Tuesday, February 20, 2007

take this DNA and shove it

Agent Wife and I have been invited to so many different churches it’s not even funny.

It’s like the second some church people discover that we’re not a part of any social club, they turn up the manipulative sweet talk trying to get us to join their team. We get that a lot, being fairly known “former” ministers.

Recently, one well-meaning acquaintance said, “we’d love to have you around our church and let your DNA rub off on us all”.

That kind of makes me feel like a slut.

Physically, the only person I’ve ever shared my DNA with is Agent Wife. And together we’ve created two great kids with that DNA. I’d feel pretty cheap if I shared that DNA with everyone who asked in passing.

I know this whole “spiritual DNA” talk is just a figure of speech. But it ain’t much different from physical DNA, I think.

I mean...I’m into deep, long-term commitments. Friendships. If you want to walk with me and I want to walk with you, I’m sure some “DNA” exchange will happen in the long run.

I long for realness. I despise shallowness.

I want to be a friend. Not assimilated into the collective.


Anonymous said...

What can I say? You already know I believe in the church, though I sympathize profoundly with your critique.

So, rather than rehashing the same old, I will speak my sympathy, keeping in mind that I am still for the church.

I feel ya on this. Church people, typically, are oblivious. Our arrogance is disgusting. The church needs to CHANGE! It does not need BALANCE. That is a load of crap. How much balance should one have with idolatry? Church people are stuck on themselves, rather than Jesus! We are conserned far far more with the music, the flowers, whether the preacher is boring or entertaining than we are in either loving God or His people. I am sick of it. Your post, though I reserve my own critique of it, nonetheless captures a sense of the contempt I feel for it too.

Many blessings...

Agent X

Agent B said...

And thus I will never understand your view, X, in trying to make the social club work.

It's similar to the ladies I know who reside in a battered woman's shelter.

As soon as they leave they a) return to the abusive guy or b) jump right into a different relationship with a similar abusive guy.

They're convinced he "can change".

I'm convinced he can change too, but stickin' with him won't begin his progress.

Anonymous said...

Jesus did not quit Israel.

And he says the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

These are just a couple of powerful observations that cannot be voided. The church stinks to high heaven, there is no doubt. I am amazed at the people who somehow either deny that or play it down.

But I am actually trying not to be a broken record here. You already heard this before. So, I am sympathizing. It is not rocket surgery to criticize the church. She is an ugly whore. Easy to say something about her. Unless you are the type who denies the elephant in the room. And that is perhaps the most stunning part -all the people who cant see the stupid elephant!

As for change, well, if it is going to happen, I think Vandelia stands to see it through. Last Sunday, our preacher got up and broke with protocol. He has been reading Claiborne. It was him that tipped me off on the book.

He said that he and his wife (these are folx our parents' age) after all these years of service are really questioning their politics, their finances and their church style in radical ways... yada yada yada... Except then he asked if others were feeling radicalized and for some to come forward with brief testimony.

I went first. I was stunned with no planned words. I think I blurted out that this is Black History Month and I have a Dream. My dream is for Vandelia to sell everything we own, move into homes in the neighborhood and follow Jesus.

I was holding little Cornelius in my arms while I spoke. And when I stepped down, he had to go to the bathroom -so I missed one or two other testimonies, but when I came back, a man was saying that his God has become terrifying to him lately, calling him to live in such radical ways that he is scared to follow...

Then a doctor stood up and told how that he and his wife nearly lost their home in an IRS befungal just three weeks ago. The house was only hours away from going up on the auction block! He had not told anyone at church, choosing to keep it quiet, but feeling the quiet desparation as he came to worship all the same.

It so happened that I had brought "Eleanor" that morning. She was cracked out of her gord the night before and so I wrapped her in my Seattle Homeless Blanket and she stretched out on the pew three rows back from the front -right next to the doc and his family.

He said he looked at her -a whore, practically a homeless woman herself- sleeping peacefully in church right next to him. He envied her. She came to church having NOTHING and found peace and rest. He wants that too. He is reassessing his lifestyle etc....

I am not sure what all this will mean in the end. It is hard to image our white middle class bunch really biting into the whole enchilada. But I have never heard white middle class church talk this way in public before. I am really stoked about it.

