March 31, 2005

Believing is Seeing

If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We can see,' your guilt remains.

A person who is physically blind knows it. A person who is spiritually blind is also blind to their own blindness.

Yesterday my wife got off the bus and headed for the train to work. Her seat companion on both bus and train has been unburdening her soul to Colleen over the last few months. Her marriage is in crisis. She's unhappy about her work. She feels trapped in her life. And when she goes to church -- mostly to get away from all this -- she goes to one of those churches that my cousin derisively calls a BYOT church -- Bring Your Own Tambourine.

Standing between the buses and the trains were two people handing out free New Testaments to folks as they rushed to their commuter trains. My wife's friend took one eagerly. My wife did not. She asked me later if she should have picked one up. I told her I already had a half dozen bibles, it was probably an NIV anyway, and I have eight (8) English translations stored on my harddrive along with the Masoretic (Hebrew) and Nestle Aland (Greek). If I was desperate I could reinstall the CD and add several others including German and Czechoslovakian. One day I'll get an upgrade so I can add the Geneva -- just because that's probably the one George Fox read. No. I didn't need another bible thank-you.

Most of the folks who grabbed a bible -- like my wife's friend already owned one. People who attend evangelical style churches feel good knowing their crusade style worship is reaching folks for Christ -- but statistically the vast majority of new folks coming through the doors were raised in evangelical churches. Its more about stealing folks from other churches than reaching the unchurched.

But old-style Quakerism isn't that much different. Statistically most Quakes in waiting worship style meetings score INFP (introverted-intuitive-feeling-perceiving) on the good old Myers-Briggs. George Fox may have been an energizing evangelist but his spiritual grandchildren are folks who like to sit quietly in a room with a bunch of other like-minded folk and call that worship.

And both Quakes and the BYOT folks look cross the highway at the other -- imagine what the other's church service must be like -- and shudder.

If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We can see,' your guilt remains.


At 8:43 a.m., Blogger Meredith said...

I don't understand the 'your guilt remains' part of the quote. Thick skull this morning?

I have thought many times about how different churches attract certain personality styles, and that our Quaker Meeting is the epitome of that. Come one come all if you like the quiet, calm, silent centered approach. If you are one that loves color and excitement, outward expressions of any kind, our Meeting likely won't feel at home to you. In fact, we may ask that you leave your tamborine at the door.

The Quaker style is what it is, and exceptions are rarely made for those wishing it to be different. This is just as true asking an new-age evangelical church to have more than ten seconds of silence - it is asking a wee bit too much!

So, does this leave us with a sort of guilt that we cannot do it right, be right, be the answer for everyone? Maybe a twinge.

At 10:57 a.m., Blogger david said...

The notion that a church only has to fit certian people is a very modern and modernist notion. It goes along with idea that religion and spirituality are consumer servcies. We can get them where we want.

For the Pharasees in this story -- for this fellow to asser something different from their teaching is to put him outside of the benefits of the faith and the faith community.

Yet Jesus and this gospel story seem to agree with them to that point at least. The Pharasees are labelled spiritually blind because they won't join Jesus and his people.

At 11:02 a.m., Blogger Larry said...

We're dealing with two 'kinds' of guilt here: theological and psychological. Paul said somewhere "I don't judge myself, although I know I'm guilty."

Psychological guilt cripples our psyche; theological guilt is a reality that we can deal creatively with through our faith: confession, forgiveness, redemption, etc. 1st John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Re different churches: God gave them to us to serve different psychic types and levels of consciousness. Many of the people who go to those 'fundie' churches are right where they should be. They're learning the law (pedagogue), which they may have badly needed in preparation for grace.

I have a lot of admiration for these churches: they are reaching folks who wouldn't be caught dead in a Quaker meeting. Just not ready. It would be nice if we also could "seek and save the lost", but we are about as unable to do that as the other well-washed churches.

At 2:06 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Interesting post and comments.

One reason that I stopped going to church was that it seemed like the goal of the church (maybe only the one I went to) was to create and sustain a religious community. There seemed to be little "being with" God, my personal goal.

It sounds like Quaker meetings are more a combination of those two things ... being with other Quakers and also being with God.

At 5:05 p.m., Blogger david said...

Creating a religious community is the job of churches. It is in religious communities taht we learn how to be faithful.

God is caling to us throughout our lives in every moment. A rich faith community can teach us how to hear. Unfortunately the wrong faith community can keep us from listening.

I would encourage you to find someplace that can be church for you. It won't be perfect - they never are. All it needs are a few folks of good will who can make Jesus promise of 2 or 3 gathered happen -- is sharp moments like lightning in the desert night.

At 6:08 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

David, my old spiritual diresctor used to encourage me to find another church too. But now, with my vision as it is, I'm too shy to go anywhere anymore. There's something creepy (to me) about others being able to see me but me not see them :-). I guess the internet, where bodies don't count so much, is my religious community.

At 6:57 a.m., Blogger david said...


I can appreciate something of what you feel. Churchy matters apart there are technologies and supports out tehre in your community that make navigating this world a little easier.

On ethe churcy side of things: the church is disabled. Everytime one of us sticks our noses through a church door we remind them of that. This could be a powerful ministry of God through you to them. When you are ready. When you are led to it.

At 6:44 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

BYOT -- I love it!

I have no problem with the idea that certain churches appeal to certain personality types -- I have more of a problem with identifying certain churches as being more spiritual advanced than others. It feels like more of a judgment. Not everyone is wants to sit in silence, not everyone finds God that way.

As to churches suiting particular communities and personality types, I'm all for it -- God made us unique, it wouldn't make sense that we'd all be in one church (or even one religion, for that matter). I'd rather change church to suit my type than to have a bunch of people come in and try to hijack my church -- like the Charismatic movement in the Episcopal church.

Community, faith - sticky issues, I certainly resonate with what Crystal said. Sadly, I'm not sure I've found a place that offers both and this is a source of tension.


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