Life is not a straight line. It is not a a graph chart, with simple peaks and valleys that chart our progress to some eventual ending that is satisfying to us. We want to simplify the process of living and create a set of assurances that life will end up in our favor. Religion and much of the modern Western church culture is built around this idea. And as the world becomes even messier and burdened by the weight of faux celebrity and instant gratification, these assurances have less and less meaning. We need a different way, because everything in our world says the old way is not working anymore.
We both grew up in various traditional Christian church structures, where one’s worldview was filtered through a set of rights and wrongs, things to do and things to never do. While we did not live in the era, the whole concept seemed to be more about the simple life that American culture tried to create in the 1950’s. The American dream made room for a safe God to regulate a safe world of black and white morality…where simple virtues were to be admired and a multitude of sins were to be condemned. The modern church of America held a mirror to colonial Puritanism and not the cross of Jesus. The Christian worldview was set in place, and it it felt comfortable as narrow as it is/was. We “sleep safely in the hands of men.”
When we met, dated and got married…each of us had experienced a lot of disappointment at the hands of religion. It has never been a question of our belief in God (we do) or if we follow Jesus as we understand him (and it may surprise you) or whether or not we feel the Spirit is moving in all things and all people…because we do on all accounts. But the fact is that there is a point that most people of our generation come to face and it is this: if I choose to embrace who I really am as a person, do I fit the mold that the church says is acceptable. This has been our struggle as we have moved through several church environments in the last few years.
We feel, fundamentally, that the dream of God is for us to fully embrace ourselves as God created us. For us, this means embracing our passions – from the role of fashion in living well, to writing to inspire and challenge the norm, to giving to the poor, to embracing a life together that expresses a fierce love and a gentle kindness. We will not apologize for what this presents, from embracing creativity and frugal use of what we have been blessed with to our insistence that we will love those who have been placed in our lives – not matter if they are Christian or not, no matter what race or ethnicity they, no matter if they are gay or straight, no matter if they are rich or poor, only that they are honest about who they have been created to be. This seems to pose a problem to much of what church in America is built on, the concept of are you in or are you out.
We don’t think church is about a group of people who think alike and consider their particular group of people the greatest thing since electricity, or at least sliced bread. Nor do we think that church should be a group of self-titled outsiders who consider their brand of anti-church church the true alternative to bible-thumping bigots and narrow minded souls. We have struggled with the divide between orthodoxy and reform, between traditional and post-modern or emergent or whatever is hip among 20-30somethings pastors. We have worshiped and joined and led both types of church bodies. And here we find ourselves looking for a new church, and wondering what is possible for us as we look to bond our self-truth with a community truth built by people.
What is church to the people that attend? Do we want worship that moves beyond cheese and into true emotion? Are we seeking preaching that moves away from promises of a better life and into what does suffering look like on a Tuesday morning? Do we want community that embraces us as equals and friends or do we want a quiet harbor where we feels safe after all the storms of the last few years? Do we want all of these things? Is that much even possible to expect from a church made up of people? People have hurt us and many of our friends, some in the church and some who do not see how the actions of others can be swallowed up in love. We want desperately to move from going to church, even church led by family or friends, just because we feel we are supposed to and to find a church that makes us feel we are closer to a God who wants us to be ourselves and use whatever that is for something greater than ourselves. We want honesty, we want truth, we want kindness that leads to a fierce love – of God, all of creation, of truth beauty creativity and passion…all to make a eternal future that is as it was intended to be. That is a real community as we see it in the story of scripture.
Honest and free, because life is complex and beautiful and not a graph chart in a cloud room we cannot see.
This is our hope.
P.S. Sorry this is long but sometimes it’s better to be open than short? eh…eh?