7.13.2010

What goes around comes around

Whenever I take the time to reread some of my earlier posts on here I am always amazed at how when I am a few months removed from their original publication date (because I am a slacker at staying disciplined with my writing), the earlier thoughts seem more like prophetic predictions rather than a rambling. I almost say out loud, "Yes! That's so true! I had no idea I have been feeling this way for so long." Or instead, I think, "You're just figuring this out? You said the same thing like two years ago."

The bit that just knocked me over with accuracy this time is the comment from an April posting where I casually said that I'm done with church. I said it in the April post more as a demonstrative, provocative thought that challenges even me, but stands actually, I guess now, as an inner leaning. I still struggle to readily confess it. (I'm not being very clear right now.) But today, July 13th, 2010, I really mean it, I think. (At least let me still claim somewhat of a modifier, errr, reluctance in naming it.) I am done with church!

It feels bogus.
It feels insincere.
It seems to be more a place of hurt and isolation rather than healing and wholeness.
I struggle to find community within its walls.
I hate the male leaders behind the pulpits of power and prestige
I hate what conservatives have made the cross mean to people in other traditions, or in no tradition.
(I also think it should be illegal for crosses to be suspended over an interstate or erected in ridiculously oversized proportions!)
What are considered to be stunning and beautiful cathedrals represent to me only modernity/analytical approaches to apologetics/rational and intellectual descriptions that erase the mysteries of faith, men on power trips, and quests for more status, money, baptisms, staff, volunteers, etc. all in the name of Jesus.
I am royally pissed by all of it today.

In case you couldn't read that into the above gerunds.

I'm ticked because for the last few years I've been longing to engage in urban ministry. To find space creatively where there is not enough to go around. To promote greener ways of living with rooftop gardens, shopping locally (easy enough in the city with local farmer's markets--no Target in Manhattan), among other things. Here I am living in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. An area that bridges everything I oppose--the divide between rich and poor. It falls between the limits of the Upper West Side where many of the creme de la creme of NYC reside and the boarders of Harlem, one of the countries largest ghettos. Liv plays soccer on one of the Cloister's lawns--a beautiful area owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that lies even farther north of Harlem and Washington Heights. To get there, we pass through a social justice nightmares. Hundreds of high rises that are subsidized and I imagined to be rat and insect infested beyond recourse. Plus, I live on the same property/block as one of the most gorgeous and emphatic churches in the country. This church was built by Rockefeller at the turn of the century intentionally in Morningside Heights to bridge this economic and racial divide in the city. The steeple stands several stories high so that it can be seen still in the every growing NYC skyline. It has a lovely social ministry to the people of the area who are in need. (Or at least that's what I hear and have read about earlier times in the history of the church). I literally see the gorgeous stained glass windows that line the aisles of the sanctuary from my bedroom window first thing every morning.

This church is hiring a minister right now. The cover letter sat on my desk for WEEKS. Finally I had a huge meltdown with Tyler about it a few days ago b/c I need a job and we need some money. (Sallie Mae is on a manhunt for me!)

Here it is. My dream practically being served to me on a silver platter.
New York City
Riverside Church
Morningside Heights
Urban Ministry

And yet...
And yet I'm too angry.

I can't apply, and I won't apply. I refuse to contribute to the institutionalization of the family of God. (So there, says the four year-old inside of me.)

When I look at the towering steeple all I can think of is that line from Shrek when Shrek and Donkey encounter Lord Farquard's gigantic castle. The Lord is a dwarf standing only 2.5 feet tall when at attention. Shrek sarcastically mutters to donkey, "Think he's trying to compensate for anything?"


So now, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with all this finally admitted anger, hurt, and frustration. I have never felt so cynical before about anything, much less, one of my greatest loves--the church. Can it still find ways to be the people of God?

If so, then why the fuck are there so many highrises of poverty just blocks away this famous institution? Did I mention that is famous for defending civil rights in the '60's, laying the foundation of American homiletics in the '20's and '30's, and finding a way to merge races in their own pews in the '70's and '80's. Why are there still so many tires floating in the Hudson river near the church's property? Why does the subway leave her underground tunnel to face the light of day on a rusted bridge just two blocks north of said steeple? (How kind of those engineers to leave the exhaust and pollution from the train in the air for the poor people instead of building them a tunnel through their city blocks.)

Okay, I'm shutting up now. I'm ticked. I'm tired of the bullshit of just talking about social justice in the church and then nothing ever really gets accomplished because the rich white people are too busy laying out and itemizing all of their principles and beliefs and ideals instead of going to fish some tires out of the river. And if there are people fishing tires out of the river, where the hell are they? I want to help.

The End.

3 comments:

ben wideman said...

Love your honesty in this one, Lauren. I think many of us who are thinking about ministry feel the exact same way.

I do wonder, however, if those who are outside of the church walls are able to do less or more without the support of the institution. Hopefully you can update us as your experiment with no church continues.

Does it feel freeing? Do you feel yourself already changing?

I think my biggest fear is how to find supportive community outside of the institutionalized variety I have grown up with. I'm comfortable where I am.

Blessings as you continue on the journey!

Joel said...

Amen, amen, amen.

These days I'm throwing a bit of Wicca in the mix to go along with Buddhism and Christianity. Maybe misguided. Worth a try.

Have you read any Matthew Fox?

"'To be alive is to be burning,' Norman O. Brown says, and to sacrifice is to be so in love with being alive that one is willing to let go: to consume and be consumed, burn and be burnt out of Eros and not out of nihilism or despair. This kind of willingness paradoxically requires an unwillingness, a letting go of power and projects, in order to see creation ablaze. Here lies the sense of sacrifice regained. It is not an appeasement of the gods or of God, but a burning out of our own reluctances to let go. . . Salvation and liberation have everything to do with letting go."

--Matthew Fox, Original Blessing

Blaze on, Lauren.

themsrevolution said...

how is it that i am just now discovering you and this blog? a fellow girl minister and mother who uses the words fuck and bullshit so effectively and is as frustrated with the church as i am MUST be my soulmate.

here are some of my favorite song lyrics. your words about crosses reminded me of them:

"There's a neon cross on a mountain Saying 'sinners best beware.' That means that somebody went to the trouble To run power way up there. These mountains speak to my spirit, I guess what really blows my mind, is that somebody looked at that visita and thought that God needs a neon sign!" david lamotte