I posted this as my Facebook status this evening: “Mary thinks that her church attendance fits the classical definition of insanity.”
Let me explain.
The classical definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.
You should know that a good bit of my current thinking about church (and other things) come from two books I am currently reading: Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren, and Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh (primarily the former).
McLaren talks about framing stories. You may know of them as social histories, personal scripts or personal narratives. Framing stories basically form our selves, shape our thinking, and, in many ways, create the source of our personal and cultural biases. They are not inherently bad, but they do have implications for how we live and move, what we think and believe. Societies are built on framing stories, as are cultures. They create the basis for how we relate to all of created order at all levels.
For instance: “If our framing story tells us that we humans are godlike beings with godlike privileges–intelligent and virtuous creatures outside a limited environment of time and space, without potentially fatal flaws–we have no reason to acknowledge or live within limits, whether moral or ecological. Similarly, if it tells us that the purpose of life is for individuals or nations to accumulate an abundance of possessions and to experience the maximum amount of pleasure during the maximum number of minutes of our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption…” (McLaren, 2007, p.67) He gives a few other examples, but you get the idea.
I realized last week, that my framing story for God, theology and the body of Christ is NOT the same as many of those in my church. I kinda figured that out a long time ago, but it really became explicit for me. That realization helped me at least articulate why I felt like the square peg.
The bulk of what Jesus did in his time on earth was to offer an alternative framing story to anyone who was interested. It’s an alternative I’m more inclined to buy into…one that “tells us that we are free and responsible creatures in a creation made by a good, wise, and loving God, and that our Creator wants us to pursue virtue, collaboration, peace, and mutual care for one another and all living creatures, and that our lives have profound meaning if we align ourselves with God’s wisdom, character, and dreams for us…” (McLaren, 2007, p. 67).
When we become more fully human, when we as individuals become the best of who we can be, we are capable of being more fully present…and more fully the presence of Christ. When we can do that AND align ourselves with God’s dreams for ALL of creation (for all of creation is inextricably linked), then we are really showing people who Christ is and what the kingdom of God is all about.
Instead, I find myself going to church Sunday after Sunday and hearing the same sermon: we are sinful creatures who must repent and be saved. Then I spend an hour with a smaller group staring at my navel as we talk about how we should pray more or spend more time with God or set aside more money or other things we SHOULD be doing to be in a “right” relationship with God. We never really get outside of ourselves and our walls…in fact, we started a new building security policy to keep people out. We aren’t meeting needs. We aren’t helping accomplish God’s dreams. We’re just punching the ticket.
I keep going because I keep hoping that I can offer up the alternative framing story…that I can show people another way of viewing the kingdom. But when Al or I make comments, people listen but then change the subject quickly…which tells me they aren’t willing to go there…that they are uncomfortable with the possibilities…that maybe our thinking is SO radical…or heretical or liberal…something. (And by the way, I thought I was liberal until I went to another church in the area. Come to find out, I’m only somewhat left of middle.)
I freely admit that I don’t do as much as I could to be part of the here and now kingdom of God. Part of that is because there’s so much to do, I don’t even know where to start. Part of that is because I don’t have the energy I once did…or the amount of time that I would like. Part of it is that I want to at least figure out what interests me most…what do I want to get behind and focus on?
And I guess that’s a question for all of us. How will each of us be part of aligning ourselves with God’s dreams for creation? Would you like to be part of an alternative story? Or will the same sermon suffice?