Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It Ain't Easy

Father Leone: Hi, John.
John: Hey, Father Leone, what can I get for you? The peaches -- out of this world.
Father Leone: How's Randy?
John: Ah! Y'know... kids.
Father Leone: He's not sick is he?
John: No...
Listen, Father, Me 'r the missus should have called... but Randy, y'know, kids -- they hear things, they get confused, they don' know what to think...
Their friends... the abuse, the names...
It ain't easy.
Father Leone: No, it's not.
John: We just think it's better for him, if maybe for a while...
Father Leone: You're probably right.
Y'know, kids.
Tell him he's always welcome back.
John: I will father. Thanks for understanding.
Enjoy the peaches.
- Superman #205
by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

This exchange is obviously a reference to the sexual abuse scandal that recently rocked the Catholic Church. While the abuse itself is terrible, the situation was only made worse by the Church's reaction to it, which was to cover it up and sweep it under the rug instead of correcting the wrongs that had been committed. This behavior is systemic of a larger attitude where the preservation of the institution of the Church takes precedent over the mission of the Church.

This attitude isn't unique to the Catholic Church or even any church or religious organization. Any institution can become so ingrained in itself that it supersedes whatever it was originally established to accomplish. But this seems especially heinous when it occurs in a church, for the church has the primary mission of loving others with the love of Christ. Instead of seeking justice for the abuse victims, instead of protecting the least of these, the Church chose to protect itself and the public perception of its integrity. This goal ultimately failed when the scandal was finally exposed.

But this dishonesty to perpetuate integrity exists on less extreme levels, as well. Examine any church where dressing up in your Sunday finest is the norm. If you don't show up in a suit and tie, if you can't afford a suit and tie, will you be looked down upon by other congregants? Will they scoff at you from a distance with judgmental eyes? In today's emergent churches, the opposite may also be true. In these services where casual attire is encouraged (come as you are!), acting on some personal significance or motivation to put on a tie may also be met with resistance. We like a homogenous church. We like to associate with those who are just like us because we are most comfortable with them.

This just serves to solidify whatever image a certain church is going for. But while this serves the given institution, it doesn't aid in the mission of the church: to love one another, especially the other, especially the outsider. How will we ever reach the other if we only want people just like us in our church? 

I feel another problem is the forced assumption that the church, and Christianity in general, is "family friendly." I greatly despise that phrase. I understand the desire to present a church as a welcoming place of safety for families and children, but this stifles us and eliminates our ability to discuss many serious matters within the church. Life, and all the problems we have living it, is not "family friendly."

The only way a church is family friendly is if everyone there is lying.

They're lying about their problems, their struggles, their sins, their prideful accomplishments, and even their prayers. Devout as we may all be, there are inevitably iniquities that we simply revel in. But we can't talk about these things with each other in church, because that wouldn't be nice, or safe, or family friendly. And if we can't confront our problems and sins with our brothers and sisters in the church, what are we to do? Do we end up lying when we pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done?" Do we lie when we pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?" I know I do.

In the end, the question we really need to ask is, "Are we trying to maintain the image of the church, or actually be the church?" Are we trying to look like what we think Christians should look like, or are we actually trying to do what Christians should do? And what they should do is love one another, especially the other.

And for an incredibly introverted nerd, actively loving others is the last thing I want to try and do.

It ain't easy.

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