5/26/2015

Pissing on the Church is no way to treat your Mother.

Perhaps its time for me to swear off Facebook. It takes to pissing on what is dieing and forgetting what is learned about hope and confidence.

Facebook brings us lots of interesting odds and ends about family and friends and leads us on to consider things they find valuable or useful. But it also provides ways to seem clever, wise, conservative or progressive, enlightened or intelligent without having to do a thing, except pass on links written by others. So instead of knowing what my friends think I get lots of information about what they have read and like.  It is canned and often it is awful.

Among the many pieces of canned and highly processed information are things like, "Six ways the Church betrays its children," "Why Millennials are staying away from Church," "Ten facts the Church does not want you to know," "Four beliefs of Christians that will astound you."  The headlines are meant to grab, the content is meant to confirm your own feelings about Church, or provide you ammunition in your particular take on church.  But for every positive piece about Church, church life, Christian belief, it seems like I receive twenty negative posts.  Apparently Church bashing is all the rage. Or perhaps it shows that my friends are caught up in self- flagellation.

Of course in the Episcopal Church this is combined with a stream of pieces all meant to confirm the basic sense that The Episcopal Church is failing and doomed, filled with aging people disconnected from the young, part of a failed system of denominations (which no one cares about), driving out conservatives or progressives both, and, oh yes, immoral.  

There is considerable joy in Facebook land in pissing on the Church.  And not just the Episcopal Church, but Church in general.  Much of this urine stream is from people who profess indignation that the Church has failed them.

The general report is this: The leadership has betrayed us, the Liturgy is pathetic, the young are not addressed and not interested, progressive decisions have left conservatives without a home, the clergy are beginning to outnumber the membership, and basically that the church's time has come and gone.

It is mostly rant and rave, the poor substitute for passion and singleness of heart.

Of course the Church, and The Episcopal Church in particular, is worthy of criticism. But it is WORTHY...that is it is something we care about.  The Church, both institutionally and as the body of Christ, is something we love, or we would not care a wit what happens to it.  

It seems to me that we might do well to remember that fact - that we (on some level) love the Church, or else we would not care. 

The "Church," in reference to an institution or institutions that held prominent social status in the west, the Church as Christendom, is indeed on hard times. But it's not dead yet, and at least in the United States, in the new round of religious wars, both internal an external, it is on the edge of a new appearance.  That new Christendom will appear as strongly patriotic, filled with civic virtues, proclaiming traditional values, and in subtle ways supporting the divisions in society that keep the poor poor and the outcasts outcast. The new Christendom will seem a small thing until national crises, real or imagined, are present or aroused.  And then the priests of mammon will appear again, this time not as ministers of the  German state church, but the church of America the Beautiful.

Those who blithely proclaim the end of Christendom are not ready to see the horror that sits in the wings as the righteous superpatriots inherit the kingdoms of Christendom.  Whatever the fears we may have about militant (and often mad) Islam, they are nothing to compare with the enemy within, militant Christendom in service to the state. 

Still, it is true that to the extent that The Episcopal Church, and all other churches for that matter, relied on special status vis-a-vis the state, or found members by habitual or socially necessary recruitment, they are in trouble. We indeed are losing members and losing status. 

At the same time it seems clear that every institution and ever person is subject to the same choices - death, resuscitation, or resurrection. And so the church, and the churches of Christendom, do so as well. 

About death there is no doubt. All institutions die. 
About resuscitation, it is death put off until another day, and although it may be a miracle, it is one with great cost. The primary cost is the worship of the past, for if new breath is breathed into the old institution it will seem a vindication of the old, and nothing serves the search for past greatness better than revival. 

Resurrection, however, is seldom the choice of individuals or institutions. It is a gift of God for the world.  And resurrection - that is the arousal of the new body on the death of the old - is the Gospel's eternal hope.  In that sense the Church, as part of the old body, always the old body of depleted powers and clouded vision, will die, and there will be a new body, and those who are the true friends of the old will know it in the new, and proclaim that Christ, and Christ's church, have died, Christ and Christ's church is risen, and Christ and Christ's church will come again.

We who love the Church, will see it die, and we will await its rising up again, and will recognize her when she arises again. 

The Resurrection will not be announced on Facebook, although it may be remarked upon in various so called news sites.

When all the criticism of the church is done, and all the fancy lists of this or that set of recommendations about resuscitation have been cleverly posted on Facebook, and all the moaning about the failure of Christendom and so forth is done, the fact will remain that the Church taught us to recognize the presence of God's spirit active in the world, and when the spirit is gone out of the church that is dieing, it will be present in the new body that is resurrected. And we will know it by the fruits of the spirit that are incarnationally present. And our mother taught us this.
 
This is why pissing on the Church is no way to treat your mother. 
 

1 comment:

Mel said...

Thank you, Mark. Well said!