“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, February 11, 2008


Here is another great quote from John Swinton's book, Resurrecting the Person. He writes,

The task of a liberating church is to reveal signs and pointers to remind the
world that the way it is, is not the way it should be, and that loving "the outsider" is not an act of charity, or a function of "specialist ministries," but is, in fact, a "new" way of being human. In remembering God's actions in history and in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the Christian community is drawn into a new way of living and seeing the world. This way refuses to forget the pain of the oppressed, or the degradation of those who are excluded and fragmented by the types of social forces that seek to provide a picture of "normality" that bears little resemblance to the coming kingdom. Such a community embodies the fact that God has not forgotten the world (pp 125-126).

Normality bears little resemblance to the coming kingdom. Whatever that definition of normality might be. Whether it be...

normality in terms of race
(is your church all one color of people) or
normality of socio-economic status
(is your church largely upper middle class people) or
normality of intelligence
(is your church all educated people), or
normality of social skills
(is your church all people with good social skills), or
normality of reality
(is your church devoid of people with mental illness), or
normality of ability
(is your church lacking people with various disabilities).

The only normality that should be present within the church is a normality of desiring to follow Jesus Christ to the degree you are able to understand it. If that were truly our bottom line, then Christian churches might look a whole lot different then then currently do.

Normality is also reflected in our church structures. How else could you have the major weekly meeting of the church be something that is so social skill intensive. Our structures not only reflect normality they then enforce normality, in a relatively constrained way (see "Don't taze me bro" blog entry). That is, it doesn't take much in terms of difference for you to stand out in a church, it seems. And we should not embrace that, we should reject that. Openness to differences in people should be a characteristic of the Christian church. If we were what we should be, we would be so counter culture that we might risk persecution and death on a cross.

When it comes to people with various differences, various disabilities, to what degree does the church show the world how it "should be" not just reflect the way it is. It is sad that even our attempts at being what we perhaps should be, are attempts to copy the secular world (inclusion for example). We could be so much more creative, so much more giving, so much more inclusive, so much more radical in our loving approach. In reality, however, in many ways we lag behind the programs (like inclusion) that the world offers.

A bit more from Swinton,

The church is a community of friends that is charged with the task of reminding people with mental health problems that God has not forgotten them, and reminding those who would oppress them, wittingly or unwittingly, that God is with and for those whom they reject and marginalize (p. 126).



Anonymous said...

Following Jesus Christ comes with a lifetime of being transformed into HIS image. Some still drink milk while few eat meat. Who is the Church? I would agree that as a follower of Christ Jesus, whether corporately or individually, we are the “church” wherever we go. If we claim HIM then we should represent HIM. Spiritually, humans seem to have heart disabilities. We fail on a daily bases to meet the standards of righteousness, yet we can meet HIS criteria of following HIM. Does this excuse us for not doing as we should? No, but I think we (the body of Christ) should defiantly step it up a notch. When the Holy Spirit directs us to helping others that may be rejected in the world as Christians, we are to embrace those who are rejected. It seems God has to perform heart surgery on us everyday. We are asked to be the hands in feet of our LORD, so why the lack of obedience. When we look at scripture, we see the marvelous miracles of our Lord Jesus and the goodness of our God. We can also find the heart of man (wicked) and the need of God’s hand upon man especially HIS followers. What can we do? Pray and wait. We look to the Head of the Church (JESUS) when the church might not seem to be willing, we look to Jesus to lead us to the right laborers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly that for the most part, our churches are filled with people that look, smell, breathe, and act like us. We get uncomfortable when people come into "our" church and we seem to have nothing in common with them. In reality, this is how the church should be...a place where we can find a common ground with others who we normally would not associate with. The common ground is our love for Jesus Christ.

When I first moved away to college, I remember goig from church to church to try to find a place for me to "fit in" with others that were already attending the church. In fact, ths is what most people do. If a church does not make us feel comfortable or like we belong, we go "shopping" from place to place until we find that fit. I know this is so opposite from the way God intended the church to be.

I once went to a church on the south side of Chicago that had a giant black Jesus at the front of the church, extending his hands out to the congregation. At first, I was quite shocked and thought it was silly that people would actually think Jesus was black. And then I thought about the Jesus I was taught about in my all-white Sunday School class...the black people in the church i went to would probably think my picture of Jesus was quite odd as well.

Anonymous said...

Our society as a whole, not just the Christian community, has definitely deviated so much from the way it should be that it does not see a problem with its current corrupt state. Mankind is capable of doing great things and with the help and grace of God the Christian community is capable of doing even greater things. The church needs to wake up and realize that tolerating the way the world lives and trying to imitate their way of doing things is not how Christians are called to act. Christians are called to live like Christ and give unconditional love, mercy and help to all those we encounter. We are not to turn anyone away because they are different from us; rather we are to openly embrace and accept them. Today’s churches are definitely so cliché that anyone new or different stands out, is stigmatized and not openly or easily accepted. The church should break free from this because we are called to love one another, not just a selected few, the way Jesus has loved us. By fulfilling our command of loving all, which includes the poor, disabled, handicapped, or those different in race, socio-economic status, intelligence, social skills, reality, and ability, we are exemplifying God’s love and being good witnesses to God’s kingdom.