What kind of world?

What kind of world?

Children die. Every day. All over the world. Violence, disasters, disease. Children are targeted, kidnaped, forced into ‘marriage’, given guns and forced to be soldiers. Children are neglected, abused, broken and denied access to what they need in a thousand ways every hour of every day.

When it happens en mass, in other parts of the world, sometimes we in the West notice. When it happens in our cities and our towns, it’s the worst atrocity possible. It is ‘sickening cowardice’, but why only when it happens to ‘our’ children?

I grieve for those whose lives changed forever in Manchester last night, for those who lost those they love, for those whose bodies will never be the same, and for the masses of people who will suffer psychological trauma over this event for years – perhaps the rest of their lives.

I grieve for the family of the suicide bomber, those who knew him and cared about him, those who never suspected he could do such a thing and those who feared he would, but didn’t know how to stop him.

When I first heard the news this morning, it was shocking, but even before I could process the human cost, the great grief and pain of such an event, I was fearing the political aftermath. The protests of innocence, the evil language of “our values” verse “their ideology.” I shrunk from the prospect of the triumphalism I knew would be spouted by the PM, and the thousands of people who would cling to her assurances of strength and stability, her violent language about evil and retribution.

Violence is not the answer. Hating criminals is not the answer. Attacking an “ideology” is not the answer. Circling our wagons around our own self-satisfied, smug assurance of the ‘rightness’ of our own ‘way of life’ and the evil of those who oppose it in anyway only further marginalises and criminalises those who disagree, who feel excluded or judged or inescapably different.

As I write this, there is no official information about the identity or motives of the bomber available. ISIS has reportedly (and belatedly) ‘claimed’ responsibility – as they do for every attack on the West, as far as I can see, but this has not been ‘verified’ and would be treated by me as highly suspect in any event. Yet it seems that everywhere I look people are talking about “ideology” and “terrorists” and rooting out this “cancer”.

You see, those who carry out such attacks are not, cannot be, actual members of our society. They cannot be “like us” or one of us. It is convenient when such attackers are ‘foreign’ either in religion or nationality as that makes ‘other-ising’ them easier, but even when brutal attacks on children are perpetrated in Western nations by homegrown white people (think Sandy Hook, December 2012), we still have to find a way to other-ise the perpetrators. He was unstable, a loner, mentally ill – anything other than the boy next door, a member of our community, someone who was quite obviously failed by his society, his school, his government. There may be those who are born to be killers, but I suspect the vast majority (if not all) who kill are created by the world in which they live. They are rejected and marginalised, treated differently because of trivial details of person or understanding. They are created by wars and bombs and the childhood trauma of losing home and loved ones. They are created by a society that hates what they love and calls their religion – their identity – evil with no real understanding of who they are or what they believe. They are created by a system of education that is unable to reach or teach, social care that fails to care, families that are too overstretched in pursuit of food and shelter to have time to invest in things like love and care.

All who commit these crimes are human beings. All were once babies, likely with mothers who loved them. They were born onto this earth just like the rest of us, and if life was less kind to them than it has been to us, that does not make them less human! If they have lacked the moral fibre or mental strength to tolerate a society which ignores and marginalises them, if they have been trained with poor values or seduced be violent rhetoric which promises them every good thing they feel incapable of obtaining by fair means, pity them, mourn their death, mourn that the world in which we lives continues to allow such things to occur – not by failing to be ‘tough enough’ on ‘radical ideology’, but by failing to love, to embrace difference, to promote understanding, to pursue peace, to know its neighbours.

Weep, weep for the dead children of Manchester, of Syria, of the Mediterranean, of the refugee camps, of natural disasters all over the world, but weep also for yourself, for the world in which we find ourselves, for the evil which we tolerate and call ‘good’ in order to maintain our own comfort and security. Weep for the bomber and every man, woman, and child like him who have so little to live for in this world and such a low value for life – even their own – that they would perpetrate such unspeakable acts against the helpless and innocent.

And when we have wept, perhaps it will be time to consider the kind of society, the kind of world, in which we would like to live, and how we might go about building it.

