r-e-s-p-e-c-t

I have been trying to put my finger on what it is about modern evangelical Christianity across the spectrum of flavors that has been making me cringe in its interaction with, first of all, its own kind, but, more importantly, those who are not considered to be part of the “clique.”  It is this in a nutshell: There is a blatant lack of basic respect.  The show of such putrid disrespect for other cultures and belief systems that are considered outside its own culture literally translates to an unconscionable rudeness toward human beings – from within and without the ranks of the cliques.

If Jesus had shown even a hint of such disrespect in His dealings and interactions with people during His time of walking as a man among us in the earth, His followers would have been few and so insignificant there would be no mention of them in historical chronology.  But it was the high level of respect He showed to others that inspired people to follow Him just to see what He would do and say next.

It is this lack of respect I see that tempts me into contempt and ridicule toward the evangelical movement – from the whole spectrum of flavors starting with Pentecostal and Charismatic leanings to the staunchest of the fundamentalist unyielding denominational circles.  It has proven difficult not to fall prey to this temptation to scoff on a daily basis.  I wince at the things I see people doing and saying so blithely, that show such disregard for the sacredness of all life, the sacredness of the human soul.  When I first began paying attention, at first, I was stirred to shock, then horror (especially at the realization that I’d participated), then quiet indignation, and then I began to not want to be so quiet and compliant until I noticed recently that the cuss words I had been suppressing for many years began to finally flow freely out about it.

Though I recognize that my feelings are justified, to continue down this path is only going to accomplish one thing: to alienate me from that which I have desired the most, which is closeness with God.  I recognize that I succumb to anger so that I don’t have to feel or deal with how my heart breaks that people do not get to touch, and see, and feel, and hear a very real Jesus who would never wound the way people who use His name do.  Either way, I feel utterly powerless against such an onslaught and such a growing widespread epidemic of entitlement, and arrogance, and brutality – which may actually be the very design of the trend!

You know what?  Why give them the satisfaction?

quietly

When I wrote that last missive, I was thinking of all the churches I’ve been to in my life and how most of them are noisy and have something going on the whole time I’m there – so much so, I could barely hear myself think…and, usually, I couldn’t seem to find a true footing in making the vital connection with God I came seeking.  The connection was made for me, as it were, and it was my call and my duty to “plug in.”

The church I’m in now is the very kind of church I was criticizing when I was newly getting into “charismania” (the charismatic movement).  I’m in a Methodist church in a tiny town.  We still sing out of a hymnal and we have an organist, no choir, just us singing songs – some well over 100 years old but inspiring as if being sung for the first time.  The service is quiet but not uncomfortably so.  The message is sometimes challenging, always uplifting, and always the gospel.  In those quiet moments, I have experienced some profound interactions with God.

Throughout my life there’ve been times I’ve craved quietness so much so that I have been known to drive to very remote places and when I find a place where I haven’t encountered a car for a while, I’ll turn off the engine and just listen to the quiet of nature minus the hum of machines.  I live in a world where we are several generations now removed from people who knew how to coexist with quietness.  There’s been a radio now for pushing on 100 years and a television for well over 60 years.  Now computers are with us wherever we go, and mobile phone alarms are going off absolutely everywhere.

One thing I noticed in charismania, if there was a period of silence in a church meeting, people would start getting fidgety and uncomfortable.  If it went on for too long, the collective brink of panic was almost tangible.  I have often wondered what would happen if everyone committed to pushing through the fidgets, the discomfort, and the brink of panic.  What would unfold if no one was churning something out for all to assimilate and then all pow-wowed at the end of the silence, once absolutely all were at peace, and we shared what came to us when we all, simply…waited.

Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles.  They shall run and not be weary.  They shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

If we’re weary and we’re fainting, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s time to learn to simply, wait.

hittin’ the bench

Hi y’all!  Anybody out there?  Long timee, no blogee, I know.

I’ve been through a ringer of trials, crushings, bruisings, what-have-you, for about the last, say, oh…I dunno, 19 years since I first stepped foot in a church?  Yeah, about that long.  It particularly started intensifying about 3 1/2 years ago when I stepped out of living church hell and into a vast unknown.  And after all the hell and hellishness I’ve walked through I have come into this pretty green clearing, if you will, and have arrived at this place of such gratitude, gratitude that it didn’t kill me – even though at times I wished it had.  Gratitude that there was something put in me that could withstand the pressing, and the testing, and the hammering, and the plowing, and the mowing, and…dude, you might just have no idea…and, then again, you might have some idea…

I guess you could say I’ve been through a re-formatting in the last 3 1/2 years.  You know when you have some stuff you think you really like and really want to keep, but you see this new thing you’d like to add to your scandisk, and this prompt comes up to tell you you’ll have to re-format to add this new thing?  And it goes on to say that you might (which usually translates to you WILL) lose whatever is currently on the disk if you agree to the re-formatting process?  I suppose you could say that is similar to what I have been walking through of late.  The re-formatting process was super uncomfortable, super scary, and, frankly, not any kind of anything that even resembles fun.  But you know what?  Now that I’ve been through some of the re-formatting, I kinda like this new format!  And I can let the Programmer add anything He wants to the disk, and I’m not askeered (scared), or at least not as much as I was, to let Him put the stuff He wants on the disk.  It’s pretty cool, actually.

So, I’ve been thinking.  We’ve got this format for the way we do church.  We have a “worship service” time where we all meet, and we do this thing, and then this thing, and then we have a preacher who stands up and does this other thing, and then we go out and we do this thing.  Okay, I’m married now, so I can say this:  Seriously??  Do you have to schedule time to have sex with your husband or wife???  I mean, if you do, that’s cool.  Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to keep the boat afloat.  And that’s primarily the function I see church having in the earth today worldwide, just kinda keeping the boat afloat.

But, think about it:  If you were tongue-hanging-out-of-your-mouth in love with your man or your woman when you married him or her, wasn’t it really awesome when you could just get together and let it happen?  And if you didn’t necessarily have the butterflies when you married, it doesn’t mean you can’t have that.  I mean, don’t you want that?  Doesn’t everybody?

And don’t you just gaze into the first few chapters of the Book of Acts and think, man, I’d like to be in that church…  They got together spontaneously, and they didn’t necessarily have a scheduled time and place, and they didn’t necessarily have a preacher – yet people preached as the Spirit moved on them…and not necessarily the same person every time.  I really feel for pastors of our modern-day churches.  I mean, what a freaking DRAG, man!  A hired gun for a preacher who has to collect a freaking paycheck and freaking find something to run his freaking mouth about every freaking Sunday.  That’s a lot to put on just one person, the lion’s share of the responsibility for the functioning of the whole church.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what God intended.  I had to step back and really ask myself, was that really what Jesus had in mind when He said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?”  Emmm…uh uh.  Nyah.  Nyope.  No.  I mean, I may be smoking some kind of crack I’m not aware of, but I’m really beginning to think I don’t think so.

Just some things I’ve been thinking about lately…