Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day-- And the Loss of Idealism

I just heard on NPR (radio) this morning that it was Bastille Day. Rats, I forgot to wear my red Phrygian cap.

I know that I had talked about the French Revolution ad nauseam in the past but one more thought and how it applies to this church issue.

When I first became disillusioned with the Evangelical church (circa 1994) I started to study, and study and study. I started with Howard Synder's old books (The Problem of Wineskins) but I also read everything available on the first century church.

To make a long story short, I reached a very confident conclusion that the ideal church was the "House Church." I worked hard over a year to write a doctrinal statement for the church, an organizational chart and etc. Then I put an ad in the paper. It wasn't about the church per se, but inviting people who were also interested in the concept to contact me. Each time a family contacted me, I methodically had dinner with them, discussed the concept, had them read my doctrinal statement and organizational chart . . . all to make sure we were on the same page. As far as humanly possible, it appeared that we were.

So after a great deal of thought and work, we started the church with five families. It actually started very well . . .at first. But before the first year was over, it imploded. Looking back, I realize that each family had their own agenda for leaving the mainline church and those agendas didn't mesh. But I think I did as good as a job as anyone could have in trying to set it up. Maybe if you were in a much larger, metropolitan area (our city of Marquette, Michigan had a population of about 25,000) you could have found a sustainable group who were all on the same page. I see too, that while I was exiting the evangelical church on the post-evangelical side (those terms were not even in my lexicon at the time) the others were leaving on the hyper-evangelical side.

I was going to go into details but I think I'm being redundant (as I've shared those stories before). But in summary, the other families presented everything bad about evangelicalism in its extreme forms. One family wanted to get armed to fight the coming war with Bill Clinton. The next group wanted us to follow so much legalisms that it would make a Pharisee's head spin. (the husband of that family eventually ran off with his young secretary . . . literally). The wife of the next family consider herself a prophet and would chant words from God that would leave the entire group spell-bound, except for me who saw her as an emotionally disturbed master manipulator (seemed like God was always saying things that stroked her ego).

Anyway, I canned the entire group.

The lesson of that experience, and of the Bastille Day, is that there is no idealism. When I speak out against some of the ailments of evangelicalism, I no longer have an Utopian dream of what the church should be. It will eventually be what it should but that will not occur in this life time.

But, while there is no hope of a more-perfect society (which the Reign of Terror would sound prove to the thinking French), we still must press against un-truths, dishonesties, and injustice.

When I've spoken to my wife about switching churches, she always says, "You're not going to find a perfect church anywhere." I now know that deeply. Yet, there is a hope of seeking the lessor of evils when it comes to church.

So, happy Bastille Days and remember that Utopia was only a figment of Sir Thomas Moore's faulty imagination.

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