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Faceting Love: Introduction

Faceting Love: Introduction

I could not have been very old, perhaps between 8 and 10. It was a hot summer day. I know this because we had moved my mattress from the bedframe upstairs down into the living room so that I could enjoy the comfort of the air conditioning that we only had on the ground floor of our house. We had watched Sleeping Beauty that night, the old Disney animated version with the sweeping music and striking colours. I liked Merriweather best, she seemed like me: little and awkward, with a peppery temper and always a bit behind the other two. When my mom sat down beside me to say goodnight, she tried to explain to me that love in real life isn’t like love in the movies. It doesn’t happen like that. I don’t think I quite understood what she meant. I remember responding, “but I would like to fall in love some day.” We were both right – love in real life is almost nothing like love in an old Disney film, but almost everyone seems to want to fall in love one day anyway!

Perhaps it started that night, I don’t really know, but at least from my early teenage years I had an active mental relationship with the concept of love, what it is/was and whether the feelings I occassionally cherished towards one male or another qualified as ‘love’ or were merely something embarrassingly childish like a “crush.” As I got older and into my first serious relationship I discovered some of the more physical aspects of ‘love.’ When that relationship ended, I had many more questions than I had started with, and spent the next eight years or so trying to sort out what exactly was the ‘love’ that I so longed for, how that squared with the meanings of love I had been taught in church (philios, eros, agape), whether it was possible to have enough love in my life without a significant other and what the heck sex had to do with it all (or didn’t, as the case may be).

Recently thoughts on this topic have been surfacing again, and I decided it was an excellent opportunity to create another blog series. I have chosen the title “Faceting Love” for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was the best title I could hit on that didn’t sound twee, cliched or otherwise overused. Secondly, I wished it to be short and simple, yet make one think. I considered “facets of love,” but it didn’t have the right emphasis. The phrase functions as a noun and thus suggests something factual and instructive. I prefer a phrase that functions as a verb suggesting active and ongoing engagement with a topic.

The word “faceting” is the verb form of “facet” and describes the act of cutting faces in a gem, presenting new sides to view and enhancing the overall beauty of the object. Conceptually the number of possible facets is endless, and each artisan would cut a slightly different one. This image resonates when me when applied to the concept of love – surely one of the most complicated of all concepts. The word seems to have an endless semantic range and aspects of meaning that vary among cultures, religions and individuals. Love is also precious and regarded by many as the most important and most powerful human force.

Over the next few weeks I will be cutting a few faces on the gem of love, and sharing my thoughts with you all. I will draw on some biblical ideas, some of my own insights and history, and anything else that takes my fancy. Enjoy!

Embracing Death – Embracing Life

Embracing Death – Embracing Life

Death follows life, yet life also follows death. Poppies bloom on the graves of those long dead, children grow into adults who are eventually succeed by a new generation of children. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life. It is annually reflected in cycles of nature, and daily illustrated in the lives that end – because the time has come, or because they have been cruelly cut short through violence, illness or some other tragedy. Life ends. Sooner or later. Life ends, every day, but life also begins every day. Countless children are born daily; seeds germinate; new ideas lead to new actions and initiatives. These things are our now, and they are our future. The world of those now dead is our past.
As one who has experienced the death of a loved one, it is impossible to call death “nothing at all”. It carries with it a gut-wrenching, life-altering finality, for the dead are really gone. They do not linger in the wind or look down from the sky, they have been torn out of the lives of those who loved them, knew them or hated them, and their absence causes a rift that only time and grieving may eventually close. Death is a trauma and a nightmare to those who remain alive.
So we fear death, and I think it is this fear of death that leads to our nostalgic desire to dwell in the past. We remember what we loved about those who have died, but we do not dwell on their weaknesses. We remember the joys of the glory days of the institutions that we cherish (by they church or state or local drama group). We remember the ideal moments of family togetherness, holidays and vacations, laughter and games. We do not dwell on the arguments, disagreements, moments of coolness, or pain caused. Or perhaps, we can’t forget it because this legacy is now all we have left.
Why do we dwell so in our minds on death, on what is gone, on what is past. Why do we strain every nerve to recreate what has vanished, to reanimate what is dead, to live in the memory of what can never be again?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the future is more frightening than death itself. To live, that is the most terrifying thing of all. For to live, truly, is to love, to love self, to love others, to love earth and sky and sea, to love the hawk and the sparrow and the duck.
For many years now I have disliked the spring. I have sat amidst the transient loveliness of leaf and blossom unmoved by the beauty, almost repelled by it. Two years ago, as I walked the dog and picked up her waste among the fallen petals I realised why I so dislike the season. Spring is wasteful, it bursts forth in exuberant life, pouring out fragrance and beauty in a frantic effort to attract, yet mere weeks or months later that beauty is fallen, trodden underfoot, rotting on the pavement and in the undergrowth.
This year, I see something different, as the colour on the hills lightens a shade each day, and I notice the blossom on a tree here, or the leaves on a shrub there. As the streams fill with spring rains and the skies are a little more blue than grey, I feel it in me to embrace the spring. Every day I pass the lambs leaping in the fields and know they will likely end up at the butchers, but this is part of the cycle of rural life, its beauty and its hardship. Death does not take the loveliness of life, although it may sometimes smother our ability to see it.
We cannot go backwards. Our beloved dead will never again breathe, speak to us, hold us, laugh with us. The memories of our past will never recur. The ‘glory days’ will never come back again, but what of the glorious days of our future, or the future of our children, what of the life that follows that death.
With every choice we make countless other possibilities for our lives are eliminated, this is our chance at life. This life, this moment, this now, is all we have. We can live with it, change it and be changed by it, or we can resist it and fear it and hide from it.
Do we fear death, or do we fear life?

