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Posts Tagged ‘church’

So in one of last month’s posts, I mentioned a youth conference where several classmates and I served as college leaders. It was not exactly a positive experience. We encountered blatant homophobia, as detailed in my previous post. Other messages included prosperity gospel, anti-evolutionism, women’s sexual disinterest and men’s sexual enslavement, and consumerism. It left many of us in the group feeling dejected and agitated. This was not the church as we envisioned it.

 

In our frustrated conversations that weekend, all the questions boiled down to one: reform from within or abandon ship? In other words, is Christianity worth reclaiming or should we start from square one, uncorrupted? It reminded me of the various Puritan sects in England at the turn of the seventeenth century. Some of them advocated for complete separation from Anglicanism while others said that they were called to heal the church. The way to heal was to stay, to shine as the holy minority within. Separation, the latter group argued, would be akin to chopping off a healthy hand to save it from the body’s infection.

 

Obviously I’m inclined to heal from within, seeing as how I plan to be ordained as a United Methodist. But I understand my friends’ leanings as well. Sometimes it seems that American Christianity has fallen so far that it can never climb back up. As Walter Brueggemann might say, we’ve been assimilated into the culture instead of standing as its alternative. A very wise professor from Duke Divinity once told me that too many Christians put fish on the back of their cars while living the same as everybody else. I’ve certainly been guilty of that. What else could explain my fear of speaking to the homeless woman camped outside my apartment building? Radical Christianity exists in isolated pockets these days.

 

Still, I am too much of an optimist to not believe that with God all things are possible. God is remaking the world every day with or without me. I want to be included in His great project. I still believe that God’s grace can redeem the church, restore it to what Christ imagined when he appointed Peter. I’m praying hard.

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When I interned at Heifer International, one of the first things my supervisor taught me was to tell stories. He said that we could talk about poverty theory, infant mortality rates, and development statistics until we were blue in the face, but until we connected with a donor’s compassion, it was all useless. This wasn’t meant to be a manipulative, money-grubbing tactic; it was a truth about the heart versus the head. If we think in abstractions, our rationality can turn cold and unkind. A human being with a face and a name and a life is necessary to change the discussion. So that’s what I’m going to try to do in this post, except not about poverty or hunger. I am going to try to witness to the look in my friend’s eyes at a youth conference this weekend.

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I was raised in a family of introverts. Extreme introverts. As in, I didn’t know what a dinner party was until I was 13 and saw one on the Food Network. Maybe as a result of my birth order, I grew up to be the odd duck: a hug-giving, eye-contacting, club-joining extrovert. Because of my family, I understand the plight of introverts in American churches, and I’ve written about it before. But extroverts like myself – especially female extroverts it seems – have their struggles as well. Here are a few I’ve encountered:

  • You want to bear-hug strangers during Passing of the Peace, but you’re worried they might have an overdeveloped (read: any) sense of personal space.
  • You’re the only one in the congregation who sings loud enough to be heard, even though you have strep throat.
  • You’re the only one who speaks up during Joys & Concerns.
  • The pastor asks rhetorical questions in the sermon.
  • Germaphobes don’t want to hold hands during prayers.
  • Everyone expects you to speak first in Bible study.
  • You want to speak first in Bible study, but you’re worried about dominating the conversation.
  • Working alone during the Habitat for Humanity build.
  • The sermon would be so much better if the pastor was just a bit convivial.
  • No one will sit with you in the front two pews.

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The following post is brought to you by a Facebook status.

 

Shortly after I declared my blog break, a friend of mine posted an interesting status on Facebook. I don’t know if it was a quote from someone famous original. “Being nice and accepting to people close to you makes you human. Being nice and accepting to everyone makes you a good person.”

Nice. I’ve heard that insidious word before. A few months ago, I posted about “The Cult of Nice” as described by author Kenda Creasy Dean. Niceness is not the self-sacrificing love of Christ that we are all called to practice. “Nice” is a performance of noncommittal politeness. It doesn’t crack crowns or heal hearts. It lets us do whatever we want – or whatever society tells us to do. And it pervades Western values.

 

The accepting part doesn’t seem nearly as suspect. In fact, it appears positive. If Palestinians and Israelis could just accept their differences, they might know peace. So I thought if my friend’s Facebook status became true, it wouldn’t be so bad. We’d have a lot of consumerism, but a lot less racism.

 

Except, I realized, we wouldn’t have less prejudice. Just as there’s a difference between tolerance and coexistence, there is a difference between accepting and treasuring. And it is contingent on the Cult of Nice. (more…)

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It’s half-past midnight my time. Sitting in the dorm laundry room, wearing PJs while I watch my loads spin. It’s loud and clunky, but it’s nice to find a place to be alone. I’m an outgoing person, but I can also be an introvert. The communal aspect of college -living together, eating together, learning together- can be downright exhausting. It’s not that the people I live, eat, and learn with, are annoying. It’s that being overstimulated 24/7 takes a toll. I don’t mean exhausted like tired; I’m a college student so there’s no way to avoid the tired. I mean the sore back, busy brain kind of exhausted. The flop-down-in-a-comfy-chair kind of exhausted.

We talk about community a lot in church. It’s a buzzword. Granted, we didn’t pull it out of thin air. The Bible emphasizes the importance of community. We need a community to love us and to hold us accountable. But what does that mean for introverts who just want a little peace and quiet? How does the introvert live in community? (more…)

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