Ministry, Politics, Television

Change or Die?

Do you watch Lost? Sometimes after an episode airs, I read the comments on Television Without Pity. This is often a mistake, because the thick-headedness of some commenters raises my blood pressure. But many times someone posts a link to a fascinating screen cap, or has a better idea of what a character said than I did, so back I go.

This was one of the thick weeks. One of the worst tendencies of the group was in evidence: all the male,  African-American actors look alike.

Except that they do not.

When I complain about this to my sons, they say, rather reasonably, "Stop reading it!"

But I want those links, see above.

It's much the same with politics. The current debate, which has had its elements of misogyny, has now progressed to a not-so-thinly-veiled racism that offends and disturbs me.

Yesterday, Senator Clinton cited an Associated Press report "that found how Sen. Obama's support
among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening
again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were
supporting me."

Um.

Yes. All white people who did not go to college think alike, and all white people who went to college and don't support Senator Clinton are, what? Shiftless?

After listening to the press and talking heads and politicians pillory Rev. Dr. Wright, I want to know how we can say this race is more about misogyny than racism.

Really, it's about a paradigm shift. It's about a move from an old way of thinking to a new way of thinking that makes the generation gap of the 1960's look like a crack in the sidewalk. And it's not about age, clearly. It's about a desire to look at the world through a different lens, one that isn't about old allegiances or practices. It's a new way that leaves out those who insist on being left behind.

I guess I'm talking about church now, too. When "everyone" went to church, when in the post WWII paradigm, the Leave it to Beaver era, we could support numerous institutions and indulge in our Edifice Complex, we could be separatist without anyone drawing attention to it. Women played certain roles in churches; cultural groups had their own parishes. In my small city, there were Catholic churches "known" as Polish, French, Irish and Italian, and all those on the peninsula, relatively close together.

My Cousin Jack famously wrote the book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and I am right there with him. We can't live this way anymore. Push is coming to shove. The life of
faith, and the life of the body politic, must transcend boundaries of
ethnicity, gender and orientation. I believe it's the life to which the
Divine Source of All Love calls us.

But if I really believe that, I can't be satisfied with saying, "Let
those who disagree go home." On the ground, in a smaller church, I am trying to find a way to live it that includes everyone, that makes no assumption that people who vaguely resemble each other are the same, or that only a certain group works hard, or that I know everything about any of them.

The hard part is this: we in churches feel the general tension of the economy, heating prices, expense of health insurance, but we also grapple with an end to the culture's "protection" of Sunday morning, the declining availability of organists, the aging out of the generation that put all church events first and a demand that the things we do be not just convivial but meaningful. We don't know what it looks like. We hear stories, we LIVE stories of failures to graft the new branch onto the old tree.

I don't really understand grafting very well. But I know it's possible on trees and plants. Surely it must be possible for churches, too. I think we need to try before we cut down all the trees and start again.

9 thoughts on “Change or Die?”

  1. Do you think that grafting is what the emerging church is trying to do or do you think that is the chopping the tree down?

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  2. Verde, I think the emerging church is part of the grafting process – we still need leadership to guide us into unity. At the rate we’re going, the emergent movement will careen off into another stand-alone ‘us vs. them’ mentality. I think there are some leaders truly shouting the clarion call of unity, but what a huge challenge it is. We need loud, loving voices willing to step through the fear into grace.
    Songbird, wonderful post. My thoughts were churning after hearing Clinton’s comments, and you brought it all together for me. We have an opportunity to step into a new day, and it is both exciting and frightening. We have no choice – progress will eventually overtake us – but it seems that we are presented with an opportunity to ride the top of the wave and soar, or battle the tide and flounder.
    Well-written post that will stick with me throughout the day, I’m sure…

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  3. Long-time readers and blogging friends know that I have issues with “Emergent.” I guess I would say that anytime we consciously graft the new onto the old, we have a better chance of succeeding in having it take. Just cutting off a limb or chopping down a tree to make room feels unnecessarily destructive to me.
    More on this later.

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  4. Many days I find myself wondering of SPong got his title wrong. Maybe the church needs to die and change — both/and not either/or. (Of course the church often chooses neither which is part-all?-of the problem) And for people who claim to be all about resurrection that shouldn’t be too scary should it?

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  5. Great post. Can’t resist chiming in. I’m an “and” person. Think we need to do some grafting, and some planting of seedlings to replace the trees that die a natural death of old age, and those that die from dis-ease.

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  6. There has to be a way of maintaining the beauty of tradition while opening our brains to a new way of looking at things. We can’t cast away everything from the past, but we can learn from it. Our society is just in a different place now. We need to meet people where they are. Quit labeling others. Stop expecting “us vs them” thinking. We are all “them” in one way or another, and that’s fine. Invite questions. Exclude no one. At the end of the day, the important thing is that we support one another and invite growth as human beings.
    Wonderful post Songbird.
    And, like you, if I hear CNN give one more poll of “white Jewish 40 year old female college grads” I am going to throw something at the TV.

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  7. This is really wonderful, Songbird, on many levels:political, spiritual, intellectual. There is a paradigm shift going on. May it be so.

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