I have been feeling very alone in my walk since reading Claiborne. The conviction I found put me in a place where I have never seen others live before. But the preacher's little excercise showed me that I am not alone after all.

I still have not made any profound changes in myself as of yet. But I am pushing myself into new territory every day. Spending more time on the street and with the poor. Bearing more of their burden and bringing as many as 14 of them to church with me on Sunday mornings. It is having an impact on me and on the church. You cannot see it and not be affected. And thank God, Vandelia is not a bunch of wet blanket types. They do not lead the charge, but they take it very seriously that they do not want to inhibit it when it comes.

I live in a paradox. And I have a new appreciation for "redefining" church in some ways. What I have been defending is deeply wrapped up in idolatry. But so was Israel. That is not a reason to chuck it altogether. But church, if we are really going to have it, will have her heart on the streets. And she will not live her life behind church house doors.

Thanks for the post. Thanks for welcoming my thoughts.

Many blessings...

Agent X

Agent B said...

The Israel analogy don't cut.

I don't think the social club is the same as the church Jesus talked about.

If Israel is unfaithful, fine. Stick it out.

But if Israel is preventing you from being the church, why embrace those shackles?

(Just hypothetical questions. Not necessarily asking you, X)

mike said...

hmm. i thought the church was were two or more are gathered.

i don't know you agent x so i am not sure what you meant by "believe in the church."

i "believe" in god, i have little faith in the church. i do have faith in the power of community, but you don't have to attend church to have that.

Agent B,

gross dude. no matter how long we are friends ... you can keep your dna to yourself.

agent wife said...

I have to admit with agent X on this one, in some respects anyways. I'm not saying ALL agents have to operate behind church building walls, although I'm still trying to discern what kind of "structure" or path the CEO is calling us to because I know that we need each other and we need others who are different than us too. Likewise, I think there is grace within the walls too. It all comes down to people's hearts. Are the people loving God and others? It sounds like from X's experiences people are coming into the kingdom with repentance and learning to love others. Likewise, just because we are outside church walls doesn't mean we will not hurt others, in fact I guarantee we will. We will have unhealthy ties also because we are human and this is the story of humanity.

What struck me as weird is why us? What if it was us and we had high needs- no money, no home, little clothes. Or what if we had speech impediments or were socially awkward, would the system still be clammering to have us "join" with them? Shouldn't the church be desperate for people with these needs seeing that they were the type of people Jesus most loved to be with? Isn't the church already full of people like us?

Two of the households who have taught me the most about love: the Sandfords and Obi-wan are not pursued like we are to join.

Miller said...

John says that when we walk in the light as he is in the light, we are pure in his eyes and have fellowship with one another.

i don't believe the place you gather or the model you ascribe to or the goodness of your intention or the brokenness of your heart are enough to get you there...

its whether you walk in the light

if you do, then you are part of that collection of souls that is the church.

some of those souls attend the very worst examples of what many call Church...

some will never darken the door...

what we do with our spare time has more to do with our membership in Christ's body than where we hang out on sunday.

some of what agent x says makes my hair stand up...

some of it makes me say "yeah, thats gettin' close"

its about living well in God's eyes.

and i agree with Angela, the question is "what if we had speech impediments or were socially awkward, would the system still be clammering to have us "join" with them?"

i think the answer is no...


mike said...

you are probably right about the walking in the light thing. which sucks cause then I am out for sure.

jumping through all the hoops to look like a good evangelical would be easier, in my opinion, than the walking in the light deal.

never been much good at it really.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I am being drawn into a debate here. At the same time, I am trying to say something fresh, and though I have not changed my mind about the need for church or even some of the foundational arguments for it, I do not wish to say the same things again and again. B and Wife and friends here, are intelligent people, usually deeply thoughtful. So repeating gets dumb.

But I also sense that there is a notion that I think everything that passes for church is worthwhile. Let me refute that now. I do not believe that any or every thing a "church" does is worthwhile. In fact, I think a substancial portion of the activities range from useless to idolatrous, thus I think it should be chucked. But not the church itself.

