Saturday, January 26, 2008

what use is it?

I've been reading a lot of prophetic rants regarding the church lately. Lots of predictions, talk and discussion over the need to change, to approach church from a customer service point of view, to give people what they need. I don't argue with any of that. Institutions by their very nature become institutionalized. The physical plant, the everyday expenses, the salaries to pay the full-time professionals who man the place... all serve to shore up the walls rather than the spirit of why the institution was created to begin with. It's true of schools, hospitals and the church... just to name the worst culprits.

But as individuals we have to be accountable as well. When Christ ever comes and the light shines in every corner of every heart, not just every building or organization, just how devastating will that be? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience."

One of the reasons John the Baptist (and I suspect many of the hellfire and brimstone preachers of our day) was so popular, was because he put the fear of God in everyone who heard him. "Repent! You brood of vipers! The kingdom of God is coming!" Why would that be so appealing?

One reason, I think, is because we do have consciences. We know when we pass a homeless beggar on the street, and look straight ahead so as not to make eye contact... we know there's something wrong with that picture. "They'll just use the money to buy crack." we tell ourselves, transferring our personal stinginess into altruistic generosity... "Why, I've just saved that person from drug use." We expect the outreach program at church to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless. Then we complain because the preacher makes yet another pitch for increased pledges. The truth doesn't always make us free, just guilty.

If the message of God doesn't inspire us to be better human beings to our fellow humans, then what use is it? God's tangible creation needs our compassion and concern more than some abstract concept of God needs our rituals and worship.


Anonymous said...

Sister, i have to say, that i love this daily blog. I miss this blog alot when you dissappear for a few days!. Thank you.

Claire Joy said...

so... have you noticed TWENTY-SIX days in a row?!

Usually my anonymous commenters are the ones who don't care for what I have to say... so thanks.

Anonymous said...

I know one of your anonymous commenters, and he does care what you have to say. He just doesn't always agree with it.

Claire Joy said...

He usually comments when he's correcting some lapse in my memory, and doesn't write mean stuff with four letter words. (And... I know when it's him because the site meter says Las Vegas.)