And when I set out thinking about how churches should stop fearing death because only through death can they come to something fresh and new or how our society invests so much money in prolonging life and so little in enriching life, perhaps I didn’t realise that I was also talking to myself, exorcising my own fear of life that strongly manifests itself as an odd fondness for the idea of death.

Winter (or a time of Death)

I don’t write any more. I don’t have the time or I don’t have the energy or I don’t have the vision or I don’t have the hope. What is there to say? Who is going to listen? Does it matter if someone ‘listens’ or reads? Shouldn’t I write for myself and not others? Perhaps I used to think I wrote for God or because it was a calling to something higher and better. Maybe I thought if that was the case it would be bound to ‘work’ or change lives or I’d be guaranteed success or no effort would be in vain.

Perhaps it was the thesis that sucked me dry, life and soul. Perhaps it killed my creativity and imagination. Perhaps it was the gradually sudden disappearance of ‘church’ or ‘faith,’ as I have always understood it, that left me with nothing to write about. I suppose, in a way, it is a time of ending, of death, or perhaps, more creatively, a time of winter. It may yet be followed by a spring. I don’t know, but it seems likely.

For now I feed my son. I follow him around so he doesn’t get hurt. I talk to him. I keep his butt clean and his clothes dry. I help him go to sleep at night and wake in the morning. When I think about it, that process has its own kind of creativity.

I miss writing – the feeling of being alive, of having something vital to communicate, but this time of ‘death’ (winter) does have its charm. I have finally chosen to ignore all outside obligations and focus instead on the responsibilities and duties I have taken upon myself, not out of guilt, but out of love. Sometimes I forget just how great that burden was, and just how free I feel now I no longer carry it.

Disbelieving Church: Conclusions

Disbelieving Church: Conclusions

So we come to the final entry in my Disbelieving Church series. In addition to the Introduction the series has included reflections on Worship, Preaching, Buildings, Kingdom Building, Evangelism, God’s Plan, Salvation, Being Nice, Structures, Prayer, Answers, and Ministry. That makes a round dozen posts plus introduction and conclusion. This seemed the right place to stop, but I am finding it difficult to let go of the series. This is partly because I still have unfinished business with ‘church’ and partly because I don’t know what to explore next!

It has been my intention throughout this series to refrain from moaning or “throwing stones” at the church and focus instead on critique and deconstruction. Obviously my observations come with a sizeable helping of experience, but it is my hope that my readers realise I have not come to these conclusions merely based on “a bad experience with church.” Rather they have developed naturally out of a more than thirty years of living with and investing in churches and more than a decade of theological education. Also, I would not describe this experience as a loss of faith, for the simple reason that although my relationship with God (however conceived) was for many years mediated through my relationship with ‘church,’ it was never predicated on it.

