Is Thanksgiving break over already? And just when I had completely forgotten all my projects, assignments, papers, and tests. And was it a time of thanks? I’m not so sure. I felt like I was eating and running, eating and running. After my sophomore year of college home became less and less like home each time I came back. Now I realized it would be one of the last times I’ll actually be home for an extended period of time (so I was only home for four days, compared to the 36 hours I’ll be home for Christmas, that’s an extended period). In less than a month I’ll have my own place called home. I won’t have to move anymore and cram my stuff in the back of my pickup and drive home at the end of the semester. I’ll already be home. Which makes my last time at home a little frenzied, hectic, and sad–if I would have slowed down enough to notice.
What do you do when you don’t like your church? Find another, some people say. But is it really that simple? I hate church shopping, and the idealist within tells me I should be able to get along in whatever church I’m at. But that can’t be completely true–there’s theological differences that you just can’t agree on, right? Or should we all be able to come together in Christ, no matter our differences?
The idealist within tells me church should be a place where all are welcome, regardless of race, class, and belief. If the church couldn’t handle differences, even theological ones, how would it have lasted so long? The idealist within tells me if I’m not liking my church the problem is me. I’m not involved, I’m not paying attention, I’m too hung up minor details, I’m too selfish.
But the pragmatic within tells me church needs to be a place that functions. If I can’t get involved, what’s the point? If I fall asleep in the pew, that’s a problem. If I can’t worship because the worship leader with the poodle hair is driving me nuts, I need to find another way to worship. It’s not my problem, it’s their problem. Perhaps that’s taking it a bit far, but there is a practical side to it. If your church acts out its free will ideas in a way that contradicts my predestination, we’re going to have some problems. Even Paul and Barnabas disagreed and split.
Then the idealist within rises up again and tells me things never get better when people leave. What does that accomplish? If you have a problem with the church, and it’s a genuine problem (not the annoying poodle-haired woman), the answer is change. Start moving to bring about change yourself. The church will never become a friendly church if people leave because the church is unfriendly. You have to do your part to make the church friendly.
But I’ve been coming for a year, says that pragmatic. But you can’t shop for a church like you shop for a sweater, says the idealist. And back and forth they go.
I think church should be a place where you feel accepted, whether it’s your first time, or your seven-hundredth. I think church should be a place of community–not just a Sunday morning affair. I want to see church happening outside the four walls we deem church. I think church should be local–I don’t think church can work when you have to hop on the freeway to get there.
And so all the ideas pop around in my head and I wonder which one is right. Is the problem with me? Is the problem with the church? Is it a little bit of both? I don’t know. And all the while I realize I’ve ignored my youth pastor’s one piece of advice: become a part of a church. I’ve been going to one church for over a year, I help teach a Sunday School class, and I warm the same section of pew every week. But would anybody notice if I wasn’t there? Or would it just seem like there’s a little more room up near the front?
Some days I scratch my head. Why did no one tell me the truth? Why does no one admit things are really way more complicated than they appear? Why is everything whitewashed? Why are little boys allowed to play with guns and soldiers? Soldiers and guns and bombs and tanks and planes kill people. Bullets rip through flesh and fathers fall to their knees, gasping for air. Bombs rip through ceilings, sending shrapnel, concrete, and flames onto unsuspecting families.
Is it in the name of democracy? Is it in the name of justice? Is it in the name of freedom? Freedom rings hollow if it is gained by the shedding of innocent blood. Perhaps there is a time and place for all things, but we have become all too familiar with bloodshed. All too efficient.
We are too comfortable with violence. We like to watch explosions and rifle fire on the television screen, where the good guys and bad guys are so easily identified. But it doesn’t work like that in reality. The “good” guy has a month old daughter and a wife at home. So does the “bad” guy.
Some days I wonder what it would be like if war broke out on American soil. I’m no historian, but I don’t think it’s happened since the Civil War–with the exception of Pearl Harbor. I wonder if the terror, the violence, and the bloodshed would be enough to bring us back to our senses. When soldiers fight in our very own streets and we realize they’re not our well-trained killing machines, they’re our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. When bullets crack our windows and a smart bomb turns our house and our family into collateral damage, then perhaps we’ll realize what an ugly thing war is.
Maybe then we won’t give our children toy guns and toy soldiers. Maybe then we won’t let them play death. Maybe then we’ll have a greater understanding of peace and brotherhood. Maybe then we can let the hatred melt away, let the stereotypes fall, let our own selfishness and self-righteousness disappear. We are a broken people. We always have been–it’s just we’ve never known it.
Some things truly amaze me. Christians are a perfect example. The election hoopla suddenly has a lot of Christians on their knees, which I suppose is a good thing. But why suddenly rush to your knees now? Why not a month ago? Why not six months ago? Why did you get up from your knees in the first place? Is the fact that the election is contingent on a few hundred votes in Florida mean that God is suddenly going to shine forth and let his voice be heard? Is your God only powerful enough to sway a few hundred, not a few million votes?
