Friday, February 14, 2014

An Urban Parson: Part 2, The church pollutable or the church unpollutable.



So these post will be much like the Country Parson of Herbert, not in amazingness but in the fact they will be a series of post written not in experience but in preparation for upcoming experience. I am using the term "urban" loosely to mean non-suburban and a pastor seeking to relate to an urban Main Street community, be it rural or metropolitan. My theory is that the relationship a pastor needs to have between their Burroughs in NYC or their rural Main Street is in many ways inherently similar.

Church pollutable or the church unpollutable...

There are two concepts of inclusion... The first concept is that we have to create a false "clean" space where offensive or problematic elements are not allowed to enter... Church then becomes a false "clean" space where any offensive or problematic elements of the self are not allowed to enter. The second concept of inclusion is basically we open up the church to the unclean reality of ourselves and the world we live in, that we do indeed slide down the slippery slope of sin and perdition following Christ in his descent unto hell.

The first concept I call the church pollutable. Church leaders and communities have to constantly censor themselves (a very different reality than to censer themselves) trying to make a picture of a perfect community that outsiders will enter and find an edenic place. The constant fear is individuals, ideas, or situations that will pollute the vision of the church they are attempting to paint. This is not a liberal thing or a conservative thing... sex positive and sex negative communities can do this... Tridentine Mass or Inclusive Liturgy congregations can live this reality out... the rule can be "no gays" or "no homophobes"... What matters is that there is a definition "this is clean" and "this is dirty" and a constant fear of getting dirty, of the church polluted.

The deal is that this does not work, it has never worked, it is inherently a dishonest and manipulative system. For a while things can appear to be working but eventually the broken human character will make itself known and "Eden", in what ever machination liberal or conservative it may be, will be found corrupted. It is, in the end, the action of a family in denial about addiction enabling and coenabling a mask to keep up appearances. It is the attempt to make a bucket a buck├Ęt. It is an attempt to create by human action a church whose existence depends on God's action not ours.

The alternative, which I call the Church Unpollutable, is a concept of church where the concern is transforming the world into holiness and embracing the problematic elements we all bring into community. The church does not fear being unclean but fears not following Christ into the uncleanliness of the human condition. A church that does not try to create a faux heaven but seeks to follow Christ into the depths of hell. A Church that depends on a faith in God who will bring them into light not on maintaining themselves in a light by act and censor.

The main different here is a matter of comfort. The Church Pollutable seeks to create a place where a group of people feel comfortable and will react strongly when any element enters that makes them uncomfortable. The Church Unpollutable seeks to create a space where everyone acknowledges they are uncomfortable and to wrestle with the uncomfortableness of life. Or in more traditional language it is a matter of sin. The Church Pollutable seeks to create a place where a group presents itself living above sin and will strongly reject any element that calls that into question. The Church Unpollutable recognizes that we are sinners and wrestles with the sinfulness of life.

The difference is that of a show house and a home. Some people will reject any organization that will not strive to ever keep everything in pristine condition with thin plaster over any crack or flaw. People with similar concepts of pristine condition will continue to aggregate together and spend exceptional amount of energy keeping a house ready to be shown. My request is for community that will let the cracks show and be willing to seek to create a home, with all the mess and craziness that involves, and let the house showers look on aghast. 

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