Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons from Scriptures ...

The modern Church could learn from King David ...

When the Prophet Nathan confronted the King about his behaviour in regards to Bathsheba and her loyal husband Uzziah, the King could have responded in anger and defensiveness. But instead the King was open to the prophet's words and not only heard the harsh judgment being offered, the King accepted the condemnation and begged for forgiveness.

Today in the Modern Church when you dare to suggest that we could do better when it comes to any number of issues, the response is not like that of King David's.

Looking back over my own experience in the Church and reflecting on it and that of others who dared to be outspoken and even slightly controvertial, and I've come to realize that if we dare to:

Suggest that we could be doing more to address issues of living our welcome and you will experience a response of anger and defensiveness.

Suggest that we could be doing more to address issues of poverty and homelessness in our midst and the response may put your job at risk.

Suggest that a pastoral charge may have issues that need to be addressed and faced, and you could be putting more than your job at risk ... I've had my house shot at, my tires slashed, my children threatened, and my job abruptly terminated - other colleagues have experienced firings, intimidation and threats, and in at least two cases FIRE BOMBINGS.

What saddens me most of all is that in the greater Church there is a tendancy to do two things when such issues are raised - the first is to blame the victim and question why they would foolishly put themselves in such a scenario, and the second is to poo poo the experience and try to deny ANY connection to the Church at all.

To turn back to the example of King David - perhaps it's time for the Church to look back and learn from its own history and heritage.

Instead of pouncing on the folks who dare to speak up we should instead listen to what they are saying and ask ourselves the tough questions about whether or not there is truth to the accusation, and what we could and should be doing better.

To cite one last example - I remember being at a Conference AGM where the issue of being an AFFIRMING Community was under discussion. Speaker after speaker noted that 'we' already were a welcoming, accepting and AFFIRMING place.

Then one of the visible and outspoken voices in the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered Community stepped and said "You think we're welcoming? Sorry think again ..."

What followed was a litany of ways in which Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered people feel excluded and shut out in the United Church of Canada. The speaker offered a thoughtful, respectful and insightful list of observations and experiences ... a prophetic and necessary voice had spoken. The observations offered were uncomfortable but TRUE. And came from the very people who were to be welcomed in by the conversation being undertaken.

Next up to the mike were a number of people who stood and said essentially - "No, You're WRONG."

Instead of hearing the prophetic voice as an opportunity to address an issue in a constructive and welcoming way, the speakers who followed spoke from a defensive and borderline angry place what rejected the suggestion that our reality was somehow different from the perception we've created.

The Church is not, and was not what we thought it to be. Instead of addressing that simple truth, the response was defensive ANGER that tried to denounce and reject the speaker who dared to utter a prophetic truth.

Today I continue to marvel at the unwillingness of the Church to take its lumps and deal with the FACT that there continues to be a vast disconnect between what we say, what we believe and what we do ... not everywhere, but in enough places that we should be concerned.

Instead of responding to the prophetic observations and proclamations with anger and defensiveness, we should be willing to take a page from King David's book, and respond with some humility, some contrition, and a willingness to BE THE CHANGE WE SEEK.

The world expects more from the Church than empty words ... and that alone should move us past our critical defensiveness !!!

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