Last week I was watching "Michael Collins," which was billed as the Irish, "Braveheart." Produced in 1996, it tells the story of maybe the largest figure in the establishment of the Irish Republican Army in 1916.
The movie starts in the middle of a toe-to-toe symmetric battle between Irish freedom fighters and British soldiers. The Irish, not being a nation and all, are hopelessly outgunned and eventually surrender. Mr. Collins is thrown in jail and, after couple years, released to start the battle all over again. There's lots of stuff about how cruel the Brits were and how crafty Mr. Collins was, but I was arrested by one line out of this movie.
You see, I feel a certain affinity for the freedom fighter.
We live in the colonial era of Christianity, under the rule of denominational monarchies. In my deepest heart of hearts, I cannot feel free in the church.
There's an Irish freedom song called, "The Town I Loved So Well." It's about a lad who returns as a man to Derry, the town where he grew up. It spends three verses talking about what the town meant to him as a child, adolescent, and finally a young man. Then it says this:
But when I returned how my eyes have burned
to see how a town could be brought to its knees
By the armoured cars and the bombed out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by that old gasyard wall
and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God, what have they done
to the town I loved so well
When I look at the church, this is precisely how I feel.
My eyes burn as I see how children of God can be brought to their knees by armoured doctrines and bombed out shells of worship. There's a haze in the air because the fresh wind of thought is shielded away. The denominational HQ looks over every teaching and practice, and the damned barbed policies get higher and higher. With their rules and their tools, what must God think of what they've done to the church I loved so well.
The song concludes like this:
Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what's done is done and what's won is won
and what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well
I cannot tell you what that song does to me. I've sung it for half-hours at a stretch, and never quit crying the whole time. I could not resist singing it again just now. And every time I sing, I see the same thing. I see 20 of us brothers and sisters sharing our lives and love. I see us daring and living and loving in Christ, without a single other care in the world than Him and each other. I see prayers and laughter and sermonettes and Christians blooming on the Earth in Christ's Name.
And I then see faces in a crowd looking up at a pastor.
I see brothers who have to whisper their thoughts and questions in coffee shops and ideas that will never be tried. I see songs conceived in sisters' hearts that will never be written, and never be sung. I see meals that will never be offered, and risks that will never be shared. All because the government of man cannot handle the dynamic confusion of God's sheep unchained.
The Shepherd doesn't bind the sheep. They know His voice, and they follow Him. But no denomination can abide that kind of gamble. Without chains and leashes the sheep could end up anywhere. So they add a rule here, and a principle there, and soon the house of God is ordered. Soon, wherever the lead sheep goes, the flock must follow.
Paul said it was for freedom we were made free.
In the movie, Michael Collins is dealing with the British government. Offscreen I know the Brits are doing many "good" things for the Irish, and they are "helping" in so many fine ways, but a nation's worth of services won't make up for liberty stolen. The government'll do anything but let the Irish be free. Mayhap you can see how I might identify a bit with the situation. If not, it's OK.
One of Mr. Collins' compatriots, the intellectual leader of the bunch and president of free Ireland, writes a letter to him that concludes with this line:
We defeat the British Empire by ignoring it.
I have been looking for a way to free the church for 25 years. If you think I've shown dedication to tennis or to any other thing about which I write, you've not seen my heart. The children of God deserve to be free. God deserves free children. This thing needs to happen.
But there's nowhere to start. There's nowhere to put a lever, no fulcrum, and no force to apply. What's more, there's no coaches. There's loads of amateurs with wonderful ideas, but none of them with the convincing "ring" of expertise.
I get loads of coaching from amateur tennis players, even players who are better than I am, but they're just getting lucky out there. They can hit the ball because they've got serious talent and received enough coaching, but they don't know how they hit it. They cannot teach anyone else how to do what they do because they don't understand it themselves. And when they get in trouble, their game collapses.
In trying to change the church, the problems are goliath. For starters, the sheep don't want to be free - but then nobody wanted to fly either. And then the establishment got that name by being so well established. They are firmly entrenched. And there's nothing they say that's false. They lead their chained sheep around speaking accurate truths about freedom, and the sheep nod and feel lucky.
I learned the hard way 10 years ago that I cannot fight the establishment.
But what if I ignore them?
What if I don't change them, but just quietly forget they exist, even as I fellowship wh brothers and sisters in their sanctuary?
What if I hang with the other sheep, and kindly refuse to put on their chains? They are all voluntary, you know.
I cannot field a government that can beat theirs. So what? I didn't want to end up with a government anyway.
That's the most I can fit in this post. More another day.