A lot of this has to do with Constantine. The church has been imperial in nature (for most groups) ever since the 300's AD. Remixed draws out what I mean by imperial better than I can. Suffice it to say, the complaints I share with this crowd concerning church, I describe as imperial. Basically, the church has become a chaplain of empire, and merely assauges the empirial conscience. It welcomes elites and shuns refugees. B likens it to a social club. I would prefer to label it country club, because I hate to slander the worthwhile social aspects of it. But I think I know what he means. It is a snob fest.

However, I think it is detrimental that humanity come together in community to worship God regularly. That statement alone is pregnant with possibilities that the imperial church will not think of. I think it was Agent Wife, a while back, who suggested that this community exists in the cyberspace we connect in here and elsewhere. And I am sensitive to that, but I do not think it is enough -an important part, but not enough.

In the New Heaves and New Earth, Humanity will go back to its original purpose of reflecting Gods glory both to him and on the creation. We are majestic mirrors for the king. We show the creation what God looks like. (At least that is the point whether we do or not.) Have you ever wanted to SEE God? Well, you are supposed to be able to look into the mirror and see him. Isaiah 40 declares that when the when the image bearer comes, the mountains will bow, the valleys will stand up and the crooked will straighten out. In Mark 1, John the Immerser quotes this and suddenly Jesus appears! Jesus shows us what God looks like.

Paul declares that we are in him. His body. His body is the church. However, and I recognize that not all traditions suffer with this like the CoC, the church is not all about primping in her own mirror. Pattern theology is all about US and how WE do things "Biblically." That is an idolatrous mistake. We are to be the mirrors for him, to show the world what He looks like. That is done in our worship of him and our love for others. That love is found in community, not alone.

And the church is to storm the gates of Hell. Those gates will not prevail! Love conquers the world, when it is love empowered by the Creator.

Israel was called, in Ex 4:22, God's son. Israel was to be the image bearer. Ex 19 says she was to be a priest and holy nation -for the sake of the other nations. But she failed over and over and over again. She could not even wait for Moses to come down that mountain before worshipping a calf. What would God do when the Answer to the worlds problems failed? He sent Jesus. And Jesus was called the son of God. He is the image bearer. And we must come together to be IN HIM, and thus we are too.

Now, as for ALL the country club BS that has infected the body, it needs to go. And I am IN FAVOR of striping down ALL of the pretences that have come to characterize church. I am in favor of sealing up the sanctuary with plywood and nails. I think we need to meet for worship in the dining room, sing songs, pray, share food WITH THE POOR especially, and those with speech impediments and those who smell bad and those who are lonely and those who are drunk etc etc. And share in the communion service as part of the meal.

Just my idea. I am open to others. But as for meeting and worshipping, that is not negotiable in my book. But practically everything else stands to be chucked. Especially if it smacks of comfort for rich white people and in any way suggests that poor people need to clean up before they can join.

Thanks for the exchange.

Many blessings...

Agent X

Miller said...


i doubt if you are on the outs...

you sound like a guy who loves his neighbors


Agent B said...

you sound like a guy who loves his neighbors

You haven't read his recent post about the no parking signs...

Agent B said...

And not to keep this going or anything...but,

But as for meeting and worshipping, that is not negotiable in my book.

Explain yourself Agent X.

I'm really not trying to convince the social club (or anybody) to leave the club. But the only reference to even quasi-back up your statement is Heb 10:25.

And that's a pretty weak scripture for endorsing club attendance.

Anonymous said...

The words you quote use to quote me come not so much from the insights of prooftexting as they do from a biblical worldview. Let me ask you a question: what is your worldview? And subsequently (in an effort to focus the question in a particular direction) - What is the point of the whole Bible? What story does it tell?

Think of it this way: In the Beginning, there was this Creator God who created everything in the world. He conquered the darkness with light, and the chaos with loving order and constructed a harmonious symphony of created parts. Every little aspect of this creation knew its place and function and performed that function in its proper place flawlessly. And the Creator said, “Wow, This is good.” And He was glorified by the perfect order of things, which was known as Shalom. And this glorification of the creator by the creation was key to the goodness of all things.