A lot of Christians are saying very interesting things about what this election means. I find it rather arrogant to interpret current events as God’s divine action. Who are you to know what God is doing? It requires a lot of backpedaling. Assuming you can pick one candidate that God would choose (which you can’t), you could pray for God to let that candidate win. If the candidate wins, you claim God answered your prayer. What powerful faith you have. If the candidate loses, it must not have been God’s will. Now God is going to take us through a time of judgment and persecution to refine his people. Perhaps in another four years we’ll have the privilege of God’s favor.
Somehow I don’t think God works like that.
I’ve heard others say interesting things about God; that he doesn’t care about Social Security or prescription drug benefits, but he does care about abortion–the Bible says so. If God doesn’t care about Social Security, what does he care about? For some seniors, Social Security is their livelihood. Are you saying God doesn’t care about some people’s livelihood? If he doesn’t care about my livelihood, what else doesn’t he care about? Suddenly you have a very impersonal God. I’m sorry, but my God cares about little insignificant things in my life. I’m not saying he’s going to damn me to hell for drinking Pepsi instead of Coke, but he does care about the details of my life.
And then there are Christians who complain but do nothing. I probably fit this bill. We complain about problems but we don’t work to fix them. We decry the evils of abortion, but a pro-life vote every four years is all we can manage. We plead for someone to help the poor and the hungry, but we look the other way and coincidentally live on the other side of town. We demand that prayer be allowed in schools, but do little to support the fledgling Bible studies already in existence in high schools across the country. I realize we’re all busy people and can only do so much, but if that’s the case maybe we shouldn’t be so vocal.
And I love it when Christians forget what they’re called to do. Go and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations. It’s a pretty simple command. But the ‘go’ part troubles us. That involves going into a world that isn’t very friendly. And once again we start complaining. But Jesus didn’t say, “Go and complain.” At least not in my Bible.
Softly falling; covering the green grass, the bare trees, the parked cars. You can see it in the street lights, blowing at angles in the wind–but still softly falling, coating the landscape. It’s 2 a.m. and everyone but the night crew have gone home. The streets are dark and quiet, a lone set of tire prints guiding the way.
I smile, thinking of her’s. This is why I’m getting married in December: snow.
I wanted to write something funny about the election today. I tried. Not very hard, but I tried. It was going to be funny. People would read it and laugh and it would be a nice break from all the television and radio announcers talking about the latest non-developments. It was going to be funny. But it wasn’t ha-ha funny.
Snow. That’s why I love Minnesota.
Sunday. The Sabbath day. The day of rest. Does a college student get a day of rest? Sometimes I’m not sure. For the past several Sundays I’ve tried to rest. I let my homework sit unfinished in the corner and I did something else. It probably helps that I don’t have any classes on Monday–in a way it’s cheating. Last week my friends and I started a tradition of cooking a big lunch together, and afterwards digesting. Some weeks–most weeks I take a nap. Some weeks I read book–not a school book. Lately it’s been U2 At the End of the World by Bill Flanagan. Some weeks I take pictures and manipulate them on my computer. Enjoying the outdoors is always a good use of Sunday. A few weeks ago Abby and I meandered along Pike Island, a small island in the backwaters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. No matter what I do, it’s a day to relax and forget the headaches and responsibilities. It actually makes Sunday very enjoyable–which it should be. Nothing ruins Sunday faster than an afternoon of frantic homework, followed by an evening of even more frantic homework, and topped off with a late bedtime–making Monday that much more manic.
Some Sundays I feel a little too lazy. The next day I feel unmotivated to get back to work, the laziness still trying to slow me down. My roommate says that’s a sign of how badly I need my Sundays.
The rain falls softly outside, pittering against windshields and sidewalks, making things damp but not wet. I tried to write today, tried to use what talent I have to explain a situation on the other side of the planet–many miles of winding road, many more miles of open ocean, and many more miles of road away. What can I say of second hand reports from this distant place? Second hand reports, second hand facts, second hand lies. It’s hard to know who to believe when you have so many different stories. But you see the pictures, you see the dying children. And how do you put it down in just the right words? You don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Perhaps that’s just the idea. But you have to do it in a way that works. A way that explains the severity and the difficulty of the situation. It’s not easy to convince people that their government lies–or at least twists the truth. You just sound like a crackpot. Some things are just big. Maybe a little too big. The best I can do is shine wavering flashlight in the general direction of the attack, where an innocent victim is being raped, and hope someone will know what to do–and have the guts to act.
Two days later and still no president. Ha! This is great. I love watching the media be stumped. I love watching history happen. I love watching two not-so-great presidential candidates squabble over a few hundred votes to see who gets to claim the honor of being the unsure president.