I’m tired of being angry at the church.
Let’s be clear here; I’m not talking about the fellowships of which I’ve been a part over the years. I’m talking about the Church-with-an-upper-case-C.
To be more specific, I’m talking about the partisan politics. I’m talking about the arrogance. I’m talking about the press releases blaming bad weather on gay people. I’m talking about the shunning. I’m talking about the mega churches that are sleepwalking into becoming cults. I’m talking about the child abuse.
These are the things that are getting headlines. These are the things that leave all of us tarred as hypocrites. These are the things that are blaspheming the name of Jesus and they make me angry because there’s a seemingly endless list of failings and cover-ups and corruption hitting the internet almost every day.
I can understand why someone would refuse to be associated with all this. I can see why some look at the Body of Christ and see it as a corpse. I realise that the homophobia and sexism drives people away. You know what? If your church is constantly implying that you’re a second class citizen, or even an abomination, if an expression of ‘love’ feels more like abuse, you’re probably right to get out of there.
But the Church is bigger than churches. It’s a universal community, one that encompasses Desmond Tutu and Billy Graham and Johnny Cash and St. Peter. It’s bigger than the empires it so often tries to emulate, bigger than the buildings and bluster, bigger than the bigotry and bank accounts.
There’s an image used throughout the Bible to describe the relationship between God and his people. In Revelation and in Matthew, in the epistles and in Isaiah, God’s people are described as his Bride. It’s a beautiful metaphor, one that’s starting to speak to me the more Twitter explodes with news of another congregation’s failings.
I want to see the beautiful Bride, radiant in a white dress, and even though people might sneer, say she’s kinda plain beneath the make-up, say she doesn’t exactly deserve to be wearing white, I want that image of a joyous wedding to be the image people associate with the Church. And that’s a monumental task but it’s something to work towards.
But to see this I need to look for it, to see the glimpses of that beauty that are breaking through the static and the cynicism. I want to celebrate when we fast on behalf of the poor and hungry. I want to celebrate when our sanctuaries are full of sleeping bags. I want to celebrate when we do something that seems crazy because a vicar dressed as Elvis in Northern Ireland is more gospel than the religious tensions that have killed so many.
I’m tired of being angry, but sometimes it’s right to be angry. Maybe I’m more tired of being cynical. I want to see hope instead of another disaster; I want to see the Bride more than yet more imperialism and idolatry. That’s difficult when trying to see a glorious vision through frosted glass and acting surprised when I get frustrated.
I’m a part of the Church, for better or for worse. I pray that I would be less a part of the problem, more a part of the solution.