As I write this, reports of another terrorist tragedy stuns the country, complete with all of the endlessly repeated banalities that we have to listen to on the media every time we want an update. The pundits of our airwaves reduce tragedy to black and white cardboard stereotypes and then pontificate in hackneyed solemnities for hours. On call-in shows the callers are even less articulate.
So I think about church. The majority of my church experiences have been similar to the above. What started 2,000 years ago with a sweaty band of followers of a poor man who was banned from all the synagogues he attended, has evolved into trudging to church every week to listen to tired stereotypes of niceness. Church is the only place where life is more G-rated than a Disney movie. Sex is almost never mentioned, except in reference to sins.
No thinking is encouraged at church. National and local tragedies, again, are processed in stereotypically trite phrases as familiar as “guide, guard and direct us”, “separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper”, and “inclement weather”.
We would be first astounded at church, and then we would see a huge protest, if we heard the following in a sermon:
“Why have we, as Americans, made so many people angry? Are these people all insane, or do they have a legitimate beef against the United States? When the United States goes overseas does it trample on others? Does the government set up puppet governments that serve the U.S. and not the people governed by that puppet government? When the Shah of Iran was torturing any of his subjects who opposed his rulership, was that the U.S.’s fault, because they had set him up and supported him, or was that Iran’s fault? Does the U.S. threaten nations with overwhelming fire-power so that those nations will give the U.S. what it wants? Does the U.S. send drones into sovereign territory and kill (mostly) the people it hates? Could the billions of dollars that the United States spends on the military and industrial complex be more wisely spent such that the world would be more peaceful? Are bombs the only way to secure the United States?”
Why are there no sermons that sound like that? Because those who want to hear those sermons have all been driven out. Occasionally young people grow up in the church, and eventually speak up, wanting something more thoughtful and less xenophobic, and are drummed out of the church in short order. We have let the self-satisfied, stereotypically black-and-white thinkers take over our churches.
As an illustration, what would you do if your 10 year old came home from church and said that there was a story in Sunday school about Noah, who got dead drunk and was sexually molested by his adult son? It is certainly not what we expect from Sunday school.
Or the perennial problem of people who fall in love with God and suddenly want to compose songs and sing them at church. That is not allowed in almost any church. Only people who are not in love with God are allowed to sing in church. The people in love with God upset us.