Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some more missing the point--wrapup

Brian McLaren's Adventures in Missing the Point was a pleasant read.

Sorry y'all but I don't have a book club where I can talk to people about the stuff that I am reading, and the Man is asleep.

Before I talk about how I got to this book, I will mention a sort of time in my Christian growing up. Disillusioned is a strong word to use, but a few years back the Christian church started to really bug me. There were alot of things going on there, but probably the worst of it was that I wasn't thinking about not being a Christian, there was never a question on that, but I kept finding these strange distasteful things in churches I would go to that made me really uncomfortable. I wasn't a "church shopper", I wasn't looking for what a church could do for me, I was looking for a church that wasn't going to water itself down in order to bring in more folk.

The stuff I was seeing?

Churches that looked like a marketing team had taken over, and the goal was to sell the church to those who walked through the doors. They had catchy slogans "Refresh, repent, renew", they quit calling it a church or dropped off "God" and instead just called it a "campus". Why can't we call it a church? Is the word church so offensive?

I went to services where the pastor, the worship leaders and everyone in leadership scolded the congregation for not worshiping fervently enough, and whipped up the congregants into a moaning, dancing, flag waving worship fury.

I listened to sermons where the pastor boiled the gospel down to baby food, ostensibly so that "we" could understand it better (the service I mention was about Ephesians 6 which suffered through a comparison to Star Wars, where he showed clips of the movie and wore a mask to start the sermon-sigh-).

And I went to churches that were a sea of grey hair, and it looked like things pretty much were the same as they were 50 years ago.

The hard part was always that I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about my frustrations, because I would be being too critical about superficial details. But my thought was, how could I bring someone to a place that I was going to feel compelled to apologize for? I decided that I would just suck it up and go, and that every time I had the urge to shake my head at an overly simplified sermon, or at worship songs that were devoid of any meaning, I would just not criticize.

It was hard because I was coming off a time of struggling with my faith because it mainly felt like a collection of rules that dictated that anything that was fun was probably not ok, and I would be judged accordingly by my fellow Christians. Lovely. It was a bad place to be with my faith, but I knew I wasn't going to stop being a Christian, just that I had to figure a way through that present quagmire.

On an aside, I am a person who is entirely comfortable with disagreement. I don't need to have everyone around me think the same way as I do. It came as a shock to me even to find out that this was maybe unusual? In speaking with a coworker, I offhandedly mentioned that my husband was republican and so was much of my family, though I often tended to lean a little further left on some things. She out of hand couldn't believe I would marry a republican, declared she never could do such a thing. Huh, I thought. I just can't imagine that it would be kind of boring to marry someone that agreed with you about everything.

So with that back story, enter a book like Missing the Point, and that is why I felt like it was a good book. Not because it was so hyper intellectual, it wasn't. He just says things that I needed to hear at some point.

McLaren has such a wonderful way of setting straight without being painfully critical. He does not do the polemic/iconoclast thing, for which I am grateful. He doesn't seek to rip everything down and declare it without value or show its lack of worth. He does point out some very obvious but not necessarily positive trends in the church, and points out that they are not, in fact, biblical whatsoever. What a relief.

I like the fact that I don't have to agree with everything the authors say. I like the fact that disagreement is written into the book with a commentary after each chapter by the co-author. I can't speak highly enough of the format, because sometimes McLaren is way more liberal that I am at, and the commentary by Campolo might be a relief because he comes back to the center.

I am appreciative that there are times when they put their finger on how things might be better, where the church has gotten off track. Each chapter tackles a different subject and one author brings up how aspects of the current status might be improved. And then the other author will make a commentary, adding, agreeing, disagreeing. It was well organized, which made it very easy to read and still interesting.

Early on in the book they point out that things that are standard procedure in churches today aren't something that really came out of the bible, but tools that are used to hold up what the church has become today. Altar calls, sinners prayer, and the heavy focus on the individual in the church are all sort of artifices that we do now, but they are not something that is biblical.

I appreciate that they do see it as the job of a Christian to be mindful of caring for the environment. I am relieved to see that level of responsibility within those who are in the church.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most was that this book spurred discussion. It makes for some very good talking points and I thought it would be great for a book club. It's books and conversations like these that can help a believer dig a little deeper, ask the right questions, start to think about what they believe and wrestle with things in a constructive way. All that is good stuff.

I would say read it. It will make you think and probably disagree with at least a thing or two, but agree with a thing or two as well.

No comments: