Can you really leave church?
I love Barbara Brown Taylor. I love her sermons. I love her magical use of words. She's the kind of preacher that I aspire to be. Or at least, I did... until I read her new book. Now, I'm not so sure.
Don't you hate when your bubble gets burst and suddenly your heroes aren't so fantastic? I felt guilty about this until I had dinner with my friend Sarah last week. She had also just finished Taylor's new book. And we both laughed over our sangria as we shrugged and said, "Eh. Not so great."
Taylor has a couple brilliant insights, one that I actually use in a sermon below. But, it's not what I hope for. It's not what I want to hear right now. It actually kinda pisses me off that it is suddenly ok to leave church. I admit that I have a bias. I'm entering into the church. I'm just beginning. It's all fresh and new and I want prefection. But, when church isn't shiny and new, do we really throw in the towel? Maybe that's not fair. That's not exactly what Talyor does. She understands a new calling to teach, which is something that I think our churches need to understand. As clergy, we need to be attentive to the fact that God is still speaking. God is calling us to do something new, hopefully. And sometimes, that's not in the church. But, church gets in you. You can never leave the church. And I feel like Taylor misses that point.
Progressive Christians have a tendency to complain about institutions. The church is not what should be. Sure. We all know that. It should be living closer into Jesus' teachings, but we are the whole people of God, struggling with the fact that we have different understandings of how things should be. There are bound to be problems. There are going to be issues that prevent us from moving forward -- wherever that might be. But, when church (or other insitutions, like say government) fail us, do we leave them? Do we become outsiders? Or do we sit down at the table with the whole people of God and ask serious questions -- prayerful, hopeful questions -- about where we should be going? Or do we just leave?
I'm not sure that this is really fair to Taylor. I can't help that I'm tainted by my own opinions. It makes it hard for me to understand where she is coming from. But then again, as my friend Sarah said, her theology is just not where mine lies. We don't see the same vision of Jesus. And perhaps this is the very problem. Perhaps this is the same reason that I struggle with some evangelical organizations -- Christian organizations pushing toward prophetic action. But, I can't help but wonder about their theology. Does it matter? I don't know.