Wednesday, August 26, 2009

talking, 3

Saturday was pretty busy. I did get to the library, but couldn't find a copy of the book in question. Played a few rounds of disc golf thereafter, then went to some used book stores. Not really to find that particular book, mind you, though that was one reason. I simply like to browse in such book stores.

And that was one thing I found, which did make me rather happy. Found other things, too, which also made me happy. Books are one of my extravagances.

Spent some time with friends that afternoon, and in the evening found myself again at the LoMo, beginning again my reading of the assigned reading between Gus and self. Read a few chapters of it, found some stuff of interest, and then had the absolutely brilliant idea that, if I'm going to discuss this, maybe I should get a highlighter to mark places of interest. So, I finished my coffee, walked to a not-too-far-away drug store which was open all night, pick up a highlighter and a few other needful things, and went home.

Once again, I was up late, this time reading the book, marking things to remember, and pretty much trying to make sense of it all. Went to sleep tired and a bit disturbed.

The church I go to is pretty large. Maybe not megachurch large, but still pretty large. I liked it that way. I liked being mostly anonymous to most of the people there.

Maybe that's strange, and let me make something clear--I know several people there, and some of them I count as friends, so it's not as if I'm not known by anyone there. I'm even a part of one of their small groups which usually meet at one family's home. And I've helped out at a few of the things they do.

What did I mean, though? Why do I want to be a part of a larger church, where I'm pretty much a 'face in the crowd'?

I guess because I am a 'face in the crowd'. No one special, no one with power or position, no one who is over anything. I'm average.

When I heard it, I can't remember, though it may have been in my time in missions or in my training for it. The person speaking made what I guess was an off-hand or throw-away comment about how if a preacher wants to get a response from the people in the congregation, 'response' meaning getting them to the alter and getting advised in some way, then they would tell them that they don't pray enough, or don't care enough about their lost neighbors or heathens in other lands, or don't give enough, or don't open their doors to people quite enough, all with the undertone that they are selfish people. I don't think that speaker was saying that doing that was a good thing, only that it was something some preachers and speakers did.

It was one of those things that stayed with me, even through the several years since I heard him say that. I came to notice it in things preachers and church speakers would say, what I came to call "cheap guilt trips". I came to see the 'average Christian' as being someone who is all too often maligned, condemned, ridiculed. They are the ones that any supposed 'radical' will point to as being what is wrong with the church, even as the 'average Christian' is writing a check to help fund that person's ministry or organization. They were accused of not being strong enough witnesses, even as they would be at their jobs dealing with the fallout among their fellow workers of televangelist's money and sex scandals, Word of Faith silliness, real or supposed hypocracies among Christians their workers claimed to know, priests who molest young children, and the million-and-one other things, real or not, that their non-believing co-workers have heard about and use against them.

The situation is complicated, I know now, having been in the 'real world' for a while. In that sense, being now an "average Christian", I am glad to be in that position, and for now don't want to make it otherwise.

My respect for the "average Christian" has grown, but so has my concern. Let's be fair, it's the "average Christian" that all too often is taken in by the health-and-wealth people, who buys books on shallow theology, who seems far more interested in feelings and experiences then in truth. It's a sadness to me.

After church, I had lunch with a few friends, then played a bit more disc golf. Evening again found me reading, this time at home. I was not able to stay up as late that night, as on Monday morning I went to work, but by the time I finished I was glad to see that, in spite of going a bit slowly with marking areas of interest, I was over half-way done.

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