Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Insightful tips for the churchy -- not

"10 Ways to Hinder Your Church" -- from Neil, who got it from somebody else.

Um, good list -- for a bunch of fifth-graders. Good Lord. I'd say anyone for whom any of these is an issue has much bigger issues.

Jesus, so to speak. It's CHURCH, not a social club.

We can do better than that without breaking a sweat, surely.

"10 Better Ways to Hinder Your Church"

I'll start!

1. Be hateful.

-put Blockbuster free movie coupons in the offering box

-slip in a disk of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the electric piano

-instead of shoutin AMEN when the preacher says something good, shout 'Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!!'
Dang!! my mistake...I thought this list was for things you've done in church.

So I guess 'wear your Pull my Finger t-shirt' is out too, along with 'askin the preacher if anyone's ever told him about carbs'
2. Think this church thing is about what happens for an hour on sunday morning. In other words, screw the hungry, ignore the sick, and bilk the poor.

3. Condemn others for the very things you're flying to Argentina to do.

4. Complain. About everything and everyone who isn't perfect enough to be you. Make sure that people's first image of the church is a constipated old biddy who can't mind his/her own business.
Read the Bible like a white-haired, blue-eyed geezer God just pulled it straight out of deep fold in his glowing white robe.
Worry so much about the literalness of long-ago times (Creation) and times to come (prophecy and "End Times") that you're clueless about the call to BE the CHURCH -- and feed, clothe and give cups of cold water in Jesus's name -- in the PRESENT.

The PRESENT, which is as close to eternity as. it. gets.
10 ways to hinder your churh?

For me it would be the following.
1. Go to worship services every Sunday morning and evening.
2. Go to Tuesday Bible Study.
3. Go to Sunday School.
4. Express your true opinions and press them fully upon others.
5. Write a column for the weekly bulletin.
6. Give a annual pledge so large that they can not afford to let you move your membership.
7. Advocate serious recruitment of local neighborhood residents into the Church memebership.
8.Volunteer for any all of Church committees.
9. Create and chair a Church/Pastor liason committee.
10. Sit in the front row and stare at the minister thoughout the sermon while taking notes.
Oh, I LIKE that, DrLoboJo.
Hey, Dr. Bill, one of my favorite Simpson's episodes has Bart slipping the sheet music to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on to the organ, and includes the original title, "In the Garden of Eden", on the pulpit. After playing all seventeen minutes (where'd the drum solo come in?), the organ player passes out. The pastor says, "I believe this is some of that rock and/or roll music." During the opening, Homer leans over to Marge and says, "I remember when we used to make out to this 'hymn'".

Getting advice from Neil on how to make your church better is like getting advice on marriage from a thrice-divorced, multi-adulterous former House Speaker on traditional values. Or having a certain Senator caught in a brothel with his diaper on lecture on traditional values. Or, well, you get the idea.
Oh, man. I just read this comment over there ...

"yes, I’d have to say #3 also might be the one I get stuck in. Not consciously, of course; I know very well the church is just the gathered assembly and not responsible for getting my heart right before God. (Duh). But it is an easy mind-set to fall into, especially with the professional praise team being ready to go…it’s like an entertainment that sometimes I’d rather skip. If that makes sense."

Yes! It makes more than sense. A "praise team"? Wow. Not to denigrate the idea -- but really, I think I have to denigrate the idea. A church glee club?

OK, OK. If it's meant as a way for children to be brought into the worship ceremony, the service itself, OK. But for full-grown peeps? And, as if it had anything more than a marginal effect -- maybe, at most, a corporal expression of hearts being made ready for worship by the bald fact that they've come together for that express purpose?
I cracked up at the anti-"church-hopping" statement. You can't tell this was written by some pastor, can you? :-)

You must never leave the church, EVER!! LOL

They should call this the "Pastor Security Act."
Heh. I didn't read the original list, but that is funny. (particularly when one assumes that the people that subscribe to such a list are probably the ones fomenting schism in many denominations.

So perhaps a revision of that should be: "Don't church hop! (Unless those dirty gays happen to join.)"
Jesus was as super concerned about the "Church" as these guys are??? That's why the word "Church", by any translation, does not appear in Mark, Luke, or John? Mathew and Paul are somewhat centered on it but Jesus not so much.

Are Churches "saved", or it is "individuals"? Are Christians branches off of the vine of Christ or of the Church? So all you students of the Word, when did Jesus say, "I am the Church"?
It's been said that the church began when Peter's mother-in-law, having been healed, got up and was all deacony.
That is, she served in some way, and the word used is the same word, or root, as the one for deacon.

