Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Personal Schism From The Church

So I was flipping through my CD collection (which is starting to date itself as purchasing music has taken a backseat to groceries and diapers) the other night and found a great CD that called out to me again.

Bill Mallonee and The Vigilantes of Love's Audible Sigh

An old friend from working at Kentucky Underground gave me this CD with a lot of enthusiasm, but it really didn't strike a chord in me until months later.

If you haven't heard of these guys, think Tom Petty with a bit of steel guitar and more of a folk sound. Maybe not the best description, but I only have the one CD and that is the impression I get. Emmylou Harris guest stars on the song I want to comment on and the link above directs you to the lyrics.

For whatever reason I find the song Resplendent deeply moving, especially as I have taken steps in recent weeks of moving away from calling myself a Christian and the status quo church.

I'm not sure how people will take my publicly announcing my departure. I'm sure some will meet it with relief and many others with the thought that I am completely misguided and lost. I can't help what people will think, nor does it affect me much anymore.

What I see, have seen, and experienced outside of the church compared to what I see, have seen, and experienced within the church are vastly different and I can only take so much hypocrisy.

The church as most of the world knows it has been sleeping with the wrong partners for centuries all in the name of trying to fix the world. It has become so ingrained in our (read Christian) psyche we can't see that religious power and political power go hand in hand and both are wrong. Both are systems of power that are over people and are to a greater or lesser degree systems of oppression, no matter how benevolent. Both are kingdom of the world power systems and have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, no matter how loudly they say differently or how polished their message may look and sound.

Like Luther, Bonhoeffer, and Mother Theresa, I feel I must take a more public stand against those types of power systems. I must also start doing the work Jesus commanded us to continue, the work of lifting the up the oppressed. I have a sneaking suspicion there has always been a true church, an underground church that continued the work of Jesus, but did the work quietly.

I'm starting to wonder if the church we see today took the deal the devil offered Jesus in the wilderness, dominion over all the kingdoms of the world. While Jesus would have made this place a utopia, it would have been a utopia with a power system over people. The Kingdom of God is about creating a power system that supports people. I can't claim that idea for myself, Greg Boyd talks about this in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation. The link will let you read the preface and the first chapter.

To be sure, I think various religious leaders throughout time advocated becoming involved with whatever political structure was in place to hopefully change the world for the better, but as we have seen time and time again through our history just the opposite is true. The Kingdom of God will never be able to merge withe the kingdom of the world, its like oil and water, no how matter how hard you shake, it may look blended together, but it will eventually separate.

As I keep looking back at Luke 17 and Jesus warning those who want to be his disciples to consider the cost of doing so and also the mention elsewhere of the narrow path that few find, I saw neither of those things happening when I was involved with a status quo church.

What I did see was the opposite of those things. Why? Because going to a status quo church is something everyone does. Doesn't sound like the narrow path few find to me. Sounds more like the eight-lane superhighway meant to hold those Ford Expedition churches with 1000s of members. I'm just saying...

What I can't stomach anymore is what my friend calls the plausible deniability of the church. Basically, the vast majority of its members do as they are told, do not research for themselves or even study much about their faith. Such blind devotion is good at keeping the masses coming through the doors because nothing is required except their membership dues of 10%. How many people know there was more than one tithe in the Hebrew tradition? And why is it that the tithe is the one command that happened to not get washed away with the old laws?

And why is fear used to get people to get 'saved'? Turn or burn? Turn to what? A prayer and then on with the same old life? Football and consumerism with a pinch of church attendance throw in as 'fire insurance'? I don't read about Jesus using that tactic or recommending indifference as a good policy of comforting the oppressed and downtrodden.

Peace and wisdom,

yeah i remember the dark clouds
raining dust for days on end
blew all the earth out to california
and just left us here with the wind
in desperate times you know everybody's part
but it's your own lines you're like to forget
'til what you were meets what you've now become
grins and says "hey, haven't we met"

lost my firstborn that winter
and my wife on the first day of spring
and so i poured my sweat into the earth
yeah to see what that harvest would bring
and i remember howling fury
just like a plague of locusts
egypt's punishment for sins of pride
is that now what has come over us

how much of this was meant to be
how much the work of the devil
how far can one man's eyes really see
in these days of toil and trouble

honey we're all resplendent
yeah honey we are all thrift store
i'm like a wino with a twenty dollar bill
yeah forever and eternally yours
i can make you promises
if you don't expect too much
yes and i will run the distance
if you'll please please excuse my crutch

how much of this is failing flesh
how much the course of retribution
my my how loudly we plead our innocence
long after we've made our contribution

Written by Bill Mallonee for CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) �2000


ded said...

You are full of surprises my young friend.

Remember in Star Wars when Luke's struggle was reduced to whether or not he would give into his anger?

Mike Ross said...

A recent conversation with some good friends has us all retinking who we are and what we do.

ded said...

I am glad to hear you feel some direction. May that direction be full of love and light.

ded said...

Speaking of rethinking, have you read Rethinking the Wineskin?

ded said...

Wooow, am I getting old! I wrote something about Syracuse on another blog and forgot I had written one here as well. Sorry about the confusion.