Friday, January 20, 2006

Why I Don't Like Church (continued)

One thing that bothers me about church is that it is so easy for it to develop into a subculture. By that I mean that it becomes a world unto itself with it's own rules, language, politics and even dress. It becomes a closed system with ideas that never evolve with new discoveries. I'm not just talking about scientific discoveries but any new thought/ideas that have been developed outside of the church.

That kind of subculture is very unattractive to me. It makes me feel like if I joined that church I'd become "smaller" intellectually and as a person as a whole. I like new ideas. I like dialogue on issues, even if people disagree with me. I'm not offended by people who don't believe everything I teach. People's opposing view often stretches me to see things in new ways...ways that expand my thinking and make God bigger to me.

I want church to be a place that expands you and makes you "bigger" - a place that makes you a better thinking person - a place that is stimulating to the mind. I want church to be a place that welcomes spiritual travelers, people who may not agree with the group at large but are "in-process". Rather than feel threatened by them or compelled to "convert" them, I want them to feel free to hang with us, listen to us, observe us and enter in to whatever aspect of our life that they find interesting.

What I don't like about the church is when I see the opposite - spiritual travelers corrected and/or rejected for not immediately conforming to the church's idea of God and morality. I find it so dehumanizing when people with different spiritual ideas are invalidated this way. And what a shame! The church - who says that it wants to reach people for Jesus - undermines it's very purpose. They never are able to win anyone to Jesus because they offend everyone who even gets close.

I think the trick to creating a more open-minded culture is to understand that "the church" is more than a collection of true believers. It consists of true believers, believers in process and potential believers. There's an art to having all of these people in the same place and meeting all of their needs. I can't say that I know how to do it but at Cedarbrook we are working at it. The model that I keep in my mind is receiving a guest in your home for a weekend. You would never try to change their morality or beliefs just because they stayed at your house. You would note their differences, respect them and possibly engage them in a polite discussion about why they are different. But you wouldn't "lay down the law" with them. Yet, churches often do just that with their guest. Sadly, their guests never return.