Scott Paeth has been thinking about what kind of church he might fit. It is, he thinks, a Church for Freaks. He asks, “If I no longer feel at home among “normal” mainline Christians, and I can’t take self-identified evangelicals, where’s the church for the freaks?”
He’s come up with three posts about what that church might look like, and I think that many readers of this blog will resonate:
Part I: A Church for Freaks
I am thinking more in terms of both the institutional and ritual structures that have become central to the mainline Christian denominations over the past decades and even centuries. Part of this is an objection to a particular kind of church bureaucracy, which is increasingly moribund and useless for the purpose of actually sustain the church as a community of believers. This is the case across mainline denominations. It’s not a specifically United Church of Christ problem, but exists among Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and others. Despite the differences in their organizational structures and ecclesiologies, these denominations have all managed to create and sustain a set of institutional prejudgices and prerogatives that seem to me to be increasingly damaging to the church.
Here is where I think the issue of what would motivate freaks like myself to want to show up for worship at a place like the one I’m describing. The heart of Christian theology is and always must be about the grace of God. In Christ, the grace of God is revealed to us in the midst of our brokenness and woundedness. Certainly its true that there can’t be grace without some sense of judgement, nevertheless it has to be the case that the preaching and theology of the church should be rooted in the idea that what is revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ is the grace and love of God.
Part III: Culture and Aesthetics
The “contemporary praise and worship” model is absolutely repugnant to me. The problem isn’t so much that I disagree with the theology that underlies it (which I often do), but that it strikes me as being culturally and aesthethically shallow, with prayer that seldom reaches to the depths of human experience and genuinely horrible music. This aesthetic vulgarity actually often seem to extend to the entirety of the evangelical worship experience, whether it is the church buildings that are actually stadiums or re-pourposed warehouses, with enormous parking lots and Starbucks coffee for sale in the narthex, or the kind of kitchy artistic sensibility that views Thomas Kincade as being an artist of note.