I like the click-and-imagine world of the Internet. Read an ad, visit a web site, click on a product, imagine its value to me, usually do nothing, but still enjoy imagining. The Apple web site, for example, is a frequent venue for my imagining.
Faith involves a fair amount of imagining, too. Imagine God, imagine being in a relationship with God, imagine God’s taking one’s burdens, imagine finding faith-friends, as opposed to, say, work-friends, imagine feeling whole. These are the imaginings that drive us into faith communities.
As I see it, faith isn’t about definitions or rules or institutions. Faith is an invitation to dream along with God. Faith is brave enough to see reality, but confident enough to imagine more.
FAITH Q & A
Q: With what the mainline church is offering today, why should a Christian spend energy and resources in a church rather than fighting injustice in their communities and world? A dollar or a minute spent in the current state of the mainline church is not money or time spent on fighting social injustice. The teaching of Jesus seems to be fighting injustice not arguing over dogma and building and maintaining beautiful edifices.
A: I understand your dismay. Many feel it, especially when they encounter a congregation that serves itself with great zeal and has nothing left over for the needs of others.
I am mindful, however, that “the mainline church” is a vast and diverse assembly, whose millions of constituents and thousands of congregations simply can’t be lumped into a single sentence. I have known congregations that gave everything they had for the needs of others – doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly with God – and spent only the minimum on themselves. If you saw the whole through that lens, you might be overjoyed at what God has wrought.
Most congregations, of course, exist in that awkward middle place between utter graciousness and utter depravity. When they feel confident and bold, they do amazing things and fulfill every wish you might have for a faith community. When they fall under the spell of fearful leaders, they close the spigot of self-sacrificial love and become a mockery.
The issue, it seems to me, is fear. A fear-driven church cannot give itself away. The challenge to church leaders, then, is to combat fear, to name it as a primary faith issue, to look fear in the face and will oneself to boldness.
FROM LAURA PASKELL-BROWN
My inbox has been tyrannizing me of late. The main trouble is the sheer volume; one thing you can’t accuse Occupy Wall Street of is producing too few emails. But it’s also that I feel so split over how I should be spending my time.
As my eye scans the ever-increasing stream of possible events - meetings, protests, assemblies, planning sessions, concerts - my head yells “You don’t have time for this! You have work to do, goals to reach.” Which is true, except that it’s also beside the point.
Ask me why I do any of the things I do - my PhD, my teaching, my writing - and I will tell you the goal is to contribute to a better world. So why am I letting the things I do to create a better world get in the way of my participation in a movement that is seeking to create a better world?
Speaking recently at OWS, Naomi Klein said “Treat this movement like it’s the most important thing in the world, because it is.” So for now, though I have other stuff to do, I guess I’m going to follow my advice from last week: I’m just going to keep showing up.
Laura Paskell-Brown is a young friend who speaks thoughtfully and from a perspective that is different from mine. She contributes to this blog from time to time.