I am not thankful that the church has alienated so many people. People tell me they can’t come to church because they are sad, doubting, don’t have it all together, are lacking easy faith, or don’t fit into the “normal” families they see all around them. Nothing frustrates me more. Since when did the church of Jesus Christ, the one who dined with sinners, the man of sorrow and grief, become a place for a veneer of perfection and easy faith?
If it wasn’t for Jesus, I would have given up on church long ago. If I wanted veneers of perfection, then I’d have much more fun in Disneyland. If I wanted easy faith, I’d choose a religion that let me consume pleasure without thought for anyone else. Maybe church has become too much like Disneyland and a cathedral to consumption if those living with the harsh realities of human life don’t feel welcome there.
What does a post about church have to say to us on this Thanksgiving Day? Well, there are a lot of people who will feel at their Thanksgiving table the way many people feel at church. We won’t want to talk about the recent election because our views are in such deep contrast to the rest of our family. We can’t talk about the church we go to or the new ways of thinking about God that we are wrestling with. We won’t want to talk about the hidden depression, the child who we are struggling to know how to parent, the work that feels overwhelming, the unemployment that we are ashamed of. All in the name of keeping up the perfect veneer of togetherness. And all at the risk of truly seeing and knowing those that sit around the table.
I am thankful for those who dare to speak even when they risk losing the church (or the friends and family) they love. I am thankful for those who have stuck with Jesus even though the church doesn’t affirm their calling or their experience. I am thankful for a job in which I can daily try to make spaces for people like myself who don’t fit into those neat little boxes that have nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with fear and control. I am thankful for Jesus who saved his harshest words for the religious people around him and at the same time, died believing that sharing God’s love was his highest calling. So, I’m sticking with Jesus and I’m sticking with the church because as imperfect as church is, being the hands and feet of Jesus in this world is an amazing adventure.