Friday, March 25, 2005

Turch

One of pastors of the church we're thinking of joining came over the other night. We wanted to talk with him to make it clear that if we do join, he's not going to be getting the truest of believers.

We had this talk several years ago with a different pastor at a different church. "Well, what I try to make clear is that we believe we're created. We have been created by a Creator. After that, it's all details," he said. I liked that. (We ended up joining, he ended up retiring, and now that church has an edging-toward-fundamentalist running it.)

Some would call my faith lazy. Some would call it pick-and-choose. Some might call it eclectic or fence-sitting or not much of faith at all. But it's there.

John has been asking lots of God- and church-related questions lately. We had a crisis a few months ago when we were talking about the story of Noah's Ark. "Mom, when the story says everything was washed away, does that mean everything?"

"Well, that's what it says, doesn't it?"

"Does it mean all the other animals that didn't make it?"

"It says everything."

A pause. "Does that mean all the little babies that weren't on the ark?" His lip trembled. "Because I really, really like little babies."

Now seriously, who wants a God like that? And WHY do we use that story to decorate children's rooms?

We want our kids to have an upbringing where they can get answers, and maybe not necessarily from us. One of our dear friends is a pastor in Northern Minnesota and I'm sure we'll be sending our kids to him as they get older and start wrestling with the angels. But it will be good to have a community filled with people we see at school, at DFL meetings, at the grocery store.

"Mom?" John asked as I was putting him to bed after the pastor left. "Is the Bible true?"

"Do you want the two-second answer or the 2,500-year answer?" I asked, tucking him in. "Because that's how long people have been trying to figure that out."

* "Turch" comes from John's early pronounciations of the word, and we haven't been able to drop it from our vocabulary.

6 comments:

  1. Seeing this after my morning drive was such a welcome relief. I was pondering another dawning of Good Friday after my 40-day long Lenten journey (based on the now ubiquitous book "The Purpose Driven Life") that concluded with this week's Schiavo debacle, and basically resulted in me feeling as faithless as I ever have in my life. It was rough; the program did the complete opposite of its intentions--- rather than strengthening my purpose, it appeared to only obscure and even erode it.

    Or did it? I like your pastor's comment about "being created"--- that much I can handle. And it's certainly true, that from then on it's details. For better or worse, faith seems to be a platform for anything and everything. It doesn't necessarily provide answers, or when it does, raises new questions along side them.

    But would we want it any other way? While it appears that God has created a crazy and confusing world, I do want to believe it was not a mere accident--- there is a purpose here somewhere, and just because I may be too weak to comprehend it, that does not mean that there is not a God. He's just too wily for me, that's all. And that's okay--- I suppose if I had it all figured out, God wouldn't be much of a God.

    I also identify *very* strongly with the questions that children raise--- wow, the ultimate test! Those darn kids, as they say...here we feel like, in adulthood, we might finally be figuring some things out and then *BOOM*, our kids ask us something that completes throws us. Well, we've been doing it for years, so I guess it's their turn.

    We'll keep at it together. We'll feel alternately lost and saved. We'll stand in the midst of some of humankind's most amazing stories and music on Sunday and grow misty-eyed, our throats constricting. And then we'll leave and faith will alternately inspire great discussions, embarassing fights, small gifts, great leaps, tragic contradictions, and continued mystery and confusion. But such is faith...messy like all of the other wonderful things in life.

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  2. Nice post, Kris.

    Matt called me this morning after his morning drive to say, "Do we really want to join a church right now? I'm so angry at all the things that have been done in the name of religion and faith and God -- if Tom DeLay says church rolls have gone up because of Terry Shiavo, do we want to be a part of that?"

    Which is a smaller illustration of the bigger picture, methinks.

    I go back and forth on joining a public church. I'm uncomfortable praying in public, I don't firmly believe with the core of my being some of the things that are said, and so on. But I really, really like what our pastor says to announce that it's time for communion: "The table is ready." I like that as a metaphor for communion itself and a faith community.

