28 January, 2007

Lone Ranger Christian

I don't know of any class of Christians so routinely and unanimously villified as the "Lone Ranger Christian (LRC)." Not that it's difficult; you won't find an anti-defamation league or denomination of lone rangers to unite our voices in our own defense. Pretty much, the LRCs are sniped at from safely within groups of happily bonded believers - until that happy bond is broken.

An assembly of believers is a precious thing. Within its walls all the fellowship of the Godhead is exchanged between saints. Unfortunately, that is not all that is exchanged between saints. There is also the mountain of doctrine and politics.

I know saints in Australia, the Isle of Man, Scotland, Hungary, Romania and the US who are going it alone these days. My Australian brother calls the church, The Mob (as in unruly crowd, not organized crime.) He believes that any attempt to organize said mob is wrong. I don't know whether he's right, but if you knew him you would have to respect his opinion. His life demands it. These brothers have as different personalities as could be. They have different core doctrines. They have different degrees of tolerance for disagreement. They have nothing in common but the obvious.

And they all decided that the church was really not meant to be lived as an exercise in conformity.

I stand somewhere in the middle.

I attend church services three times a week, and I love the saints in that church. (My church?) I had been alone as a Christian for 7 years when I stepped foot into that building, and Christian love was a good thing to feel again. I wept to be there for the first three weeks, and it has been a pure blessing to me ever since.

But....

I'll probably never sign a piece of paper declaring that I am a member of any church. (Not that there's much risk that they'd have me. I don't think anyone has written a doctrinal declaration that would not reject me as a heretic after the third admonition.) I'll never sign anything that goes much beyond the Nicene Creed. Anything more than that is a declaration that I break fellowship with fellow believers, and I cannot go there.

If anyone ever writes a statement of faith that says things like, "We don't reject _____ nor ______," then maybe my resolve will be at risk. But denominations don't work like that, now do they? Denominations denominate. And that's a rub for me and my scattered brothers.

We respect the need for the church, all of us. We have to work hard to "assemble ourselves together" as Heb 10:25 demands, but we do it. All the LRCs I know find some way to assemble themselves meaningfully with brothers and sisters, even though sometimes those brothers and sisters would only barely fellowship with each other. It's worth the extra work not to be looked at askance when we assemble ourselves with "them."

The strawman of the Lone Ranger Christian is someone who is arrogant and impossible to please. He is looking for the perfect church, and thinks he is the fount of all wisdom as to what that might be. When people don't listen to him, he picks up his jacks and runs away, thereby making himself vulnerable to heresy, pornography, drugs, and bad hairstyles.

I've never known an LRC who was happy with his choice. They are just less happy with their options.

My church has made a place for me, and has not asked me to change. This is solely due to the influence of their pastor. He is a Godsend. He has allowed me to serve where I can, and remained silent toward me where I cannot. It's perfect. There are days I would like to be able to serve more in that little body, but I will never pass their membership muster honestly, and I seriously doubt I'd sign the piece of paper anyway. So I fellowship, and do what I can, and pray for the day that Christianity quits dividing over doctrine.

Until then, I respect the mission of the organized church. I respect the people who give their time, tithes and energy to it. And I hope they'll accept us for who we are, conscientious objectors from the kinds of peace they wage.

27 comments:

milly said...

I’ve never signed a piece of paper saying I was CoC and that’s all I believe is CoC. I think you’d enjoy my minister he loves to get folks thinking and he is trying to shake some of the old CoC ways. Then again, as I told my dad today when he brought the minister up, I wasn’t raised in the church really and I wasn’t raised CoC so I like to hear other folks opinions. I’ve learn a lot from the Lone Ranger.

pearlie said...

I like your honest post, even though I am not sure if I can agree with you on all points.

Doctrines we can agree to disagree but politics for sure is a no no for me, but sad that wherever we go there will definitely be politics. The other thing is that I just learnt that the Nicene Creed is the breaking point between the Western and the Eastern Church. To me, I don't see what so crucial as to cause a schism but then again, I am not from that time.

