more. To suggest that they could meet with me in a coffee shop or a bar and be real seems so bizarre to them they would never think it was possible. To them, it seems so wrong that not going to church at all seems better.

Just a few more spontaneous thoughts.


Johan said...

Ah, thanks for posting this.
These days I'm thinking the same things. I was at a prayermeeting last week for the upcoming Dutch elections (I live in Holland), and several people in the small group prayed things like 'Do not take your hand from us because we allowed bad laws being made about abortus or gay marriage.' The notion that God's blessing has something to do with our moral position, which suggests that nations that are poor or at war did something wrong, or are lesser morally. Then praying that these laws would be revoked (without praying for christians to love homosexuals more). I sat there squirming. I honestly don't know if I believe in the same God as these people do, because their prayers have nothing to do with the unconditional love of Jesus (but more of an old testament thing). I am constantly inspired by your descriptions of community and what I read of 12 step groups - this is what real community should be like - total honesty coupled with total acceptance. I long for that.
I just don't know where or when I'll find it.

(Word verification is 'metalen' - which is Dutch for metals).


MJ said...

I don't know a lot about the church scene in The Netherlands. I did spend two weeks once with a (American) friend living in Amersfoort. I went to church with his family. It was a small church, started by American missionaries and attended (about 70%) by American expats.

I know that I rant about the frustrations of the American church mixing the gospel with certain political views. I suspect, knowing that there are some very conservative political views (especially towards immigrants)in The Netherlands, that the Dutch Evangelicals also mix their political views with their gospel too.

I also realize that I have given up on any dream of a utopian Christian community. My dream is to find the lessor of evils and a place where I can exist without going nuts. For right now, it is being very superficially involved with an Evangelical church. I can't pull in any closer (as I tried before) withing being constantly frustrated. So I enjoy the friendships, the basic teaching and sacraments but avoiding the American culture+Jesus political discussion.

Johan said...

Well the political scene here in the Netherlands is different than in the VS. The evangelical christian party is pretty much to the left (socialist) on issues like healthcare, care for people without jobs, international development and environmental issues (and to the right on issues like abbortion, family and gay marriage).
Still, yes, the right parties that do not tolerate muslim immigrants would want to have christians support them too. Scary stuff.

Anyway ... I understand why you would lose your idealism. The ideal church does not exist, does it? But still .. something in me wants to keep searching for this experience of community that's real. Maybe the truth is that I will not experience this in a formal, organised 'church setting', but in friendships, spontaneous meetings or on the internet. But I keep searching. It can't be that the gospel is powerless. It can't be that the love and acceptance of God to us, the message of the kingdom, will stay totally without effect in our relationships ...
In the words of U2: 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for ...'