Not 1 Stone Left…

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” ” (Matthew 24:1-2)

Is it time for this speech about the churches of the West? I have a tough time seeing the meaning behind the role of the church in society and what it’s intent and mission truly are? What vision do churches hold for society? If you ask me, they don’t have one.

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23 thoughts on “Not 1 Stone Left…

  1. http://ahomeforall.org/Common_Pages/About_us.html

    this is the church i spent a year at… and it was amazing. it is a place of fellowship, diversity, and healing. the healing part is most ironic because the wounds were largely caused by other churches… so i wouldn’t say ALL churches don’t have a vision.. i would say MOST.

    we cannot keep acting like it’s the 1950s and that the church is the place where the community interacts. times have changed and so must the church. some have changed, most have not.

  2. The church is not in the world to teach sinners to straighten up and fly right. That’s the world’s business; and on the whole it does a fairly competent – even a gleefully aggressive – job of it. The church is supposed to be in the forgiveness business. Its job in filling pulpits is to find derelict nobodies who are willing to admit that they’re sinners and mean it.”

    – Robert Capon, from The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel Against the Wisdom of the World

  3. Can’t agree more with what Luke has said. I think the church can be relevant and productive as soon as it gets off it’s ultimate truth ass and starts really loving people. The church should be doing what happens at Starbucks and the local pub, people getting together to share joy and pain, helping each other navigate this crazy life, fully accepting one another no matter what. If the church keeps trying to convince people they are wrong, it will continue to exclude and alienate and, therefore, preach itself into the margins of society. This is why the idea of universal salvation is so key in my mind. If the church can find a way of getting away from the “turn and burn” message, it can then just concentrate on really loving.

  4. “it will continue to exclude and alienate and, therefore, preach itself into the margins of society…” (Doug)

    Oddly enough, some have a theology like this is ‘where they belong’ (in the world – not of the world type BS). So the church – when facing criticism – has a self defense mechanism to pretty much defend itself from anything – even being too marginalized (they can say it’s righteous somehow).

    I am harsh on the church but for good reason – it was harsh before I got here. I realize that a lot of change needs to take place for the church to mean something to society – and I love the teachings so I am quite conflicted…do I accept the status quo or scream from the rooftops ‘knock this sh*t off – most of it ain’t working anymore!’. I lean towards saying something for the sake of actually being concerned with the direction of the church in the 21st century…not that I have any impact – but I do care.

    “The church is supposed to be in the forgiveness business. Its job in filling pulpits is to find derelict nobodies who are willing to admit that they’re sinners and mean it” (Capon)

    I disagree with Capon. The church is in the reconciliation business – which is way bigger than forgiveness (which is only a piece of the whole entity).

    I also disagree with the idea “The church is not in the world to teach sinners to straighten up and fly right” because I think it partly is. If the church has no concern for such ‘ethics’ – then why preach ‘good behavior’ – over and above bad behavior? Again – it’s part of the path to reconciliation (repentance and change).

  5. Jay Bird,

    i think you’re right on… i really don’t like the church and where it’s heading and where it came from and largely i have a problem with most christians i meet, and yet here i am spending mucho $$ and time and what not to become a minister. i think the requirements are 1. a inherent need to change things (aka Punk RAWK!) and 2. a love of people and 3. a desire to help them and to BE helped by them (many ministers think they only do the helping and have problems being helped, but that sets up a false dictomy). and i, like yourself, am under no delusions that i will make any difference what so ever, but i am going to try.

    as for your critique of Capon, i think that’s fair, but you should know that his forgiveness model includes the reconcilation part. he calls it a “holistic forgiveness.” which is largely outlined by Lev. 19’s discussions on how to treat your neighbor and Jesus’ teachings as found in the Gospel of Matthew as well.

    what he’s striving for is a holistic incarnational model of the church. sure there’s ethics, but his critique is the church getting wrapped up too much with the republican party and the right wing things.. something he was against in the late 70s and 80s and he was the lone voice… but look what happened. he was right!

    what the church is for him, is not a general good way of behavior versus a general bad way of acting, as you’ll hear so many times on sunday but a specific and unknown grey area type of preaching. people aren’t confused in black and white situations, that’s easy. people are faced with the full spectrum and what to do when faced with decisions that are varying degrees of good. i recommend picking up a few of his books, i think he’d be right up your alley!