Notice: the Church is a human response to Jesus. So, the Church is one thing and the Body of Christ is another?
Man, you can take the boys out of the literalist church but it's hard getting the literalist impulse out of the boys.

The vine metaphor trumps "church" in our understanding because Jesus didn't say the word, "church"?

Because a Greek work for servant or waiter was used, we have the birth of the church? That's a perfect example of what's called "back formation."

The Church is a gift from God that is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace of Christ's union with the world. In other words, the Church is a sacrament of cosmic union. Imperfect, mysterious, powerful, ultimately undeniable, and God given, human messed with.
With all due respect to the deep beliefs and feelings involved: That's Gobbledygook.
In the hills and dales of middle America, yes, I can understand that it would sound just like that.

That this is so is due to centuries of Christian in-fighting, massive secularization in the West, and the deep anti-intellectual strain that contributes to the definition and character of common American protestant stock.

The recension of the Christian theological treasury started far back and its glories appear now only in tatters, begging for attention, looking distinctly foreign, a victim of suspicion, doubt, and an unprepared and crippling incomprehension.
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What is it in we Americans, that we often huger for knowing history, steep ourselves in it, but then, without reflection, are so exceptionally adept at refusing to acknowledge its shaping force?

Our own revolution is internalized as historical freedom, I suppose. But that is massive mis-understanding of the events and of who we are and of how we carry on.
From O.C. Quick, a master of humane and penetrating theology in the 30s and 40s:


"The writer is convinced that misunderstandings of the Church, at any rate among educated people, concern not least the intellectual aspect of her message. It is commonly said that less theology is what we need; but those who counsel thus are surely guilty of a highly dangerous confusion between remedy and disease. Most people, no doubt, prefer that religious teachers should appeal to the heart rather than to the head. They prefer being asked to feel to being made to think. But it does not follow that their preference should be encouraged. As a nation we welcome what we call “the gospel,” we like theology, and we detest dogma. But the fact that we attach too much importance to feeling, too little to thought, and almost none to authority, is really no ground for supposing that we cannot or ought not to effect any change in our scale of values. As a matter of fact, the unpopularity of theology and dogma springs far more from a misconception of their purpose than from any tenable objection to their use.

Mediaevalism had exaggerated that element in faith, which consists of an intellectual assent to certain propositions. Then the chief duty of every Christian was to declare that he believed certain things to be as the Church stated them – all other duties took a secondary place. Evidently the settling of what are the things to which a Christian ought to give an intellectual assent, is the sphere of theology; and theology must be the work of the intellectual expert; its results must by the ordinary man be taken more or less on trust. Mediaevalism therefore in exaggerating the value of intellectual assent, exaggerated also the importance of theology and dogma in relation to other elements in the Church’s system.

Since the Middle Ages a progressive reaction has taken place in the Reformed Christianity of Europe. Not intellectual assent, but what is known – with disastrous vagueness – as religious experience, has been increasingly represented as the Christian’s primary concern. In practice this has meant that religious feelings have been cultivated, while thought about the realities which are their origin and object has been very generally neglected or even disparaged. In part, this is the inevitable result of the impulse which the Reformation gave to individualism and democracy; for every man is capable of religious feelings, while only the few are capable of thinking out for themselves their implications and their source."
And towards the end of his essay and the last from me:

"It is then an imperative duty to keep alive the theological tradition, not hastily to hide or throw away old doctrines at the first demand of those who have never had occasion to study their real import, but to let them renew their youth in the fresh interpretations which fuller knowledge brings. And to fulfil this task we must first go back to the old theology of our creeds, that we may disentangle its essential meaning. We must try to clear away the rust which our neglect has suffered to collect upon it, that it may once more shine in use. We need not, we must not, reaffirm every word that the fathers of the Church thought to be true, still less must we adopt all their methods of enforcing it. But we must remember that though their language is not ours, at least it was for them, and it may be for us, the vehicle of an eternal revelation of the ultimate constitution and ordering of the universe. For them theology was not primarily the result of any reflection upon their own experience. It was the revelation of God which created both their experience and their theology, and the theology was designed quite as much to guide experience as to interpret it. For them intellect was not a tin‑kettle tied to the tail of feelings, urging them to wilder extravagance as it clattered helplessly in their wake. Rather they thought of intellect as a divinely inspired faculty of vision, whereby they were able to see the goal, and point out the direction, of that long and arduous journey which human experience has still to tread. They held it a sacred trust to guide in the light of that vision the steps of the people whose souls, as they believed, had been committed to their charge. The better part for us is not to set their authority at nought, but to sit at their feet till we have learned the lesson, that some things in their teaching which must be removed are shaken, only that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. The first necessity is not to restate the creeds, but to explain them. Perhaps after the explanation, the need for restatement will not seem so pressing."
Feodor, I'm too pooped to read those thoughtful paragraphs. I will later. Never too tired to type out some of my own thoughts, though, half-baked or whatever.