I am being very quiet in my blog on this church issue but I think I can be a wee bit more vocal here - I am taking a break from my church. I am quite tired over many things and I am burnt out. So last week (I missed church because I was just too tired, physically and mentally) my husband and I decided to go visit a neighbouring church. We were there yesterday and it was a wonderful experience, especially for me because for once in a looooong time, I went to church.

Milly said...

pearlie,
I'm sure it's a difficult thing to make that change. Prayers for you and your family.

Patchouli said...

Well, Code, I'm just about convinced that the local churches aren't full of fire-breathing pharisees...is it safe? I'll see...

Milly said...

patchouli,
Some are very safe. Find one that's a good fit. I think that you have a lot to offer I'd love to see how you work with teens I think you be great.

pearlie said...

Thanks Milly :)

japhy said...

pearlie - the word in the creed that EOCs find heretical is the filioque, "and the Son", from "we believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son".

Among other things, EOCs argue about the process by which it was added to the creed and re-arranging it seems to do the Trinity (making the Father and the Son "above" the Spirit, so to speak) and upsetting part of EO Trinity theology by which every attribute of the Persons in the Trinity is either unique to one Person or shared by all Persons. The attribute of "the Spirit proceeding" is then shared by two Persons (Father and Son) but not by the Spirit.

I don't think the "unique or universal" concept is an accurate one, though.

codepoke said...

All,

This is a cool comment thread. Much more than I expected. Thanks!

It was a funny post to write, because listening to the Lone Ranger stuff has been so hard over the years. Mostly during the years that my wife would not go to church was I truly a Lone Ranger Christian, but I've felt like one every day. Fitting in has never been my great strength. I'm far too individualistic for that. (I'll let anyone who would like to substitute "arrogant" there drive on.)

No wonder I feel so accepted out here. Thank you.

codepoke said...

Milly,

You've never thought about teaching in your church, have you? Most churches are compelled to consider it unethical to have a teacher who won't sign their statement of faith. 'Twould appear I'll not be teaching any time soon.

codepoke said...

Pearlie,

(Nice name, BTW :-)

Agreeing is the least important thing to me. Thanks for your thoughts.

I would be lying if I said I don't like the politics. The truth is that I don't like LOSING at the politics. The fact is I play them all day every day at work, and they don't really bother me at all. Done right, they form a great tool for building up all those around me, and myself along the way.

Done "as usual" politics are what I should have called "bureaucracy" in my post. That was a mistatement on my part. Bureaucracy is the weasel's way out (as defined by Scott Adams in Dilbert.) It's throwing up volumes of teeny annoyances until the innocent soul trying to get something useful done just gives up.

That I cannot stand.

As you point out, wherever there are two or more people, there will be politics. It just doesn't have to be bad. But, I get what you meant.

codepoke said...

Patchouli,

My heart aches for your words. I'm so sorry.

How do I answer? So many thoughts run through my head on this one.

I have found peace in my church. It's not because I have found tremendous fulfillment there. Let's face it, I'm a prima donna, and there's no way I'll get to open my mouth as much as I'd like in any church.

And it's not because there are not some raging pharisees in my church. I can name one right now whom I know has run off a couple people. I love her. She's even hinted a thing or two toward me. And I love her for thinking of me. She's a sheep in wolf in sheep's clothing clothing. I think most believing pharisees are.

If you can love transparently, and confidently know their barbs are lies, they won't turn you bitter. Really. I didn't say they won't hurt you, but their venom won't harm you. It won't find its way to your heart. (BTW, did you know that Steve Irwin probably would not have died at all had he merely not extracted the barb in panic? I think there might be a huge lesson in that for all of us.)

All that thrown out there, I obviously don't know that attending a church is the move for you. I just know that you can survive it, even if it's not heavenly.

May the Lord bless your choice, whatever it might be.

codepoke said...

Thanks, Japhy.

