What if the church ceased to exist? All the four walled buildings, the community, the Word, and the revelations were no longer part of our society?
In my years of doubt and hopelessness toward the church, I would have imagined that our world would get along much better without this man-made institution that clings to an understanding of the divine which continues to discriminate, judge, and condemn. Too often, the words, “I love my neighbor, but…” are spoken by professing church goers who claim to follow a Christ that loved, lived, and died without conditions. How is the church making a difference in our communities with these convictions? I will admit that I agreed with my unreligious and skeptical atheist brothers and sisters that if the “church” disappeared, it would have little effect except making the world a more peaceful place.
BUT, what if the church actually ceased to exist? Is faith an irrelevant and irrational practice used by our ancestors as a way to control the masses that meant nothing to anyone? This is where skeptics lose me. As much as I have tried, I cannot conclude that faith is irrelevant and irrational. For centuries, communities of faith have been a saving grace for so many. Although the church has and does allow power, envy, and control to be a destructive force, there is no doubt in my mind that hope, comfort, love, tolerance, and acceptance existed and still flourishes. There has been and still is meaning for faith. Our collective voice can be a driving force for social justice and change; to bring good news to the down trodden and marginalized.
When I hear those loud voices that attempt to speak for all believers, clinging tightly to their own understanding of God’s message to the world, I am reminded that my silence allows these voices to hold a monopoly on faith. If every person that does not believe in a mainstream God decide to leave the church, the only God that will be heard will be the one being told to us by Fox News and politicians seeking votes.
My faith and appreciation for things unknown are too important for my life to so easily allow humans to box in and make the divine one dimensional. I still believe in a God that is with us and for us; A God that flows through us and breathes new life into our bodies. We thirst for communities that accompanies us on this journey of life and personally, I yearn for the presence of others to not only share my joys, but to suffer with me through my darkest times. That is church to me.
As I reflect on the life of Christ, my conclusions always come back to the importance of being present in each other’s lives, living as light of hope for the world, and self-reflection in order to open our hearts to a deeper calling of humility, justice, and righteousness. The church, when I open myself up to it, gives me a place to help cultivate my mind and spirit. The church offers me with folks who encourage and love me while pushing me to think more critically and live a better life. The church has been a saving grace for my own life and I’m not convinced that saving grace is a thing of the past.