14 December, 2007

Christian Republican Bloomers - Pt 2

The Irish Republican Army was orginally supposed to "ignore" the British Empire into submission. We all know it didn't turn out that way, but let's imagine for a second that the founding idea was still worth mentioning in polite conversation.

And I have likened the denominational hierarchies of Christianity to the British Empire. For sake of convenience, let me define denominational hierarchy as any Christian relationship defined and documented in a legal contract form. Yes, that includes vice presidents, deacons, orders of worship, statements of faith, and missionary callings. And foremost, it includes church membership rolls.

I realize there will be some argument against my definition of paper as the enemy, but I think it's pretty close. The real enemy of the church is the flesh of each of her members. I attack paper because it's our generation's go-to defense for our flesh. Lurking behind every piece of paper you'll find a sin waiting to happen. Whether it's the church budget allowing greed, the bylaws enabling sloth, the calendar supporting procrastination, or the membership roll feeding pride; red tape is always the first defense of the bureaucrat and the cheapest ammunition to fire at messengers of the Spirit.

Here is my proposal.

Ignore all paper in the church.

Statement of Faith? Burn it. Bylaws? Owe all men nothing but love; against such there is no law. Denominational missives? Chaff. Membership rolls? Printed lies.

For anyone who wants to play along at this, doing it will not be easy. Salguod hit it square on the head in his comment on my first post.
Ignoring the establishment while standing in it is hard to do, and not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to feel disconnected, outside the mainstream, misunderstood and just a little bit odd. Most folks can't stomach that, and instead go to find somewhere they can belong.

I understand. It's getting hard for me too. In my youth, I carried this feeling with me everywhere I went, and used it as a neurotic defense mechanism. These days, I'm starting to enjoy this thing of being accepted and acceptable. I must be getting older. A couple weeks ago I was cornered into telling my pastor I'd not be signing up as a member. I experienced a new feeling, and a rather unpleasant one. I felt unhappy about being a troublemaker and a strange person. Oddness has always been something of a badge of honor for me, and feeling uncomfortable as the odd man out was decidedly healthy.

And yet, I think this might be worth the trouble.

You see, here's what might happen if we ignore all the paper in the church.

We might remember that people are the only thing in the church that matters. We might start thinking that being found helping each other is more important than convincing each other of anything. We might start respecting each other for maturity of love, instead of maturity of doctrine; holding the hurting instead of holding offices; being bound to brothers instead of being bound to definitions. And we might stop reading about people "shopping" for churches.

I know there's no current example for this. I know there's no church out there that keeps nothing written down on paper. Still, there just might be a little thing arguing in favor of living without bureaucracy - the family.

Can you imagine life if America reinvented the family right now?

Hey guys,
I'm new to the Columbus area, and I'm looking for a new family. Any good suggestions? I'm comfortable with old stuff, so I don't need a lawyer family, or anything like that, but I don't want a "rusted out '72 Vega" family either. But they can be into '70's music, 'cause retro's seriously hip these days. And they can't be into spanking, 'cause I won't let anyone touch my kids. But great holidays are a must. I can't stand those families that downplay Xmas.

How long would it be before we invented a contractual definition of the family? No one wants to commit their lives to anything that might change, right? But God didn't protect us against change, and so we go on fostering unprotected love between genetically related people. God thought it was enough that we shared the same parents for us to be brothers.

So how about copying that plan in the church and see where it gets us?

The bible gives us plenty of ways to know when someone is not in the family. We don't need to invent a statement of faith and membership roll to be sure.

In Pt 3 I'll try to list some ideas about how to bloom where you're planted.


Anonymous said...

I anxiously await part 3. What you say resonates with my heart and my ideals. I'm not always sure how to carry out it in practice. A career counselor recently described me as a "quiet renegade". I've never liked feeling like the odd one out, but over and over in my life, I end up being that, because of my sheer stubborness in refusing to conform my values and ideas to the norm just because it is the norm.

Currently, I think I've given up and am more accepting of being the odd one out, but at the same time, I'm struggling with arrogance and looking down on others in a way I hadn't struggled with before. That's hard for me to admit. I look forward to hearing your input on blooming where planted, even when that place is not the ideal environment I might long for. I want to be able to hold to the longing for better without rejecting the people and spiritual relationships that are in front of my nose.

codepoke said...

Hey. Life is easier with specific questions, if you have any. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm migraining today, so I don't know whether I'll get in a good answer, but I'm thinking about it. :-)

Anonymous said...

So sorry about the migraines. How do you manage your work with a computer screen while having a migraine? It seems like that would be a terrible combination.

codepoke said...

Don't worry about the migraines. I don't get the big bangers others do (at least not yet.) I get the pain-free auras followed by a day or more of slow thinking. No big deal. For 1/2 hour I cannot see well enough to work at a screen, but after that it's just a matter of having to do stuff that doesn't require creativity.

I think I'm getting a handle on why I've been having so many lately, and once you have the trigger in hand you can usually take control again. That's all I need. I want to give it a couple more weeks without a major migraine before I shoot my mouth off any more than that, though.

Today's was almost a non-event (thank you Lord, and it's right in keeping with my guesses.) I picked up my daughter from the airport and had an unusually wonderful ride back with her, then even made it out to hit tennis balls (outside finally - it was a balmy 29 degrees and dry; Florida folk may laugh as necessary.) So, I got a good start on Pt 3.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying this series.

One other challenge that I see is that this stand against paper, against the establishment can lead to seeing evil in all who don't. You can start looking at the church you're part of as the establishment, and full of unnecessary papers and documents. Pretty soon, you can no longer abide by them and off you go.

I've seen it with many in my own experience. The local church or the larger church organization becomes the enemy, evil even, and staying with it becomes akin to participating in their sin or at least approving of it. We can become, in our opposition to 'the system', just as guilty. They seek to define and structurize (is that a word) the church, to make sure that it is what it ought to be, we see that it's not what it ought to be and refuse to participate in it at all.

I feel the pull of all these things - the desire to fit in and blend, the desire to be rid of all the 'corruption' and sometimes the desire to just run and hide. But deep down, I know that only in staying and standing for what I feel is best can I do right be the church. She is served by men who dig deep for truth and Godly conviction and follow it no matter where it may go.

I fear I fail too much of late in the following part, too content to sit and watch. I also wonder if much of my digging deep isn't mere wallowing. Thanks again for writing this.

codepoke said...

Hey Salguod,

Pt 3 is up now, and I'm curious whether you think I've dodged this bullet.

I won't kid you. I hate the paper. I don't just dislike it or think there's a better way. Paper is a killer of churches. I think paper is perfectly appropriate to any company of > 500 people. And I don't think any church has any business being > 500 people (barring 12 active apostles working in that church or some other unusual circumstance.)

But taking on the church toe to toe like I did in my 20's and 30's is a losing proposition. It's exactly equivalent to the Irish Republican Army fielding a uniformed military to meet the army of the British Empire in symmetric battle. The Irish tended to run out of bodies before the Brits ran out of bullets, and they just didn't have any way to build a stronger army - the Brits made sure of that!

Even given that prejudice of mine, though, I have total respect for the members of our churches today, and for the officers of those churches. I want to see them continue in their love for the Lord forever. I just want to see their callings redefined a little bit. Hopefully, Pt 3 will communicate that possibility.