Friday, July 31, 2009

Religion: appealing to the faithful or faithless?

I've been thinking all week about a recent church experience and the division that is so dominant in our church system. A friend was interviewed for a pastor job and recently asked can you work with both "pro-gay and anti-gay" people. Hmmm. What a question? And maybe it's actually going in the direction we most often avoid. We tend to always polarize, preaching to our choir: those that support our views, as opposed to dialoging with the larger community. When I encounter Jesus of Nazareth in the gospels he seems to be more about the larger inviting dialog to a new counter-cultural life-transforming community than recementing existing divisions and lines in the sand.

Newsweek ran an article entitled "losing their religion" this past week talking about the challenges of portraying faith on tv. Executives feel the pressure to either create entertainment that appeals to the faithful by maintaining some sort of orthodox context and lose the faithless, or work towards the faithless in creative new stories and incur the wrath of the fearful faithful. Maybe that's the tension the church should be in more. Maybe if we were in our leadership, teaching and community hospitality Christian worship could become more of a crossroads of beliefs and growth than an impasse of doctrine rigidity and moral certainty, all while professing and deepening faith. I know that's the sort of church/faith community I'd want to be part of.

My favorite show these days (The Wire) has a church character [the Deacon] addressing the problems of inner city Baltimore that recently summoned his vocation in a conversation with an inner city cop: "Church folks got to be all up in everybody's shit." The Deacon meant that it's his duty to be involved in other lives, knowing what's going on in order to empower collaboration through invitation to working together in integrative contexts. Maybe that's gospel for us today: living out a call to be with other (and maybe even everyone), rather than merely defining ourselves by what we're against.

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