Sunday, August 16, 2009

Liberal Left-out in the Outfield

I went to worship today at a Northern California PC(USA) church. Downtown, the historic congregation advertises 2 services online (as well as their 2008 Christmas Eve Service). As I arrived late (I am on vacation - one of my joys "going to church late since I'm not in charge") I discovered that the service was actually a small circle of a dozen folks gathered around the pastor. The sermon was on the text Exodus 20:1-17 (the giving of the 10 commandments), supposedly addressing the them of Sabbath Rest. What I heard of the sermon was actually a droning on about the foolishness of those that advocate creationism and the evils of their stupidity. The handful of faithful huddled around the pastor resembled a half-time gathering around the coach, seeking to reboot the team with verbose and borderline-violent comments about the "other team." I didn't stay. I found myself wanting more than a polarizing speech motivating me to stand tough against the other guys.

I thought about my recent past experiences in church, most notably one that was on the other side of the political spectrum, at which I heard a sermon about the evils of homosexuality and the liberal agenda in the PC(USA), which was supposedly to address prayer. Maybe our church traditions are bankrupt - on both sides of the spectrum? We don't seem to be able to say much besides "the other team is bad", "we've got to stick together," "the church is declining because of those that don't think like us." It sure seems that such half-time huddle talk is easier to reproduce than to dialog about what Jesus taught and how to live it today. (Jesus, who in my reading never actually blamed or simply attacked the other side, but rather invited all participants in the dialog to a new way of being and looking at the world. Those that rejected his inversion of the polarizing fight simply judged themselves.)

I left the church and walked downtown passing cafes filled with people reading the paper, talking about each others' dogs and living in the moment. I passed numerous walkers: out savoring the early morning air and calm with an urban stroll. They all seemed to be more in the moment, addressing the life that they're living, than getting angry about things that happened in the past or were done by the other team. The liberal, as well as the conservative evangelical churches I visited, both seemed to be left out, like a kid playing in the outfield grass while the game is happening in the infield. Maybe that's why our church attendance is actually in decline today? We seem to be much better at preaching politics and/or prosperity than we do participation.

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