    While we were talking with the pastor, he did say that there were people in the...(not parish, whatever they use for ECLA)...who "didn't struggle with their faith, for whatever reason -- they don't want to, they believe they've come to terms with it, whatever." And I said, "Wait, who said we WANTED to be struggling?" (Ha, ha, ha.) Would it be faith if we weren't struggling? Am I a total Lutheran, or WHAT?

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  3. See, just when I think I couldn't love the Krup family any more than I do, you write a post like this.
    Please come live next door to us.

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  4. Thanks!

    I guess my response to Matt would be, isn't joining a church somewhat similar to being active in a chronically ill political party? Any organization suffers when people aren't having smart enough discussions, or the right discussion, etc. So baling out, or not participating, doesn't really help.

    But I do know that it can feel somewhat different with a church--- it can feel like you're "buying in" to everything, and that membership is a badge signifying much more than it does.

    So really, I think you're probably obligated to join one.

    That's another contradiction that I amuse myself with occasionally: Jesus himself was a radical who wagged his tongue at the church of his time, and instead hung out on the beaches of Galilee with his fishermen friends to teach and debate. Sounds preferable to being active in a church, does it not?

    But I think in our case, the constructive hanging out can be at church. Unless any of us is bold enouth to think we're a new messiah...then I suppose that excuses that person from membership, and frees them up to gather disciplines for rap sessions elsewhere. So when I see it that way, I guess I don't see myself having that kind of vision, so I will continue to take my questions, thoughts, and debates to church rather than focus on the many ways that I disagree with the church, and how they could easily be excuses to not hang around.

    It's sort of like marriage, isn't it? There's plenty of reasons to not marry any particular person. People who focus on such reasons never get married. And that's fine, but then you also can't partake in the mysteries and development that can only happen within marriage. (Catholics use a lot of marriage metaphors in their faith discussions, and I think I can see why--- and also see why many people get married within a faith context).

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  5. only in the USA guys, I love your sincerity...you are all truly lovely people, but the rest of the planet...nyah, not so sure. Out here in Europe we're a cynical old bunch, religion? been there, done that.. turch is for the few, but John's questions still deserve an answer don't they?

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  6. I love this discussion!
    Yes, I'm a pastor, but that emphatically does not mean I have all the answers. I never even got all the way through the 40 days of purpose!

    I vaguely remember an old Jewish tradition that you had to be 30 before you could read parts of the Bible. A lot of the mythic stories of the Bible really should not be taught before children have the capacity to think abstractly and metaphorically... but of course, those stories are everywhere in our culture, so we have to deal with them. Our boys had some serious questions about the angel of death after watching the Prince of Egypt! I guess I try to be honest with our kids when they ask, and tell them what I think: some stories are historically true, and some are true in a deeper sense, like the story of Jonah or Jesus' parables. Some, like Noah and the ark, show God trying one way of dealing with a problem (evil & violence), and realizing it didn't work (fighting violence with violence).

    In my family, I see the benefits of being a part of a church community, even when you don't agree with everything, or even when you have doubts (which is just about all the time). It gives children a faith foundation in their lives, no matter what direction they head in life. It also widens our children's circle of caring adults in their lives, exposes them to sacred music and scripture, and opens up opportunities for discussion and sharing as a family.

    About church membership, I resonate with Kris. Thinking about our church, we have a bunch of retired miners, etc., who are building our new church building. Many of them have become active and connected in the church as they have found a task worth doing and a group of friends to do it with. Like us, they are not super-spiritual or pious (which is very refreshing), but they are connected with a larger purpose, and they never miss a chance to be up at the work site. That sort of solidarity can come in other venues (I see it in Habitat for Humanity), but I see it on a large local scale in our church choir, our builders, our quilters (a group of older women who make 150 quilts each year for refugees), etc.

    One more thing: the church is a human institution, an organization of sinners. There is a great deal of diversity in it. But Tom DeLay does NOT speak for all Christians! He certainly does not speak for our church.

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