I accept the cosmic reality of the Bride of Christ. I admit I struggle to tie that to the churches. And I see the Church as another word for the Bride of Christ.

But, remember I pooped: while I think I'm part of the Bride of Christ, and the Church, I'm not sure what the church I'm a member, and servant, of has directly to do with it.

As a 'Piscopal (aren't you?), yer three clicks removed from the historical church. Not sure I'm connected to it literally, only ... cosmically ... ??
Basically, I think I'm part of the scraps left from the explosion of the Roman church that happened during the Reformation ...
"In part, this is the inevitable result of the impulse which the Reformation gave to individualism and democracy; for every man is capable of religious feelings, while only the few are capable of thinking out for themselves their implications and their source."
---O.C. Quick

So I assume that it is implied in Quick's Christian World there are only Catholics and products of the Reformation? And those who seek the origin of the current "church or Churches" in the Gospels should be directed by either the Church or by those FEW ..."capable of thinking out for themselves their implications and their source."

You know of course that there have been and are many millions of Christians outside the Church and outside the Reformation of it.

"The better part for us is not to set their authority at nought, but to sit at their feet till we have learned the lesson."

Been there done that. Now I'm attempting a look beyond their lessons taught and even passed the ones they chose to not teach even though they knew them.
Arrogant perhaps,or maybe just educated, but whatever it is so be it.
It's rather a static reading to take modes of thought and try to anthropomorphize them as "there are only Catholics and products of the Reformation."

In the language world of American Christianity we all tend to be shaped as protestants, wether we are Romans, Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox or what have you.

We live in a dominant mode of thought and have great difficulty stepping out of its stream.

So, no, Quick is not saying what you suggest. He is saying that, given clear thinking, we can move about in the river and find the healthiest currents, which probably will tend to have a mixed heritage of some reformed, some catholic, some ancient, some modern contributions.

Your idiosyncratic construction is, nevertheless, still constructed on the protesting cultural asceticism that was the foundation of your childhood.

Neither does he entirely trust the Church at its bureaucratic level to determine good direction.

You could have pieced this together from the middle paragraph of the first selection. But you did not give yourself time.

Finally, and fatally, you inferentially reject St. Paul's picture of the body of the church as made up of people with various ministries/callings/talents when you resent that some in the church are called to contribute intellectual rigor.

If you are a prophet, DrLBJ, prophesy. If you are a priest, pastor. If a deacon, serve.

But do not resent those who bring the task of Christian scholasticism to lead the rest of us in the body of Christ think through our corporate life together.

Perhaps a refresher course in the lessons of the creeds is in order.

I can recommend a book by O.C. Quick.
I have no idea what this means: three clicks removed from the historical church."
It may help to put Quick in his own frame of reference, which is the broad church understanding of Anglicanism as it has long understood itself by a combination of modifiers:

catholic AND reformed
I mean from the main branch thereof.

Episcopal from ...

Anglican from ...

Rome Church from ...

The Church.
oooh, i like that; catholic and reformed.

but the catholic church also might consider itself thus, counter-reformationwise ...
"Fatally ...resent..some are called to contribute intellectual rigor. etc. etc."

Feodor, why personalize your position with perceived misgivings or lack of my rigor or even as to whether on not something has been read as you think it should be?

None the less I do often enjoy the abrasion. One can only be as sharp as the quality of whet against which one is drawn.

The dichotomy of our views is simple, you see a Corporate Church with structure and hierarchy with a history and tradition, in which the sacraments and creeds are lodged. I do not.
I see a church as an assembly of like minded Christian believers who can serve without restriction as any part of the assembly they chose. As such my "church" probably doesn't actually exist. Yours most definitely does. If this were, say, 1100 A.D., that would probably make me a hermit, or a heretic, or maybe a pseudo-Cather. Hark back to my 10 ways to disrupt the church above.

One question however, if you are so sure and comfortable in you Corporate Church why are you so aggressively defensive of it? Are you protecting it from the likes of resentful fatally flaw and not so bright me, or some part of yourself?

And as you know Paul's church had two early interpretations as to what he meant for it to be, a Gnostic one, and an Orthodox one. The Orthodox interpretation has come down through the ages to us as the correct view, but the Gnostic one still pops up on occasion. If survival is mystical affirmation of truth then the Orthodox Church should be true.
It tend to see the church as wherever two or three, myself.
Two or three? Why not one? Because Mathew was writing from the viewpoint of the Jewish Christians and was relying on the Law:

Deuteronomy 19:15 (New International Version)

"One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."