I just learned that recently from somewhere (I think Wikipedia on the Nicene) but I could not have done nearly so good a job on it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Codepoke, I found your blog from Tennis.com. I am a former English teacher, so I enjoy your efforts at rhyme. I am a former church elder-turned-lone-ranger, so I loved this last blog. And I'm a former college tennis player, so I love your comments on tennis. Keep it up. I'll visit your site from time to time to see what honest thoughts you have to offer. Tom in Smalltown USA

Anonymous said...

P.S. I've also been an avid blogger for about two years now. So I really like finding another blogger who has similar interests. Tom in Smalltown USA

codepoke said...

Cool, Tom!

If Smalltown is anywhere near Columbus, OH I'd love to hit some time. :-)

If not, then I'll look forward to reading your blog some day.

Anonymous said...

Nope, it's in the hinterlands of northeast Missouri--the least populated place in our Show Me State. My blog address is http://www.xanga.com/Totalmakover . I hope that makes it through the filters.

codepoke said...

Made it.

It looks like your little dude has a good service motion, and I'm glad to hear he enjoyed the tourney even with the opening round setback. :-)

Unfortunately, Xanga doesn't seem to publish an RSS feed, and most of my blog reading comes through bloglines. (Long story related to corporate firewalls.)

Lord bless your campaign!

Weekend Fisher said...

Lone Ranger Christian? Heigh-ho Silver, man.

I know a huge number of people who consider themselves Christians, but would not darken the door of a church. I'm glad they have someone to speak for them.

Milly said...

Codepoke,
I taught and no one ever put a piece of paper in front of me for that. I did have to do a psyc, test to see if I ok to be around the kids. Plus I had an FBI check. I must have passed. ;-}

I taught small kids and adults no paper saying I’d follow anything.

pearlie said...

Japhy,
I only got to know of it recently. It is a sad thing to happen because to debate about the Trinity will get us no where, simply because our language is just too limited to handle it. But history is history... we hope that it won't happen to us.

pearlie said...

I may be wrong but being a Lone Ranger Christian would be any different from being a Church Going Christian if they are both nomimal Christians, i.e. Christian by name only. My question is if we are both real and lone rangers, wouldn't there be a tug to go back into a community? Jesus never preached that we be alone but as a body of Christ. He was almost never alone himself. God is Three, Jesus was with the 12, though there were times when he was alone no doubt - like when he was fasting in the desert for 40 days but that was in preparation for his ministry to the people in midst of people. What do you think?

pearlie said...

Codepoke,
Thanks :) my mom gave me that name.
I am with you on the agreeing part – it is the only way for conversations to happen, or it will be reduced to just a monologue and that will be no fun at all!

I must then sign up on Politics 101 from you. I am having a tough time with it and I really have no idea how to go about it. I guess I tend to be simple in dealing with people and with that land myself in problems as well.

I suppose then that what I was referring to was bad politics or selfish politics – an I-me-and-myself kind of behaviour and dealings with other people. Sometimes I think I may be too na├»ve to see that and give, give and give and in the end I lose out a lot and it will be too late to do anything.

Weekend Fisher said...

I'm going to second Pearlie on that Politics 101. I can fend for myself in politics, but that's a long way from constructive use of it.

Kansas Bob said...

Guess I got in late on another one :)

Our church doesn't have a litmus test for membership because we don't have membership roles. If you want to be a member you just simply get to know us and serve.

I usually have 6-10 classes running on Monday nights with all sorts of teachers/classes but I don't give teachers a litmus test before I enlist them ... just ask for volunteers and then I get to know them.

I think that most doctrinal (and other) requirements for membership are leaders ways of asserting control over a group of people. It is sad because it eliminates the diversity of people and gifts in the body and breeds an unhealthy narrow mindedness. membership should be more about loving relationships and service not litmus tests.

Here endeth the rant :)

pearlie said...

I practiced a bit of constructive politics this morning and have plans for the coming month. I'll see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Hallo! ;)
oh... what unbalanced comments!
what do U consider about it?

codepoke said...

I know there's an unbalanced person putting up posts here, but the comments all look sane to me.

If I was a commenter here, though, and I heard me say that, I'd start worrying about myself.