Archive for July 30th, 2012

Irrelevant churches

July 30, 2012

In the basement or vestibule of churches you learn a lot.

Maybe even at the back of the church.

In the Catholic cathedral in Charleston I took one look at the literature at the back and concluded I was in another irrelevant church. The same old, same old blather about abortion as the only issue. Add to the mix the same in house navel gazing which focuses on the church and not God’s reign.

Jim Wallis’s comment rings true: You must ask yourself this question about every church meeting.Is this part of a movement? If not it is basically irrelevant. One must be radically linked to the struggle for the common good.

Yesterday i was cheered by the bulletin board in an old United Church where my grandson was having a birthday party..

There were items one would never see in a Catholic Church, namely an outreach to gay and lesbian teens, an invitation to go to the Holy Land and really see what is happening on the ground to the Palestinian people.None of this pious nonsense about “walking where Jesus walked”, basically an earth fetish which bypasses the present historical reality and substitutes sentimental escapism.Warm fuzzies  over a rock Jesus may have stood near but no solidarity with the besieged Palestinians where Jesus actually locates himself as he does with all the marginales.

I love walking by Toronto’s United Churches, many of which openly challenge the culture, inviting people “to do justice.” You’d never see basic prophetic utterances outside Catholic Churches.

And then you have writers like the Globe’s Margaret Wente ridiculing the United Church because of declining enrollment as if this were any indication of gospel fidelity or real Christianity. The decline of liberal Christianity is easy to understand. people shrink from the biblical prophetic.
Any real religion which places the Cross, the identification with history’s outcast at the heart of its mission is not going to be very popular, After all the prophets including Jesus never gave the people what they wanted, but what they needed. Following Jesus or living the alternative  biblical faith is no bed of’s much easier as Thomas Munzer said in the 16th century “to gorge yourself on the Honey-sweet Christ” than risk criticism much less crucifixion and unpopularity. Look at the pathetic state of organized Christianity in the USA where  the Cross and the flag are joined at the hip. The nonviolent Jesus is a stranger in these churches—the American societal violence is epidemic, the gap between the rich and poor the widest in the world, and it is the world leader in social pathologies. What  kind of Christianity lives here? A very pale imitation.

Long ago most Catholic churches ceased to be salt in the culture, risk takers of any kind. Slowly the institutional church has disengaged from any prophetic critique of the culture, gradually it has left the Vatican ll vision behind. Charity, yes, justice hardly ever.

The latest fiasco is the Catholic bishops inviting Tory Jason Kenney to be the keynote speaker at their annual convocation.Will they roast this  spokesman for the govenment’s shocling inattention to climate change? Its  stunning policies justifyong everything Israel does? Its truly awful failure to amend the tax code and make corporations pay their fair share. Don’t hold your breath

I got more hope in that United Church basement yesterday.Christians at least were engaging the culture.Oh yeah, there was a sign up sheet for the regular Saturday breakfast feeding.