As a believer in the believer's own priesthood to God I'm no longer under the law of going through a priest of the Law?

Mathew 18 goes on to profess:
18: "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19: "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Answering my own question then, where does Jesus talk about the "Church" in the Gospels? It is here. It is a "Church" formed under Jewish Law. Is it not? Or is it?

Yet John, especially, creates the theology of the individual being "one" with Christ and the Father. Does Mark and, Luke, and John each stand alone, or do they have to be taken in their total, does any Gospel supercede or trump any other Gospel?

Binding on earth to bind in heaven is a very old concept, much older than Moses.

I guess you'll have to ask those I resent for an answer.
In a way I'm saying the way to disrupt the Church is to ask it, "Why do you exist?". I propose most "churches" will stumble into gobbledygook with their answer which is most often a corporate mission statement. But as Feodor says, "In the hills and dales of middle America, yes, I can understand that it would sound just like that."
Briefly -- 'cause this is a busy work day -- I don't see how this horizontal idea, "theology of the individual being 'one' with Christ and the Father" -- necesarrily contradicts the existence of the Church as a vertical cosmic network of the saints. Horizonal and vertical being expressions of antequated but still useful cosmology.

Without the Body of Christ, such as it is, can Christ be in the world? A toe minus the foot, leg, etc. is not a toe -- it's a chunk of flesh with some gristle and bone and a nail. The Church -- or a church -- is made of people. Not person.

When LBJ asks the Church, "why do you exist," I'm not sure he knows exactly who he's asking.

Much like not distinguishing the angry tone in which one claims someone else is angry, I don't think we are distinguishing the various forms of the church here.

I am not the one who put "FEW" in all caps and continues to come back to the object in resentful way.

I am not the one who is confusing those called to teach the church with those who run whatever DrLBJ, in resentful tones, means by "the corporate church." In my history lessons it rarely seems these two groups ever got along (if I understand DrLBJ aright that "corporate church" represents the hierarchy).

That DrLBJ has a bug up his ass about leadership seems clear.

That he blurs that issue with the theological heterogeneous concept of the "church" also seems clear.

Do I feel the wonder of my baptism into Christ every day? Hardly.

Do I feel the wondrous presence of Christ in every Mass? Hardly.

Will I find in Christ's Church the wonder of the body of Christ every time we gather?

My guess is that, as all of us were raised on sacred promises unmet and ungraciously intended, we have made separate bargains replacing the failed promise of the word of God to be clear and inerrant and capable of delivering us to heaven.

DrLBJ has perhaps kept the ascetic attitude but turned to a desert mysticism that, like our heritage, is entirely suspicious of things sensual, human, fallible. Gnosticism is a kind of radicalization of the social conservatism and individualism of conservative Christianity. But instead of entrenching itself in Law in oder to cover for the Gospel's gray hedging, it throws out all physically accessible things completely as too empty and weak to carry the eternal truths. Thus the abhorrence of, or at least the difficulty of understanding any value in, the sacraments as a way of life.

And like conservative Christianity, gnosticism looks for the rapture, too, just a privately mediated one and it may come at any time and repeatedly. It is an internalized and periodic Millenarianism that cannot be controlled by controlling interests.

I have made my bargain with the dark glass of a life spent in sacramental practice that is much more prosaic than apocalyptic. It is far from being rooted in the frontier pitched tones of the American character. The sacramental life divinizes the human experience as it is, if reflected upon, not as it is when transformed into a swooning rupture, delivering relief from the grinding agrarian lifestyle on the plains and frontiers.

DrLBJ finds all things fail, especially those who lead. This seems to me a very protestant style of relating to the world, along with its reserved resentments at the failure.

I find that all things are clay and want to see beauty in ostraca. This may be a fool's errand.

The last thing DrLBJ wants is to be fooled again. But I'm a sucker.
"But I'm a sucker."

Count me in.
The whet has dried out.
into a goad.
Goad indeed. By the way for the record, "Corporate" as in the original religious sense, such as seeing the relationship to God as a body of people, as a body of God's chosen or a body choosing God, such as the Judaic tradition does, and the Southern American Black tradition does, etc.. Many branches of Christianity have a Corporate concept of themselves.
Indeed many times the religious corporate community blends in with the capitalist corporate structure but that's a whole nother subject.
Of this I think we are all aware. But in such usage, the "c" is not capitalized.
The "c" in corporate, I mean.
God, it's been years since I've heard that word.

Not that it was ever applied to me then.
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