What is happening in the Church these days? It feels serious and damaging – and does nothing to build up and nourish the Community of faith. Is it any wonder why our Churches are empty? Why should we feel surprised that many people view religion as (at best) a joke and (at worst) just irrelevant. Perhaps we deserve to wither and perish on the vine!
I remember a man in a bar in Chicago saying to me ‘ I dont go to Church – Christians are against everything – I dont understand why they are so full of hatred’. Another academic in the University of Chicago put it another way :
Disagreement and division is Christianity’s default position. Any reading of the history of the Church bears this out. Religious folks so easily loose a sense of proportion – and their humanity and decency are soon lost too. If we are to accept that we human beings are a contentious lot is it not unrealsitic to hope for the debate to be wise and charitable and spirited? Can Anglicanism ever recover a discernment that puts the tradition of tolerance at the heart of our connections? None of the present conflict commends religion as a way of life or rligious people as trust worthy guides for our life.
I am not arguing for a – anything goes – let it all hang out – approach to life and faith. We need intelligence and understanding in how we use the Bible and a greater humility in realising that many of our motives are less than pure. The hunger for power for those so convinced of the truth is shocking. The hatred in their hearts exoressed to often vulnerable people is beyond understanding. Where does it come from? What are we really afraid of?
Maybe we should all realise that our communities of compassion, whether geographical or of interest, whether religious or secular, are the authentic churches of the Kingdom.
Where compassion dwells fear can take its place.
Hatred and division and prejudice is destructive and disturbing. And what good can come of it?