  6. “what he’s striving for is a holistic incarnational model of the church…i recommend picking up a few of his books, i think he’d be right up your alley!” (Luke)

    And what I am striving for is a communal-relational model that encapsulates the spirit of 1st century Acts and relates to world around it in a meaningful and just way. But once we get the community part right – the rest will flow like water-works (which you can buy on Monopoly).

    You see, the problem isn’t just theology – it’s cultural also. The church is stuck in the idea church has to ‘look and feel’ a certain way – although they can find no scripture to back this idea up – that ‘look and feel’ comes from ancient times (and likely European in culture) – and those times are gone. But church persists to keep the same old system going – which looks more like a school classroom than anything communal in nature (where all share and all are ‘equal’).

    This church system starts off unequal – right off the bat – by having your ‘pastor’ up front – behind a podium – asserting his influence over and above everyone’s elses – all the time – having a say on ‘everything’. That’s not community – that’s dictorial in nature. That’s also based on a class system that doesn’t exist anymore – where the king ruled and the subjects obeyed. You can only have one king – and that’s the pastor – and the congregants are the subjects. Church creates class systems.

    I am also veyr concerned with the helping of the poor from within the church walls – on a daily basis…and the church does not have this as a focus. Churches help in a crisis – of course – everyone does – but how’s about on the day to day program level? Are the poor being helped? I would ring a gonging ‘NO”! Because the church doesn’t actually care about the poor until they can see it on TV – but the ghetto don’t change because camera’s aren’t there.

    So I think incarnational is good – we need a walking, talking faith that means something – I am with dude there (fo’ sure). Will I read him – maybe – but how long do I have to lay out the problems and the most basic answers before I get read? The unfortunate answers for the church is this – the answers will not come from within it – because within it people save face.

  7. wow.. i don’t know what church you’re talking about, but it sounds really orthodox. check out the congregational model or even a Quaker model, that is true community right there. as for social justice, the church is all over it. First Reformed in Lancaster PA serves dinner every night for the local poor and homeless and it’s staffed by churches, youth groups, YMCA/YWCA groups, AA, and other community groups and businesses.

    i think that the critique is some-what valid in an orthodox model and even largely in the protestant model as well, but there are pastors out there who are walking WITH their congregations, not infront of them. when pastors are out front, they can veer off course and keep going, not noticing that the congregation has stopped following. the model i’m envisioning is much like your model the only difference is that i’ve experienced it in four separate churches, one methodist and three UCC.

  8. The purpose of the churches, really all religion, is control.

    People learned very early that others could be controlled by religion. ” Behave or god’ll get ya!”.

    That’s why, historically, most “civilized” world leaders align themselves with god(s). Modern leaders aren’t much different.

    I think it’s good that we have more people asking these questions nowadays 🙂

  9. “The purpose of the churches, really all religion, is control” (Mac)

    I would say some level of ‘control’ is okay – like accountability – as long as the leaders of churches make themselves subject to the same as the congregants. I think direction can turn into control quite easily – and this is also what I have seen happen (thus my critiques of churches can be a little harsh).

    I guess one of the core (root) problems within the church is the lack of accountability and when direction becomes dictatorship…see evangelical right as a classic example.

  10. I am rolling my eyes here at the broad strokes being used here….again….come on, Jason, you’re a smarter guy than that. I have no great love for churches or Christianity, but even I, when I drive by a church these days, can be happy for the people who go there that doing so gives meaning to their lives. To think that just because these places weren’t for me or didn’t add meaning to my life, they must be totally useless is to elevate myself to the center of the universe.

    Yes, it did make me angry for a long time that I could not find a place for myself and my kids in church, but once I figured out that our place was elsewhere, I was able to start letting go of that anger. Not everyplace is for everybody, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad places. It just means you have to go find your place elsewhere, which takes more work, time and effort.

    As far as all religions purpose being control. I doubt any of us have been a part of all of them so that we have a basis for making such a statement. To project one’s distaste for a certain religion onto every other is just that, projection.

    Perhaps this could be a true depiction of fundamentalism, but even then I would say no. People choose to be a part of such groups; how can it be all about control if a person freely chooses to join up with it? Some people just seem to need absolute certainty. If I have done A, B and C then I’ve done right. That is their security. Some of us can’t stand such a mentality and find our security in being able to question and think ‘heretical’ thoughts if they come to mind. I do that from within Judaism, Doug and Luke from within Christianity.