To close this series, I offer three concluding points to balance out my three introductory disclaimers:

Firstly, I have sometimes been advised by persons who have similar problems with some of the issues I have raised to “redeem” the terms, in other words, to redefine them in ways I am happy with and, when using them, do so with this private, acceptable meaning. Similarly, I have received advice to just use the language people will understand, thus allowing collaboration towards positive common goals. While I value and respect the people who have offered this, and similar, advice, it isn’t for me. If I use a term like “evangelism” for a way of life that demonstrates the good news of Jesus’ message of love, freedom and wholeness in conversation with a church-going person who uses it to mean “saving people from eternal damnation,” and I do not explain my meaning, I am unable to understand this as anything other than deceit. I allow them to think I agree, all the time holding my own private meanings of churchy terms. It makes me feel like a spy and a liar. Equally, when I did pursue this way of life, I lived in fear of being discovered and outed as not a ‘proper’ Christian Redeeming the terms may be a helpful exercise for my faith, but I do not see how it could allow me to  remain “in” “church”.

Secondly, after almost three decades in various forms of service to the church, I have discovered that my sense of self-worth has long been predicated on that service. As long as I believed myself to be contributing to the work of the church, that is the work of God’s kingdom, that is, serving Jesus in the world, I felt my life had meaning. Now that I find I can no longer serve this institution, I am bereft of my idol and in search of my God.

Thirdly, there are, of course, many people for whom this does not seem to be a problem. They take the ‘stay in and change the system’ approach. They are realists who take a long-term view of things, and if the ‘church’ of which they are a part appears to be heading in roughly the right direction over the long term, they are willing to tolerate the shortcomings and deviations that I find offensive in pursuit of that eventual good. I respect their choice, but I cannot emulate it. I have finally accepted that I am an idealist. I am also honest. I will not compromise or water-down or lie or hide myself any longer for the sake of the system. Many of these are people I like and respect, some I would even count friends, but I can no longer pretend I am willing to make the sacrifices they make – of conscience, of self, of goals – merely to prolong the life of what I have come to see as an outmoded, cumbersome, exclusivist and frequently harmful institution that has long since strayed from the message of Jesus and living divine love.

 

Postscript: As this series has run for several months now, I felt this was a logical place to stop, but not necessarily because I have nothing more to say. I am now considering developing my ideas further into book form for which I would welcome comments and advice.

Thanks for reading.

R

Disbelieving Church: Ministry

Disbelieving Church: Ministry

[This post is the last (bar conclusions) of a series of reflections on Disbelieving Church. If you have not already done so, please check out the Introduction for a little background and a few disclaimers.]

On a Sunday night more than twenty years ago, I sat in the balcony of the large church in which I grew up listening to a missionary give a talk about her experiences working in Mexico. Her words were powerful, but it was her passion that made a deep impression on me. This woman loved the people she had been working with. Her love was clear as she spoke, and I was moved in ways I didn’t understand.

It is this experience that I identify as the first stirrings of what I came to understand as my call to ministry – to love people as God loves them, to serve people, to help them discover a more full and healthy life. For nearly two decades I searched for the right expression of this calling, eight years ago, I thought I had found it.

Every day Facebook reminds me of my “memories” – the things I have posted about, or others posted on my virtual wall, “on this day” over all the years in which I have had an active account. Recently I found a post about my nerves prior to an interview about my desire to train for ministry in the Baptist Union of Great Britain. I had been asked to give a brief presentation on the topic “What is the role of a Baptist minister in the 21st century.” In the comments on this post, a friend had asked for clarification on how “Baptist” would change my answer. In response, I wrote a post on my then-blog entitled “the role of a minister.”

Looking over this blog post (and if you choose to click through and read it, please understand this blog represents a different “me” than I now am) I can see the same core ideal of ministry that I internalised all those years ago. For me to be a minister is, first and foremost, “to walk with people through all the joy and pain of life.” I believed that ministry “in the 21st century” could be played out differently:

We seek to spread the message of Jesus as a contagious disease rather than an exclusive club. We seek to preach in how we live, attempting to cultivate integrity, humility and solidarity with others, avoiding violence in our words about and towards others as well as our actions.

As is frequently the case with my brain, my ideas about “being a minister” were big and general – love, encouragement, teaching, walking alongside – rather than detailed and structured. In my head, the minister is the one who loves as Jesus loves, who is, to borrow a phrase from my past “Jesus with skin on.” There are many songs about being Jesus’ body – his hands reaching, touching, healing; his feet going to places of need; etc. In my heart, ministry was modelling this and encouraging others to join in the process of spreading love and peace.

