“[Millennials are] tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for …not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask. …Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity …We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. …we’re looking for Jesus–the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.”
Rachel Held Evans (source)
For those who are concerned about the direction of current politics right now, churches could theoretically be the go-to places that might offer leadership and direction – if they hadn’t spent the last decades fighting tooth and nail against diversity, equality and inclusivity.
The US voted for a president whose behaviour indicates that he does not believe women to have equal value and equal rights to men. And he is supported by conservative churches in his views – they may not support his abusive behaviour, but their attitudes towards women build a solid foundation for it. Trump got the majority of the Christian vote – Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical (source).
Who will take church seriously now? Who would still believe that we can “bring our whole selves through the church doors” when most of us know that we cannot?
This is a time to go back to basics, a time to ask ourselves who we are, what we believe in, and what we will stand for, inside or outside our comfort zone. And many of us may need to find answers to these questions on our own, given that we may not fit the categories that churches find acceptable – so there might be little support. Given that it’s the churches who tend to complain about the “individualistic” tendencies of the times we live in, it’s a little ironic that exclusion and non-acceptance in church made so many people search for their own path, outside the church.
The definition and substance of what it means to be “Christian” seems to have been lost somewhere on the way. So, back to the gospel, back to prayer, back to loving God and letting God love us. Back to having the door open to all. This is the radical good news this all started with.
You may know this story – to me, it’s so incredibly relevant:
The Parable Of The Lifesaving Station
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew. Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work. The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the lifesaving activities personally. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, some had skin of a different color, some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal pattern of the club. But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another lifesaving station was founded. If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but now most of the people drown!
Taken from Personal Evangelism 101, by Brent Hunter (source)
The question at the heart of this story is, what is church for? And what do we keep making it into?
I do wonder whether, at some point, the people in this story perhaps began to feel that some people’s lives were more worth saving than the lives of others…
A boat full of ‘club members’ is one thing. What if there is, say, a boat full of people with learning disabilities? Or a boat full of refugees? Or people who receive welfare benefits? How does a boat full of women rate? People who have mental health issues? Black men? Gay men? A boat full of Mexicans? Transsexuals? Jews? Muslims? Addicts?
Does it make a difference to you? To your church? And do you think it matters if it does?
What is the group of people you’d be least willing to step out of your comfort zone for? Whose presence would most disturb you, your world view, your life?
Let’s all take a look at our own prejudice, our fears, no matter how hidden they might be, or how irrational or angry, and no matter how supported by the people we surround ourselves with.
Maybe this feels like a silly game to you. Maybe you are sure of how you’ve arranged right and wrong in your mind and in your life, and you don’t need or want me to ask questions about it. You’ve got your answers ready, and you prefer not to be challenged in your views.
But there are a lot of people for who, at some point, it will come down to this: whether there’ll be someone willing to help. Whether, to someone, they are loveable, and worth the effort.
Is that not what gospel is about?
What if, on someone else’s list, you’d be in the boat they choose not to rescue?
What part of your identity might others take issue with?
Does that matter to you? To your church?
Is there perhaps a part of you that you hide because you are afraid of how others will treat you if they find out?
And is there anything you can do to make sure that more people can “bring their whole selves through the church door”? And if not through that door, then at least – to you?
“I Was A Stranger – and you welcomed me.”