    I went to many churches over the years and even the staunchest fundamentalist ones could not be classified as dictatorships, unless it was a dictatorship by the masses. Pastors got the boot quite regularly and were subjected to no end of ‘correction’ by the board of deacons. My father was a minister. For all his faults, I can tell you from firsthand experience with him, with my seminary studies, with being friends with clergy and with working for a shul, congregations and congregants can be really vicious. They love to pull bricks out of the wall to throw at their leaders and then complain when the structure collapses around them. All in the name of just being honest of course…..

  11. “I am rolling my eyes here at the broad strokes being used here….again….come on, Jason, you’re a smarter guy than that” (Yael)

    They are broad strokes but I have so many examples from a variety of places – so many examples to think that maybe Luke’s version of church is vastly different than the ‘mainstream’ version of Evangelicalism (which is the church I am kind of nailing to the wall). It is a lot of generalizations – agreed – and that’s my bad – because Luke has pointed out a few churches that function differently. I worry though that if we celebrate something so small we never achieve what we need for the future.

  12. I wasn’t aware there was only one church in Evangelicalism. I thought you didn’t go to church anymore. So, why the need to nail any church to the wall?

  13. “I wasn’t aware there was only one church in Evangelicalism. I thought you didn’t go to church anymore. So, why the need to nail any church to the wall?” (Yael)

    It’s true there are tonnes of churches within Evangelicalism and I am being a generalist of sorts – but I think the critiques are valid (to some degree). If I have to visit every church and reside in each for like 3 months to find out if my concerns are legit – we could be waiting until I’m 70 and dead broke living on the streets to get those numbers. So I go with the stories, my experience, and it is a generalization – but it isnt all based in assumption.

    Well, it is true I don’t go to church anymore but I have deep concerns for many reasons – the best reason being I have many friends that attend church and many people in my community have family members in the church (and it’s a small world – somehow we all meet somewhere down the line). I have some serious concerns about what they are being taught within church walls and how this is played out in their daily living experience…and how my own actions effected others for the 7 years I attended church and the last 8 I have been studying it.

    So I have reasons for my concern and committment – because although I don’t like the way things are going and what is neccesarily taught in churches – it does effect me in 2 ways (a) through friends currently in church and (b) the idea the institution is in my community and how it can be a useful organism from within the city streets and reserves. My 3rd reason could as easily be the fact I see hope for the church – even amongst the mistakes made…and I would never rule myself out as someone that would be willing to help if the right opportunity cropped up.

    I am calling what I do a movement in accountability for the people in the church – since I think that organization (like the mafia) is quite untouchable – and the accountability used is at best questionable (in some churches). I want the best for that organization – and leaving them to their own devices without the invitation of outside help is, IMO, not the best strategy…thus I have some critiques.

    For example, just caught the latest docu-pick on Haggard – the disgraced minister of the Evangelical wing in the States (southern states more or less). How is this for forgiveness – he can never return to his church ever again. So the dude has his livelihood taken away (because his theology degree is apparently useless), was exiled from Colorado for a period, had to find work wherever he could, and was almost scrounging from house to house. I am not sure anyone can say how this man is treated is ‘responsible Christian behavior’…but this is what they must teach since this is what they have chosen to do to him (disgrace him and wash their hands of him).

    On a closer plane to me, my sister lefther husband of 12 years about 4 years back and the church near me did the exact same thing to her – and left her in true despair. House to house living, had to find work (never had a job during her marriage – so no real resume), was rejected by all her former friends and demonized in front of her children, and in essence – exiled. When I saw this happening to Haggard a god damn tear came to my eye – I know that pain all too well.

    I’m not going to let the church get away with this type of behavior – not just for my sister’s sake – but for handfuls of others they do this to all the time (see the de-converts for many more similar stories). At some point someone has to stand up and just say ‘not today – not again’…I am fighting for dignity.