Although I have been a Baptist all my life, it is only in recent years that I have began to wonder what is the theological basis for the role of “minister” within the free churches. In other, older traditions the minister is the priest, the representative of Christ, the mediator between the people and God, the administrator of the sacraments, the one who hears confession and offers absolution.

In these traditions, priesthood has a clearly necessary, theological role, connecting humanity to God in important, not to say indispensable, ways. In such a context, ordination is a sacrament which initiates an “ontological change” in the ordinand. He (usually) is fundamentally different in his being after undergoing ordination and becoming a priest. He is set apart and consecrated to carry out his indispensable divine task.

In a tradition that believes in the priesthood of all believers – the freedom of all to approach God through Jesus with no other mediator – the traditional theological content of the priesthood of ministry should be subsumed. There is no need for someone consecrated to serve communion. There is no need for someone ordained to pray or absolve. The role of “priest” belongs to everyone, and, therefore, logically should not belong to any one, particular person.

If this is the case, why do the free churches still invest so much in ministry and ministers? I have yet to discover a convincing theological explanation of the need for a minister in a free church context or what his or her role is meant to be. This is particularly complicated among Baptists, who have a principle of the freedom of conscience – meaning that there are probably as many opinions about any given topic of debate as there are Baptists in the room. Indeed, there’s an old joke that between two Baptists there will be three opinions.

The inevitable result, it seems to me, is that ministry becomes purely functional, and that function, as with all other matters of faith and practice among Baptist churches, is subject to the opinions of all interested parties. (That is to say, is subject to the will of Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit as discerned by the community in a Church Meeting.)

Practically, this leads to an exponential multiplication of roles for “the minister.” He or she is a pastor who cares for the needs of the flock, a teacher who believes and expounds correct doctrine, an administrator who sees the business of church gets done, a leader who identifies a vision and inspires others to follow it, a “priest” who performs rituals, the individual personification of “the church” or God or Jesus, and the one person in the church of whom it is acceptable to make unreasonable demands or to undermine and contradict with no reference to his or her feelings, needs or personal life.

In short, the lack of clarity on any theological basis for or definition of the role of “minister” within free church (or at least Baptist) tradition has created a vacuum of understanding that is filled by the individual needs, experiences, beliefs and cultural backgrounds of the various members of the church congregation all of whom desire, expect or demand different things of “their” minister.

The reality is that no one person has the gifting (or the time and personal resources) to meet all these expectations. A church/ministry relationship can work reasonably well when the diaconate or “leadership team” of a church recognises this, enables the gifts of their minister, and quietly sees to the other needs for ministry in their midst without trying to force him/her to meet them. Unfortunately too many churches are occupied by people who think a minister can and should be all these things. There are also still many who have a priestly view of Baptist ministers and complain that “no one” from the church has visited/spoken to/helped them merely because the minister hasn’t been available to do so.

As can be seen in several of the other topics I have visited in this series, my experience as a minister’s wife and a minister-in-training taught me to be wary of people in churches. Although there will always be some who support their minister and see the minister and his or her family firstly just as people and as someone filling a role, there will always be others (often the majority) to whom the minister is an object and the ministerial family are props. These people inevitably become angry or hurt when the minister fails to meet their uncommunicated (and often unacknowledged) expectations, and will take this out on those in ministry without humanity, decency or honesty.

I had high ideals of ‘being a minister’ – to help, to serve, to love. What I found instead were expectations that I should obey, surrender my intellectual integrity, alter my personality, and submit myself to the needs and desires of others without considering my own. My definition of my role and the ways I felt I could fill it were irrelevant to the institutionalised “church” which forced its own definitions and expectations onto me, as it does to so many others who desire to serve Christ and his body in this way. In many ways the death of my ideals about ordained ministry was the catalyst that forced me to confront the reality that I don’t believe in the church anymore.

Disbelieving Church: Answers

Disbelieving Church: Answers

[This post is part of a series of reflections on Disbelieving Church. If you have not already done so, please check out the Introduction for a little background and a few disclaimers.]

When I was a teenager there was a popular song among the Christian set that began “Jesus is the answer for the world today.” I think I may have even attended a youth retreat with the title “Jesus is the Answer” and a matching t-shirt. I cannot remember for certain, but I do remember one of the female chaperones singing the song passionately while she filled the vehicle with fuel before we headed back to Northern Virginia. Even then, I felt a little niggle of doubt. Jesus is the answer? Sounds nice and pat. How does it work?

