Sunday, March 06, 2016

Just STOP It!



We live in a culture that divides and divides and divides again.  We are in a season in which we are seeing it in our politics to a sickening degree, where the anger and hatred on either side of the aisle continues to give rise to the very worst of us.  It can be disheartening, it can be discouraging, it can be disillusioning.  

Buying into it in all areas of life, we allow folks of prominence, be it quite notable or of a lesser variety, to "other-ize" us.  It seems we are never quite as happy as we are when we can finger-point and prove how superior our way of thinking is.

What words can I use to describe how I feel upon reading what I am about to share with you?  Would appalled work?  Disgusted beyond belief?  Stymied or flummoxed?  How about chagrined or filled with great sorrow?  

It seems now we have a new war on the Christian battlefield, and no, it is not about the abortion debate, and no, it is not about gay marriage, and no, it is not about progressive versus conservative versus orthodox.  

No...wait for it....wait for it...this is a biggie...we have created an entirely new, fathomless war about whether taking your child to a mega church is selfish or not.

You heard me right, yes, we now have to decide whether or not we are good and faithful parents based upon the size of the church we attend, and whether or not it has a large enough youth group to support both a middle and senior high youth.

Absurd?  You betcha', as Sarah Palin might say.  Here is the video clip from renown pastor, Andy Stanley, as he chastises parents who don't provide their sons and daughters the opportunity to attend a mega-church:


Here is a transcript of the key piece:

"When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”

Essentially, what Pastor Stanley is saying is don't attend a church that teaches your child to hate church, and he is saying that as he is personally hating on churches that are not like his own.  Oooookkkkaayyyy...logical?  Not.  

So let's move on, and make sure we include more ridiculousness, as we present a counterpoint to the above offered by Jonathan Aigner as shared on Patheos.com, in which he writes an open letter with five reasons why Stanley's perspective is wrong, and why mega-churches are misguided choices for helping keep your children on the Christian path:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2016/03/03/dont-take-your-kids-to-a-megachurch-an-open-letter-to-andy-stanley/

Dear Lord, save us from ourselves!!

I sit here shaking my head in disbelief and dismay.  When are we going to get it?  

No wonder contemporary parenthood feels so discouraging and parents become apathetic.  They can't even escape the Mommy Wars at church, it is just sugar coated and dressed up in a big ol' cross.

It doesn't matter whether you attend mass in a cathedral, or pray in a mosque.  It doesn't matter if you wear a yarmulke or a burka.  It doesn't matter if you are a humanist or an atheist.  And it certainly doesn't matter if you attend a large or a small church, with or without a youth group.

What matters is that you spend time together as a family seeking a spiritual path that speaks to your values and understanding of the world.  What matters is that you are together, that you are recognizing the existence of something much larger than yourselves and you model walking through the world in a way that exhibits humility, kindness, and gratitude.  What matters is that the spiritual parts of ourselves are explored and not ignored.

Are we really going to devolve into arguing about the attendance numbers at our churches?

No wonder kids walk away from the church.

This morning we worshiped in a service with 20ish or so souls present.  We sang together, three of our five participated in worship as they stood and shared announcements or led prayer.  One sat grinning a mile wide when he patted the seat he had been saving next to him for an almost 70 year old friend.  In that service, there were no less than 5 adults who have helped educate our kids as we homeschool, who have given of themselves and invested their time in them.  There were those the kids have helped with various tasks, as they have learned about the joy of service both by having it modeled, and by reflecting that modeling back.

Church attendance strengthens our family unit, it provides us with a unifying set of morals and beliefs, and it helps us be in relationship with a God we understand in a variety of ways. It binds us to a community where we belong, and it is a place where we can ask the hard questions of life.

We are being spiritually fed in a way that works for us, we are being drawn deeper into life affirming relationships, and we are safe to be who we are.

That's what matters!  Youth group or no youth group, mega church or micro church, Christian or Humanist Group, what matters is that you are making the effort to help your kids develop their inner selves, and you are alongside them as they do so, talking and sharing,  showing them that it matters to you as well, explaining why you pursue the Holy yourself.

JUST STOP IT!!

Quit proclaiming your superiority for all, quit pushing your agenda, quit adding voices to the cacophony that already tells us all we aren't doing a good enough job, and increasing the volleys in the Mommy Wars.  

And listen mom or dad...don't buy into this crap.  Give your kids a spiritual foundation that best suits you.  Help them understand the need for an awareness of the existence of suffering and encourage them to try and leave a little mark in the world.  Use whatever community you can, large or small, to come alongside you and support you in that endeavor.  Absolve yourself of undeserved guilt, and keep on being present to your child.

Grab the ear plugs and cast aside the doubt.  Trust me, God doesn't care one way or the other.

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