[An elegantly manic response from a lovely friend, Abigail Adams, who started commenting, and ended up writing her own letter of sorts. Seeing as how the next letter will be penned by an atheist, I figured Abby’s stirring words would only add to this complex mosaic. So, here it is in its original single-paragraph brain-spill]
RE: I always hesitate to comment, because it leaves me fairly identifiable and concrete, but eavesdropping on the dialogue with the invisible church is . . . provoking (don’t shudder internally! It’s such a negative word, but maybe the wrong one contextually. Maybe I’m looking for. . . evoking?). I find myself half identifying with your thought processes and half with those of the church. It’s a strange, schizophrenic experience. I’m not sure which half is the delusion, or if it’s an emerging personality disorder, really. I see flaws in the Capital-C-Church, many of which you point out eloquently, but I wonder if the rising tendency in our generation towards a modernized and more accepting church (so much hipper and less home-schooled than the one I grew up in) really speaks to the flaws of the church or its failures to live up to what it proclaims. Are we reacting negatively because we fail to actualize what the conservative church is on paper? Do we need to revolutionize the church (?), because it feels a little more like we are the problem. When the government fails to meet the needs of the people, we all feel jaded and blame dirty politicians, big liberal government, North Korea or Republicans. Is blaming the church for our pervasive built-in guilt mechanisms the fault of the conservative theology or the fault of those administering it like some kind of Oceania Orwell-styled propaganda? I hope this isn’t coming off as aggressive, because it is just what’s mulling its way through my head! I will never be succinct, so to make a long comment even longer, I guess I am hesitant to write off the foundational elements of the church, because I think the doctrine of the Bible should make me MORE loving to all, MORE conscious of the environment and immensely more mindful of social justice. So maybe I can take my uber-conservative Mother with her heart of gold and her inability to see beyond the importance of image and giving a good impression within the church, and then I can add in my beautiful sister, who loves her female fiance with her whole heart and gives more to the world than most people I know, and somehow (in this run-on sentence) I can see beyond the strengths of both of these women, as well as their pitfalls, to the God they both love. I want to, and sometimes do, see the beauty of the values of the Traditional church that is Christ. God is loving. God is just. God doesn’t stop loving people, and in fact has deeper love for the sake of his justice. So, to me, somehow, and I’m still figuring it out, the church is me. And it is an incredible gift with the potential to surmount social injustice (to eradicate it!), to give me more tools than I could ever have in this world to do what is right and good. It is not an obstacle. I don’t need to buck it off. Tim Keller, an author I’ve been studying a little bit, has said a few times (and this is a poor paraphrase) that the doctrine of the church (ALL of it, not just pieces we like/can swallow) makes us both INFINITELY more confident, because of the beauty of redemption in Christ, but at the same time Unfathomably more humble. So we are neither above anyone nor intimidated by anyone. Rather, we approach the world with none of our own judgement, but also with a solid and sound basis from which we can love people, as utterly humbled people. There really shouldn’t be this massive divide of condemnation which “christians” feel called to administer and perpetuate. There should be no us and them divide betweenthe “secular” and the “sacred”. So Christianity and the Church should be (could be) (are in all their unrealized substance?) the best thing that ever happened, right? The conservative doctrine we think we should reject is of greatest value. I feel like our peers (and sometimes I among them) are losing that in our hurriedness to disassociate from that upbringing and be more modern and culturally relevant. I don’t like the Marry Poppins’ church any more than I appreciate the judgmental traditionalists; The Church and Christianity shouldn’t be a different medicine for every person who takes it. Or for every group of people. It smacks of relativism, even though I know that’s a late-nineties church-buzz-word. Now I’ve written so much, I barely remember where I began, and it is an hour past my bedtime, so I hope it makes some sort of sense.