Several years later I was sat on the steps of a church in Cardiff talking to a fellow aspirant to ordination (albeit in the Anglican Church) when we were approached by a woman who had just come out of the pub across the street. “If anyone asks, I was here talking to you,” said the woman. She was clearly unkempt and not quite right, whether under the influence of a substance or mentally ill or merely distressed, I was (and am) not qualified to say. My companion was kind to the woman, and I tried to do my part, though I felt oceans out of my depth. We kept her calm and talking until the uniformed services came to deal with her.

Eventually she was removed, and I was left wondering what possible “good news” the church behind me had to offer this woman. “Jesus loves you” wasn’t going to change her life. Praying “the prayer” wasn’t going to instantly change her into a healthy, sober, peaceful individual. Even then, I instinctively knew that what this woman needed was radical love, deep sacrifice, and, above all, expert care, probably lasting for many years if not the rest of her life. The congregation of which I was then a part had next to nothing to offer her. Many of the members would have looked askance at her if she had entered the building and, possibly, even shunned her.

Here was I, a Christian, with access to the holy power of God and able to call on Jesus – the answer to every question and problem – helpless in the face of the abject need and helplessness of a stranger on the street. I could not offer the answers of faith to the problems of life. I felt frustrated, small, and confused.

It is possible that this post is more a reaction to the embedded theologies of my childhood, than my adult experience of church. The langauge of “having the answers” is less prevalent in churches these days than it was 20 years ago. Perhaps the church is beginning to catch up to the idea that the answers it is offering are answers to questions fewer and fewer people are actually asking.

However that may be, there still seem to be churches where the question and answer motif is favoured – perhaps through the use of the Alpha Course – or similar Christianity 101 type programmes. I remember hearing a story about a children’s talk in church in which the speaker clearly described a squirrel, but the child that raise a hand gave the answer as “Jesus.” Even that young, that child had been indoctrinated to give “Jesus” as the answer to every question, without engaging the brain and considering whether that answer made any logical sense.

Churches seem to be geared towards answering the big questions “why am I here?” or “Is there a God/who is God?” or “what’s my purpose in life?” It doesn’t seem to me that these are the questions that most people are actually asking. Hanging out with other mothers in mother and baby play groups, I hear concerns about the sleeping or eating habits of the children, domestic relationships, money and holidays.

Friends with chronic ill-health or other disabilities are concerned about how much they will be able to accomplish today while feeling so poorly, whether the government will erroneously judge them “fit to work” at the next assessment, when a new seeing-eye-dog will become available, or helping their deaf friends to access the services they so desperately need but are excluded from because of poor English skills.

My husband comes home from work talking about colleagues, and their concerns are similar – money, relationships, children, health, holidays. Everyone is stuck on the same treadmill, and we are all trying to practically make our lives work, to find people with whom to share love, to help those we love to live the healthiest and happiest lives possible.

These aren’t the traditional “big questions,” but they dominate lives in our society. The closest attempt to a Christian response to such concerns is to invent “biblical” answers to these every day questions, and teach people exactly how to live their lives, down to the most intimate detail, in order for God to bless them.

I don’t believe church has the answers. It isn’t even asking the right questions.

Instead of trying to get people to ask the questions to which we have ready-made answers based on what a questionable concept of “biblical truth,” I think it is time for the church to leave its truths on the shelf somewhere and spend some time discovering and sharing in the questions people are actually dealing with every day.

What has the church to say to the rural community whose doctors’ surgery is closing and the local people, particularly the elderly, who are concerned about where they can go for help? What does the church have to say to the homeless, mentally ill or addicted person who wanders onto their steps while seeking to escape an awkward situation? What does the church have to say to the LGBTQ individuals walking past its doors or sitting in its pews, afraid to be honest about their own identity for fear of abuse and rejection? What does the church have to say to Muslim communities who face racial and religious persecution in the streets around her buildings?

This is a sample of some of the questions I think churches should be thinking about. Nothing to do with immortal souls. Nothing to do with proof texting. Nothing to do with being right (or proving anyone else wrong). Everything to do with helping, loving, sacrificing, spending more time with “sinners” and “outsiders,” and building a more positive world.

And if the church building has to close for lack of attention because Jesus’ followers are out doing good and helping people; well, would that really be so bad?