This all took five days to accomplish. And once everything was in place and doing its thing, He needed to bear his image on the creation. Have you ever wondered why you cannot see God? I know that as a child I often wondered why he is invisible and cannot be sensed with the usual five senses, at least not regularly. I now see that this is what humanity was designed for, a mediator between heaven and earth. The image bearer was intended to reflect God to the creation and the creation’s glorification of God back to Him. This, if you wanted to “see God” you could look at humanity. So on the sixth day, God created His crowning achievement –humans (male and female) a community like that of the “Us” that created them to begin with.

At the “Fall” of creation, the image bearer was essentially tempted to bear their own image rather than God’s. When the image bearer rebelled, the curses came on all of creation, and it went out of kilter. And the question of life eversince has been: Who is in charge? The correct answer is “The Creator” but a variety of other options have been proposed by (would-be) humanity all along. But in just 6 chapters, the Creator is scraping the whole project with cosmic destruction via flood. He starts the new project with Noah and his family, thus a “second Adam” –a term St. Paul uses for Jesus (meaning Jesus is not really “second” in the strictest sense). When the second project runs amok, the Creator calls Abe, but this time He works within the flawed project rather than destroying the old one (making Abe a quasi-third Adam). Through this man, the Creator will deal with the problems of broken shalom in his creation and make the world know who is in charge. See Ex 19:6 for Israel’s raison deter. And note, none of this has anything to do with empty ritual; it is not about weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, Baptism or the non-use of pianos. It is not so vain, rather it is about showing the creation (and the subsequent parasitic empires built by would-be humanity) who is really in charge of creation.

To truncate the story, as is obvious, the new Adam (the Israel project) failed to bear the Creator God’s image or to bring Him the glory Creation longs to express to him. (As Paul says, the creation itself groans as it awaits the revealing of the sons of God.) So, amid the chaos and failure of this project gone awry YET AGAIN, the Creator God proves himself faithful to His promises by sending His only son, a true Israelite, a true Human, a true image and reflection of himself in Jesus. And Jesus is crowned as King and lifted up to show us what God looks like. It is a picture in outrageous suffering love for the world. And the image is so perfect a portrait of God, that in dying the image bearer cannot stay dead.

For the purposes of my statement that you ask me to explain, this all comes together in our communal worship. I think it is particularly important to express this worship in celebration of New Creation on the first day of the week each 7 days. That is the day that the dead image bearer comes back to life to rule the world mediating glory and shalom between Heaven and Earth. Thus corporate worship is appropriate. When the New Heavens and the New Earth are consummated, those who are “in Him” will be found in communal worship –the precise point where both the world receives His image through the Humans and where He receives the glorification of Creation which is mediated through them.

Now, having said all this, I do NOT suggest that the church down the street –no matter the denominational flavor – has all or any of this figured out. And I think that at least in some of those cases, where genuine love for God and each other is either found or striven for, this happens despite them. But I also, especially since reading Claiborne, have new sensitivity for this happening outside the walls of the traditional church, but in community nonetheless. Worship has more to do with eating together than with liturgical correctness. But it also is characterized through actual worship and not merely a casual pizza. (And I do NOT mean to suggest Pizza cannot be used in worship!) And so I would say that if you invite the neighborhood to beans and cornbread on the street corner (or THE TABLE) where song and prayer, word and fellowship, love of God and neighbor characterize the gathering, you have achieved your purpose. And I think that any other good thing you might do without something on this order is to sacrifice too much. (And yes, I would say that many a “church” has done just that, thus calling into question whether they really are the church at all.)

I hope that explains me. It has taken quite a bit of refining to get it to this expression. You did not “scare me off” with your question, however I did fail to notice it for a day or two. But I freely admit that it is complex, nevertheless, I see it as important. And though I do not believe that any given Christian or group must have it figured out in these terms in order to please God, I do think that any group that takes God seriously will functionally reflect this understanding in some form or another. I see it as essential and when once it is explicated, non-negotiable.

Many blessings…

Anonymous said...


I put so much into that comment that I decided to make a regular post of it as well.

As to the issue of anonymity, I will leave my name off this, but those in the know will figure it out I am sure...

Agent B said...

Agent X:

I guess you're saying that you can't answer in a one, maybe two sentence response?

Fine. ;)