rearranging the furniture on a sinking ship

rearranging the furniture on a sinking ship March 16, 2013
church solutions cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Church Solutions” (by nakedpastor, David Hayward)

I am criticized for critiquing the church too severely. I claim that our critique is not severe enough.

The problem, as I see it, is that almost all the critique that is going on concerning religion in general and the church in specific is that the solutions are actually a part of the problem. We are so embedded within the deadlock that it is practically impossible to see a solution. This is the danger of any critique. It is almost always a symptom of the problem, a subjective part of the whole impasse.

While we might be momentarily fascinated by and occupied with tweaking the existing order of things, renovating and managing it, it is like this cartoon illustrates: we are only rearranging the furniture on a sinking ship. Just beneath the surface of much of our critique today is a secret wish that what we have continue because it’s all we know, it’s all we have and it will do for now thank you very much. It also exposes the possibility that those in authority are afraid of losing their power.

As T.S. Eliot suggested, sometimes to save religion it is necessary to separate from its corpse. Which is, of course, absolutely frightening and difficult to do.

Which is why the cross is the suitable symbol of this necessary critique. The cross is not a symbol of renovation or improvement. It is a symbol of death. It is a symbol of the end of the existing order. It is the emphatic “STOP!” that stands before all human ingenuity and effort. It also informs the critic that his or her primary task is not to offer solutions but to expose the futility of the present condition of things with the hopeful conviction that something new rises from the ashes.

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  • Sandy

    Thanks for this David…it is brilliant. Much food for thought here!

  • why thank you Sandy 🙂

  • The cartoon is an accurate snapshot of what is happening in many churches. The meaning you ascribe to the cross, though, is not the teaching of the faith. For the Christian the cross stands for redemption, a way out of the death of the soul. The church stands in needs of inspiration, or the Pentecostal moment that turns the world upside down or, in terms of how it should be, right side up. What this means for organized religion remains to be seen.

  • “The cross is not a symbol of renovation or improvement. It is a symbol of death. It is a symbol of the end of the existing order. It is the emphatic “STOP!” that stands before all human ingenuity and effort. It also informs the critic that his or her primary task is not to offer solutions but to expose the futility of the present condition of things with the hopeful conviction that something new rises from the ashes.”

    Spot on, David.

    It (the Cross) puts an end to our projects of self-justification and Christian improvement. He bids us…’Come and die’.

    So the entirety of the Christian life is one of repentance (death to self)…and a re-trusting in the finished work of Christ….for us. Over and over and over and over…all throughout life.

    Thanks, David. Very well done, methinks.

  • Japie Botha

    Hi Dave,
    Your picture says it all. If you’ll permit me to leave this thought: I have concluded after many years of ‘church hopping’ to finally ‘no church’ that what we need in the ‘church’ is not anything ‘new’ as stated in your last paragraph but rather a ‘liberation from’… I conclude that the church (organized or free) considers this return to liberty (brought about by Christ) as a legitimate ‘next step’ in the history of ‘church’ but that is firstly a lie and secondly opens up a door for even more destructive creativity by humans. As harsh as it may sound the church has in fact assumed the role of Mediator between believers (and by that I mean believe whatever you want) and God. They present the idea that they are actually facilitating the assembly of the believers in an organized structure but if you are willing to dissect their position and are willing to challenge your perceptions of these institutions you’ll find their agenda far removed from facilitation. so back to my point. We as believers do not need to enter into something ‘new’ or refreshing but we need to be liberated from the religious monster we created ourselves. The way to the truth is not by searching for it but rather allowing the deception to be exposed for what it is. That will make way for truth. Any ‘growth’ anywhere is by my judgement illegitimate… The truth of Christ’s liberation has been revealed to us 2000+ years ago, we’re the ones wondering off into deception.

  • I think this can depend on the context in which everything is being said: For instance, if the church is neglecting its true calling of being a people serving AND following in Christ’s footsteps, then this would make perfect sense. However, there are some churches out there, especially in metropolitan cities where megachurches are cropping up, that are struggling to survive as its members are flocking to be with the “in-crowd”; it’s not because of the church that they are losing its members; it’s because its members have lost touch with what is important. Also, though, there are some churches that are doing well, but also want to do more to help others, so some of the questions noted in the cartoon could serve as a means for further expansion.

    The church can function very well to bring a sense of unity and community in people’s lives, but it takes the people to do this and this simply cannot happen in large gatherings as the quality of “community” is inversely proportional to its quantity. Multiple churches are required and this can be scary as this implies expecting each church to function properly in its role, as Christ intended (i.e. communities working together). Nonetheless, in order for Jesus’ teachings to be applied, we need to have more functional communities. Therefore, although the quality of community is inversely proportional to its quantity, it is (somewhat) directly proportional to the quantity of churches in existence; in other words, diversity is good within churches, but they need to remain “functional”, doing what they ought to be doing and not what they “believe” they should be doing.

  • I see this happening everywhere. We allow it to happen when we concern ourselves more with form than content. I this the 21st century is going to be an exciting time for The Church, but disastrous for the churches.

  • Every Sunday morning when I turn up at my church, I cannot help but see a building within which people with the best of intentions are hiding, whether they know it or not. Life goes on – quite often right past its front door – oblivious to or occasionally disdainful of the gathering. I’ve refrained from entering more than a few times for just that reason and spent the time more usefully.

    Reminds me so much of the old Petra song “Rose-Coloured Stained Glass Windows”. And it makes me sad.

  • Gary

    Some time ago I came to the conclusion that when Jesus was talking about entering through the narrow path He was referring to this very thing. I am not a believer in eternal conscious damnation so I think the destruction Jesus was referring to did not have to do with eternal condemnation but rather a life filled with destruction. I have come to believe organized religion is on the broad path of destruction. I know that is a harsh statement. But I just believe man’s religion misses the mark.

  • ccws

    …and the little voice in the back pew that said “How about if we try doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly…” got thrown overboard as soon as the ship started taking on water…