watch a woman undress

I know I post about vision in the church a great deal. It is one of my pet peeves because I think it is probably the worst affliction the church suffers from.

My posts make some people angry, frustrated, or confused. I receive frequent comments or emails from people saying that my insistence that there should be no vision is in itself a vision. Others assert that my repetitive rant that it is unhealthy to envision change for the church and not respect what it presently is, is in itself to ask the church to change and to not appreciate it as it is.

I disagree. I still offer that vision is damaging to healthy church community life, and I also suggest that we are to love the church as it is, which implies not demanding that it change.

I came up with an analogy today that might help:

Have you ever watched a woman undress? (I use “woman” instead of “man” because, well, it’s me writing. You can use whichever.) The woman is undressing. She is taking off her clothes. All of them. Maybe to take a bath or sleep nude or streak or whatever. Would you say that she is changing? No. Of course not. She is undressing, stripping to her essential self. Neither is this vision or fantasy, because I do not imagine her as different than she actually is as her naked self standing before me. I might fantasize what to do with her now, but that’s another discussion.

This is what I argue about. I see things like vision and purpose-drivenness as accretions that are not only unnecessary, but hindrances to church community life that can be stripped away easily, quickly and beneficially.

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  • Crystal

    I’m so glad you said ” I might fantasize what I might do with her ” rather than ” do to her” as so many men say without realizing how that comes across to a woman – the feeling that she’s just an object to be used. Words are so important aren’t they?…Crystal.

  • I have a problem with anything needing Robert’s Rules of Order (invented in order to run efficient church meetings). Having no order may be problematic in a mega church – “it’s not personal, it’s business”. Visions (read agendas) are proposed to stimulate growth and development as a means to attain sustainability and financial stability. Members end up taking care of the church, rather than being taken care of by the church. Needs are “created” via dependency – dependency of members towards pastoral staff and pastoral staff dependency on members to pay salary – sometimes taking “the shirt off your back” as it were, which is another way to be undressed!

  • I can think of a LOT of pieces of clothing for the church to take off. It seems to be dressed in so many layers of religious rituals and traditions that it can hardly move!

  • Love the analogy…maybe a little bit too much. And the more I live, the more I realize how subtle the clothing can be, so I think it is not there, but then when you see it truly naked….AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! I think you just have to keep pointing out that the Empress has clothes on…

  • ttm

    So, taking the analogy a bit further, I might ask why “the church” feels so uncomfortable being naked? Is it embarrassed about fleshy bits and pieces that it believes would not be there if it had the ideal body? Concerned that without the bling, or not having had a good wax job, it will be considered too plain, or too unkempt, to be desired? Does the church believe that nakedness in and of itself is wrong? For whose benefit is the church shrouding itself in unnecessary garments?

    And, is covering nakedness ever beneficial?

  • JohnCW

    “my insistence that there should be no vision is in itself a vision”

    that’s rich – it’s like when people tell me my atheism is a religion.

  • “Is covering nakedness ever beneficial”?
    Read Leviticus 18.

  • Fred

    As long as in your zeal you do not flay the Church.

  • shelly

    @ttm: Exactly.

    Sometimes I think the church (read: the institution, “Christianity Incorporated”) is afraid of what everyone else would think if they stripped themselves of the artificial crap, if they stopped — for all practical purposes — encouraging other to lie about their emotional state (which, by extension, means they’re encouraging others to SIN). Never mind that God created ALL emotions, and that there’s a time and purpose for everything under the heavens.

    Or maybe the church doesn’t want to admit that, ultimately, they are no different from everyone else.

  • Thumbs up for this analogy and the way that @ttm expanded the thought.

  • Johnfom

    Ok, maybe its time for a bit of contrary perspective. Time for a bit of that ‘question everything’ attitude.

    I can’t agree that the analogy is a good one for the purposes of what you seem to be trying to say.

    First, the woman/church isn’t willingly undressing. She is being urged to undress. It’s not her idea to undress. At the very least one could day she’s not willingly undressing in full view of some observer.

    Second, by urging her to undress, you/we ARE asking her to change, from the state of being clothed to a state of nakedness. It is to change the aspect she allows people to observe. I would suggest she is being urged because of the thought of what she’d look like in that state of nakedness. This may be proper, it may be an appeal to her to realise how beautiful she would appear if she were naked, but it is still an urging born of a thought about the potentials of her changed state. That is, a vision of what she could become.

    Alright, so it’s not trying to change who she is under all of that clothing, her essential being, but it is asking her to change. If there was no urging, merely a commentary or reporting of what was already happening then I suppose it could be said that there is no vision necessary, but the church isn’t revealing herself willingly for you to merely report on, nor has she previously revealed her nakedness, so you cannot know what she would appear like until she has done it. That requires some vision.

    The big difference between this kind of vision and the kind of vision you speak against (quite rightly IMO) is that it is not one you are trying to impose on the church, nor is it seeking an essential change, but it is still a change you are urging, and the urging changes it from reporting to visionary.

    And after all of that, keep urging, but be sensitive so that she doesn’t feel/isn’t forced. She’s shy.

  • I would agree with the above comment that the analogy doesn’t work that well especially since clothing has always been part of human identity. Even intimate couples don’t spend all their time who are alone with each other naked!

    However I fully agree David that vision is an accretion and a festering one at that. A visionless church would be more open to where the Spirit was blowing at each time. A visionless church would free its members up to their own ministries in the community. And a visionless church would lead us to live with the startling reality that we are together not because of a cause but because of Christ

  • I enjoy this analogy (not in THAT way), because I’ve long advocated not for a different or more innovative church service, but for church to be stripped to its essence – where it is more raw and powerful. To me, this is what Jesus did, he boiled down religion and we’ve built it right back up, untrusting of Jesus and that he knows best.

  • Botticelliwoman

    I don’t think the dressers have been happy since we were allowed to discover what manner of clothes she was wearing and throughout the past 5 centuries it’s been a tug of war with her undies. Even king Hal couldn’t get them off and he was adept at that job. In the end, you’re expected to go find your own woman and leave theirs alone.

  • Interesting analogy, but did you have to pay to watch her undress?

  • Nancy T.

    This is a great analogy, not because it works perfectly, but because it opens so many avenues to explore. I’m off to work so no time to post my thoughts on it now, but I really love the comments it is provoking, and I hope that we can keep discussing the analogy and its offshoots for awhile. I really think it is goldmine/ minefield to be explored.

    I think can be a lot of ‘fuzziness’ because there are several valid definitions of church, including: The building itself, a group of believers, the group of believers within a specific church religion/domination, the doctrines/creeds that are part of the group of believers identity, specific churches, etc.

    I don’t know that we need static definitions, but it would be helpful if people (as some of you do) could make clear what definiton/aspect they are referring to.

    @Crystal *repeatedly hitting like button*

    @ttm and @Johnfom…
    Excellent ideas coming from the analogy, with valid extensions to be explored. The two of you have added substantially to the analogy Dave has set up.

    So, tossing out another concept to think about ‘watching a woman dress’… shrugging on a housecoat on a Saturday, dressing up for dinner… what about putting on a sexy nightie?

    Oh, and what about cross-dressing? ;>

  • Christine

    @Ray: Hope that was a joke. Maybe try adding a happy face next time.