Friday, 24 October 2014

A Tale of Two Standards

Ok, I tried.

I really did!

But how can anyone stay silent when such injustice is perpetrated - celebrated even - in the 'church'?

Of course, you've probably guessed by now who I'm talking about.

A certain pastor who resigned his position rather than face the consequences of his actions. Who couldn't "man up" enough to actually face the mountain of bloody bodies under his bus. Who just parked in the middle of the road and walked away...

…and turned up next, being lauded and applauded at a 'pastors' conference!

And there is call after call for us to feel sorry for this man and treat him gently

like this:
I want to honor a great apostle a great man of God. He is a trendsetter, pioneer and my prayer goes out to Him. I cannot imagine what He is going through right now but one thing i know that truly hurts is friendly fire.
Morris introduced Driscoll, who was sitting in the front row of the audience, reminding attendees that "not everything you read on the Internet is true" and encouraging them to "restore [Driscoll] with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted." He then asked Driscoll to say a few words. As Driscoll approached the mic, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
The institutional church seems to side with those in power. It circles the wagons and shoots at anyone who questions this ethos. We must protect our own!

I just can't help wondering if it's because of a secret fear, "It might be me next!"

But God help those who've been run over by the MD bus, or any other, if they ask for justice.

They are bitter, unforgiving, ungodly, unrighteous, slanderous, gossiping, lacking grace, angry, bigoted, self-righteous…

I think you get the picture.

And yet…

it was Jesus himself who championed the "least of these". The downtrodden, the vulnerable, the powerless, the sinners, the outcasts.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brother Love

In my post entitled Toxic Church I shared how stressed and anxious I had been at the thought of attending my mother's funeral because of my brother and sister-in-law's shunning of me.

My SIL quite pointedly maintained this position, turning sharply away from me at the funeral. She even told another person that I was the one refusing to talk to her. I considered confronting her over this lie, but there are only so many times you can beg someone to deal with issues between you.

However, my brother did approach me later at the wake, and gave me a quick hug. I felt wary and confused, but inwardly hopeful. I asked him if this meant we were now talking. When he tried to assure me that we'd "always been talking", I told him that this hadn't felt like the reality I'd experienced.

But I really wanted him to know how much I'd valued his overture of friendship, so I said to him as we leaving, "If we are talking, can we have coffee together?" He responded positively, so I asked him to call me to set a date.

I came away hopeful that at least he and I might be able to restore relationship. Sadly, I've heard nothing from him in the weeks since.

As much as I want to see a different outcome, I know I can't control him or make him want to have relationship with me. So I choose to set him free.

I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside he knows this truth:

Friday, 17 October 2014

Is "Bless You" a New Four-Letter Word?

I was responding to a comment on a blog post the other day and I wanted to convey my goodwill by speaking blessing to the other person. I wrote it down, but found myself hesitating over publishing it. I pondered my reluctance for a minute or two until I realised what the issue was.

You see, too many times I've seen self-professed christians writing acrimonious comments to one another and then sign off their vicious verbal attack with the words, "Bless you, brother/sister."

It's as if you can speak any vitriol you like as long as you slip in a christian cliche at the end which somehow sanctifies the whole.

Or not!

In the same way that other words or phrases have come to convey something quite different from their original meaning, how long will it be before "Bless you" becomes a swear word?

Update: 9th May, 2018

This morning I witnessed a friend being "blessed" online by someone who obviously believed they could be as malicious as they wanted as long as they said the magic words at the end. And it occurred to me that "Bless You" has not so much become a swear word, as a get-out-of-trouble-free card that is played so that people can pretend (at least to themselves) that they aren't just downright nasty.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

How Do We Measure Goodness?

After a recent hard season of sadness and loss (including the death of my mother), my husband and I were thrilled to have the opportunity of a week away together. No children, no responsibilities. We could please ourselves with what we did, and when.

And so we slept in, ate delicious food, drank lots of wine, and stayed up late watching movies. And we remembered that life is good. And we were grateful.

And we talked about life as it has been in the past, and life as we believe it could be. Life as maybe it was created to be.

And I have come back with a renewed desire to live well in the small things, the mundane, the everyday. To live in such a way that others feel blessed, and loved, and valued.

While we were away, one of the films we watched (and which captured my attention) was "Chocolat", which tells the stories of the people of a small French village in 1959. The mayor, Comte de Reynaud, is a man of strict morals and unyielding religion. He is aghast when Vianne Rocher, a single mother, arrives and sets up a chocolatier in the town. During the season of Lent no less!

The tragedy is that the Comte's religion only inspires him to demand that the villagers accede to his harsh moral absolutes - he seems to care nothing about their lives beyond their outward conformity to this code. And he uses the Catholic priest, Pere Henri, as a mouthpiece for his own bitter, religious dogma. No love, no joy, just self-denial and joyless work. Yet you sense he yearns for something more.

And it is the one he condemns as a sinful temptress who shows genuine care and compassion to those around her. She reaches out to them, invites them in, shares her joie de vivre.

Now I know that many people would point out that she was sinful, immoral, pagan even - but the fruit of her engagement with others was sweet.

Others would say it was all just horribly cliched and that everyone knows that "Hollywood" (a catch-all name meaning anyone who makes films and is not a christian) is always portraying christians in a negative light.

But I'm not so sure.

It didn't feel cliched to me - it felt all too familiar.

And I would like to ask a question. Is it possible that the negative, "Hollywood" portrayal of christians is the result of genuine observation? Can it be that this is what has been seen and experienced?

Toward the end of the film Pere Henri is finally allowed to speak from his heart.

"I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create... and who we include." 
Beautiful words, I thought.

And maybe worth considering...

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Show Must Go On!

In his blog post Christianity, Mission, and Steamroller Blues, David Hayward (aka the Naked Pastor) suggests:
Steamroller blues
"If you want to have a church or organization that has a vision and a mission at its forefront, then you have to put the personal development and relationships of the individual members second. 
In other words, you can either have a task group or a community."
It has been my experience that every institutional church has a mission at its forefront - namely to 'do church'. I've never yet come across a church which puts relationships ahead of this ongoing mission.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Time after time, I've seen people sacrificed - or steamrolled - by those who see themselves as being custodians of 'the vision'.

People who were being 'difficult'. People who were asking questions. People who were hurting and in need of care. People who were just getting in the way of the smooth operation of the institution.

But it got me thinking. There was that one time when something different happened...

We'd had a regular service planned. Worship songs chosen. Sermon written. Everything set in place.

And then we got the news.

The couple, whose pregnancy we'd been so joyfully celebrating, had lost their baby. This wasn't the first time. (And although we didn't know it at the time, it wouldn't be the last.)

But we knew we couldn't just carry on as if nothing had happened.

So we cancelled all those important plans we'd made. We put them aside because we knew that when one member of our family mourned, we needed to mourn with them.

And so we met together for our Sunday service. And we grieved, and we hurt, and we wept. And we made place for God even though we couldn't understand him. And we made a space for all to speak, to share, to question. We acted like a real community.

Like family...

Tragically, that was a once-off event. An isolated experience. Months later, when we were being torn apart in the name of man's ambition, it was business as usual. Move along. Nothing to see here. Just ignore the broken hearts, the bloody corpses.

The show must go on!