  14. i’m trying to figure out my discomfort with your protrayl of the church, even the fundie church… and i think i’ve hit it.

    the broad brush as Yael cleverly put it, can no longer work. in fact, i’m pretty sure that that brush failed not only at the reformation (where things shattered into a million tiny pieces) but the moment Paul decided to bring gentiles into the church. there is no “Church” nor is there one monolythic Christian identity. Thomas Jefferson called himself a Christian and so does Rick Warren and Jerry Falwell, only one took out all the miracles from the gospels (Jefferson) one preaches eco-sustaining sermons and believes all people have a God-given purpose (Warren) and Falwell is a fear monger more concerned with money and furthering his enterprise… not to mention the liberals, traditionals, and mystic/new age movements….

    do screwy things happen with murky ethical situations? you bet! but these happen at work, in courts of law, in completely secular situations as well. alienation happens with any group and it sucks anyway you slice it. but to label “the church” as the prime perp in this universal human sin is short-sighted in my view… unless i’m misreading you somehow dawg….

  15. “the church” as the prime perp in this universal human sin is short-sighted in my view…(Luke)

    Jesus Christ……………….oops did I blasphemy there? Lets transpose that word church with Mosque, Temple, synagogue, or something like that. Lots of perps out there, dont ya think? Yael may not like me on this one, but name the name of what you are and all of a sudden youre different. I can call G-d, G-d. But as soon as I say Christian, Jew, Muslim I have ensured that we are divided. But hey, I still like you guys. 😉
    Oh by the way, I am you.

  16. Jason,
    Please remove my last 2 comments. I think Luke makes good points and the conversation would be better served by his comments rather than mine. Thanks.

  17. Anyway, from my POV you’re confusing division with disrespect. Just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t still get along.(Yael)

    You go girl, lol. Now for much of the writing I have seen you do it is a rarity that you have something nice to say about “Christians”. Im sure that has to do with your association to it. Now instead of it being about Christians wouldnt it be better if it was just about the assholes who screwed you over? That way most of your critiques would be on a case by case approach rather than an absolute(though you are changing). Luke and Jason are a case in point. All Jews are misers(not true), but it seems because of the title Jew its easy then to lump them all together. Muslims are violent(again not true), but because they name themselves different than everyone else it makes it easy to lump them together. We have differences and that isnt necessarily a bad thing. But I would say that in regards to what we think the divine is about it seems to be one area where we should shy away from making ourselves different. Regardless of how we think, most people will judge you based on your title rather than who you are. My suggestion is that if I am just a Human then people can judge me based on my actions not my title.

    BTW, I’m curious. Why do you spell God with a dash in the middle? Are you trying to differentiate yourself from the rest of us blasphemers of ‘The Name’? If so, tsk, tsk.(Yael)

    I think I got the idea from Wilf. It leaves the mystery in the idea of G-d. I like that better than knowing. I wonder Yael, are you a Jew because you belong to that community and read those books? Or are you a Jew because G-d’s chosen people are Jews?

    Oh by the way, I like it when you do it to me. And its the only time my wife will let another woman have me. 😉

  18. “but these happen at work, in courts of law, in completely secular situations as well. alienation happens with any group and it sucks anyway you slice it. but to label “the church” as the prime perp in this universal human sin is short-sighted in my view… unless i’m misreading you somehow dawg….” (Luke)

    I am only making sure the church doesn’t get missed in the accountability game – not that they are the only or worst perp – but they are part of the action with the rest of the perps in history.

    Also in secular situations I almost expect some wrong to happen – they aren’t neccesarily part of a group that claims to ‘know God’ and in essence ‘a moral code’ in the process…then in turn betray such an idea. Secularism isn’t that pretentious really…I kind of know what to expect from ‘gangs’ (an institution) for example.

    But Yael and Luke are both right – these are broad strokes. And they are only critiques – not about every and all churches – like Luke said some do things awesomely and are trying to help the community (and in this time of recession – you’d hope this would be the institution to help all those that gave – for example). And I admit to using generalizations – but I am not pin-pointing anyone out unless I use an example – which I have done twice. The rest is really just a critique of history.

    As for Joseph Smith, he started a new church and I think he was on the right path – and met God and now all of us in America have a more personal God?

