Tuesday, March 14, 2006

179. bowling for Christianity

What's Christianity good for, really? There are psychological studies that show that our natural tendency towards empathy can be overridden by (among other things) religious ideology and thus can cause people to be less than excellent towards one another. If this is true then what is Christianity good for?

And this is one of those questions that seems too sacrilegious to ask. But there it is. And the thing that is important to note about the question is why I'm asking it, to what ends, what are you trying to get at? Because if I were hostile towards Christianity then the question would be just another way to discredit its claims. But I believe that the Bible is a book of truth that points towards hope and reconciliation in a world that seems all too eager to tear itself to pieces. And I believe that the life that Christ lived, as outlined in the Bible, is the best representation of that truth.

So why do I ask the question?

Because (with all due respect to those in ministry at all levels) I believe that the way Christianity is preached and practiced is largely ineffective, particularly as it finds expression in America. I ask the question because I believe the church in America has become fat and lost and lazy, and as such is not being a good representation of the body of Christ. I ask the question because I'm tired of opening the paper, watching the news, listening to social commentary and seeing a nation that, as a whole, is getting worse and farther away from its ideals.

And I suppose the claim could be made that the question I should be asking is, "what is the church good for?" But I level the question at Christianity because my hope is that a compelling answer to the question, "what is Christianity good for," will cause churches to rally around it.

Perhaps an analogy would help here.

When people start to bowl, they keep their eyes on the pins at the end of the lane because that's the goal - to knock the pins down. However, one of the first lessons one will be taught (after learning the mechanics of holding the ball and how to approach the lane) is to look at the little arrows posted about a quarter of the way away from the foul line. See, the idea is that aiming at the pins is asking too much of yourself. What you do instead is focus on getting your ball to hit the arrow (or one of the boards between the arrows) because that makes for much more consistent throws and that causes more pins to fall down.

Aiming for a great church system in America is like aiming for the pins and hoping for a strike. I ask the question because I want to know which arrow we're supposed to be aiming for.

And I don't know, maybe that's not even the right question. Back to the bowling analogy, when you get to the professional levels of the game, bowlers bring a bunch of balls (stop giggling, you know what I mean) with them because the ideal ball for a set of lanes changes depending on when the lane was last oiled, how it was oiled, what kind of oil, and a host of other factors.

Maybe I am asking the wrong question, but the principle is the same. I think churches need a cause to rally around and without one, they will be unorganized and they will fight with one another instead of working together towards the prize. And it's got to be bigger than individual causes like the right to life or the rights of those in the gay community or the growing decadence and depravity of television or AIDS in Africa or how to reach the 10/40 window. I'm convinced that if we have a clear understanding of what it is that Christ was trying to do, of what God has been about since day one, that churches would be reenergized and would rally around this idea.

Unfortunately, I don't have any answers, only questions, starting with this one.

I do have some ideas - hints that may point towards answers - but I'm still sick and I promised myself I wouldn't write for too long.

to be continued...

"Randall, you're a bastard! Don't just leave us hanging."

Well, pray for God to heal me and I can write longer.

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