little brother, big brother; a brief lament and celebration of the church.

Some days, I think nobody has a bigger problem with Christianity than I do. Then again, mine are usually mere annoyances; I’ve never been severely hurt by anyone in the name of Christ.
But, I get frustrated with a lot of things.

I get frustrated with how differently it can be interpreted: from traditional black gospel to big-hair, sparkly-dress, shiny suit, hair gel televengelists, from monasteries to megachurches, from Presbyterian to Pentecostal, from highly musical to amusical, from conservative to liberal, from quiet, calm, and reflective to loud, raucous, and thoughtless; I don’t really understand how a message about humanity and the savior who came to intervene can be so widely misunderstood (if it is indeed misunderstood, although one could argue it is.) I reckon it has a lot to do with experience: the rich don’t know the sufferings of the poor, and vice versa; therefore a rich man may see God as a provider while a poor man may see God as a kind companion, even if his physical needs aren’t met. Or, a person who lives in a quieter part of the world (say, the woods, the country, or the wild) may see God more as a majestic creator, while a person who works and lives in a fast-paced, competitive, corporate society may see God as a rule-maker, approaching the Bible (and in that, presumably, his faith) for guidelines on how to ethically conduct his business.

I get frustrated with the little rules and the little ways in which you’re supposed to honor people; I don’t like the thought that I should not do something because it might cause someone else to stumble. I want to drink alcohol when I want it, because I know I won’t get drunk (most of the time.) I want to say a four-letter word if I accidently hurt myself or make a mistake; or if I’m watching a movie and want to react to even a fictitious circumstance.

I get frustrated with how people go and sanitize Christianity – how it’s not of the world, but it doesn’t really seem like it’s even in the world to start with. It becomes so clean, so sanctioned, so quarantined, that it finds everything – from someone saying “shit” to finding out that someone slept with their boyfriend – absolutely appalling. (But, where do you get that shock? Not from Jesus: remember how Jesus talked to tax collectors [professional extortioners] and prostitutes [professional sexual favor-givers] as normal people, and dined with them, and didn’t find them disgusting?)

I get frustrated when Christians are only friends with each other – when the youth group stays the youth group forever, and it winds up with dysfunctional adults incapable of engaging with the guys at their office because they’re scared of what’ll be said in the locker room or at the water cooler.

I get frustrated with the people who make Christianity non-stop positivity, as if it’s easy to just change your mood. Yes – hope is eternal, but humanity is fickle. It is not easy (although, I’ll concede that it’s possible) for a brain to react to cognitive change all at once, that is, if I wake up to a headache right ahead of a long work day, and cut my face shaving, I don’t so easily forget all of the hard things when I look in the mirror at my bloody face and pulsating brain and say, “Jesus loves me!”
Let me let George MacDonald speak:
“That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, ‘Thou art my refuge.'”

That is, it’s not that our negativity wins out; but it’s not that positivity suddenly reigns, either. It’s that in the midst of all of it – we just come to Him.

I get frustrated with the people who call God nicknames and walk into places looking for who they can “speak a word over.” Me and one of my friends call each other “buds buds,” but I’m not going to talk about her to anyone else as “buds buds,” because they would have no idea who I’m talking about and they’d think I’m a lunatic. I call her Alex. If you’re talking about God, you can call Him by His name [or, the one that most people in your culture are familiar with] in our instance: God.
Also, be perceptive. I don’t think Jesus went into every party, every marketplace, etc looking to speak. In fact, He was probably happy to be quiet a lot of the time (maybe I’m projecting.)

I guess the central thread holding all of this together is the thread of interpretation, and, of course, all of my opinions presently expressed are simply interpretation. As sad as it makes me, I’m not the ruler of Christianity, and whatever I say does not actually go!

No, if anything, it’s the thing that makes the church the church: how it can drive me absolutely crazy, and yet I can’t walk away from it (even when I tried!) Even when God’s people make me absolutely crazy, I still love them. They’re God’s big family. They’re my crazy, annoying little siblings who embarrass me in public, and who sometimes I go to the bar to have a drink and get away from them. But, other times, they’re the sibling I’m at the bar with, drinking and crying my eyes out. Sometimes they’re the sibling who are screaming in the car and make me want to tear my ears out other times they’re singing softly while I relax and rest. Sometimes, they’re the dad who says the truth when it’s out of line; sometimes they’re the dad who tells the truth in love, gently and honestly. Sometimes, they’re the mother who has to tell me, “no;” sometimes, they’re the mother who cooks a big, hot meal and serves up a slice of cake after dinner. It’s a constant ebb and flow, and I always have to come back to this:

God loves His church.
So should I.

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