  19. i think the instituation of the church is uber-accountable… because people like yourself expect perfection from it at all times, and that’s the problem! the church as institution is, was and will never be perfect. nothing on this side of the veil is. what we do have is good examples and poor examples of “doing” church.

    i’d love to have the canon all in a community… and that community would be an excellent example. Yael would preach Friday, I’d take Saturday, and you, Doug, and John T could fight over Sunday 😉

  20. not to mention what Soren Kirkegaard asked of the church… should it be an institution? and broader than that, should it be a “national” religion? can one be a Christian in Christendom? his answer to all the questions was no. i am inclined to agree as Christianity is best served as a philosophy for living not a religious institution. it is best as an underdog which helps and includes and brings together rather than the colonial, exclusive, lightening rod it has become.

  21. “i am inclined to agree as Christianity is best served as a philosophy for living not a religious institution” (Luke)

    I agree there – for me the faith functions as a foundational philosophy that helps me build a pardigm for life (more or less). The critique for me only starts at the religious institution part of it – the nationalistic side of it – I often wonder how much of that effects the actual honesty to scripture within a church ideology? We’ll never know I guess but the question creeps up.

    But as Yael pointed out – and something I tend to believe also – what’s with all my b*tching when I do nothing to change anything anyway (as in attend a church or what have you)?

    So I’ll critique the theology of the church – to make it more fair.

    As for Sunday – I am rather partial to a congregational meeting on a Saturday – prefer the essence of that day and Sunday as my day off from pretty much anything.

  22. Wow. Where do I begin…..

    John,
    Jew is not a label it is a name. Names have meaning, names have history. Why should we give up a name that our ancestors died for rather than discard? That you see it as a source of derision, so what? We don’t. I’m certainly not going to continue to defend my choice to be known as something rather than as nothing, it has become quite tedious repeating myself over and over.

    You gave me two options to choose from as to why I am a Jew yet neither of them would be my answers. Why am I who I am? Why is anybody who they are?

    Orthodox Jews put a dash in God because their tradition is that one is not to erase or throw away God’s name. I found it somewhat amusing that you picked up this habit which they use to show how much more pious they are than the rest of us liberal Jews who don’t consider God to be God’s name at all since it is an English word.

    Yes, I had to laugh when I re-read that line you pointed out. Oy-vey, but such is life. There is no edit on comments and at least you got a laugh, too. 🙂

    Luke,
    You’re a really great guy so I hate to disappoint you, but…..I would have no interest in being in any Canon community. I have my community already and this is the life I love living. Why would I leave the beauty of thousands of years of tradition and wisdom that I have embraced for a hodge-podge of whatever we might throw together? That’s not being Jewish and I have chosen to be Jewish. I think once more I have been greatly misunderstood. I’ve enjoyed blogging with you guys but my life is lived elsewhere; I really like that life and I will never walk away from it.

    Ummmm…..I don’t give devarim on Friday nights; that would be Reform Judaism and I am Conservative. And there is no way I could stand listening to sermons on Jesus or Paul! Yikes. I’m sorry, but just the thought makes my skin crawl. I know that we ask many of the same questions at times, but how we live out those questions is very different. I know you really want everyone to just be one big happy group but that would require me to give up everything that is important to me while taking on much that is meaningless to me. No thank you. I made my choices long ago and I’m happy with them.

    Jason,
    Perhaps now I can explain why I gave you the name which means ‘my people, my nation’. For all these months I have been waiting for you to choose who you will be and then make a commitment to that choice. It is easy to drift around the net talking to this one and that, it is much harder to join up with flawed people in a flawed place and work from within to make it better. Luke took the words right out of my mouth when he said you are expecting perfection. There is no perfection; good enough is good enough.

    John is correct in pointing out I haven’t said anything much good about Christians, although as time goes on I am changing, or at least I’m trying to change, but what I say is nothing compared to what I see Christians saying about each other on their blogs! What a shanda. I am making a real effort to be more careful about how I speak about others, kind of amusing that the ones who would seek to save my blackened soul cannot elevate themselves to do the same….Don’t be like them, OK?

    You’re a good guy, Jason. I’ve enjoyed blogging with you these past couple years. I put up a post on pirke for you, don’t know if you saw it: You can’t tear down a synagogue until you build another one. Take it to heart and you’ll be fine, OK? Take care, dude. It’s been fun.

  23. I made my choices long ago and I’m happy with them.

    Yael

    You left that tidbit for Luke, but in the end isnt that what its all about. Our own happiness. Good luck on your journey.

    John

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