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church abdicating mission

Recently attention has been drawn to Sci-Fi picking up the ball that the church is dropping.

Julie Clawson writes:

In many ways these fictions take up the task that the church has nearly completely abdicated. Churches don’t use their collective voice and energy to challenge the existence of a world where God’s ways are not allowed to reign. Oh, churches fight for their rights, but rarely are the ones helping build a better world for all. Churches instead help people feel fulfilled, spiritually connected, and generally as comfortable as they can. The church is often nothing more than a support group or vendor of experiences to help us feel like we belong. God is tacked-on to make our experiences feel meaningful, but not to challenge us to subvert the constraints to the sovereignty of the kingdom of God. So we go to church to feel connected to a tradition, we go to get an “I’m okay, you’re okay” affirmation, we go to hear why we are right and everyone else is wrong, we go to feel safe and secure amidst like-minded people — but rarely do we go to imagine how everything could be different. Dreaming of better world is apparently only for those sci-fi/fantasy geeks.

But it was the role of the biblical prophet to imagine alternative ways of living in this world that reflected the ways of God. As Walter Brueggemann wrote about the prophetic, it is “an assault on public imagination, aimed at showing that the present presumed world is not absolute, but that a thinkable alternative can be imagined, characterized, and lived in. … Thus, the prophetic is an alternative to a positivism that is incapable of alternative, uneasy with critique, and so inclined to conformity.

There are a number of other areas that might spring to mind:
films as presenting myths to live by…

Other areas which the church was more involved in and others are now picking this up:
hospitals, schools, social meeting, spirituality, care of the poor,…

What do you think?

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11 thoughts on “church abdicating mission”

  1. In some ways the Church has been pushed out of the traditional things it took responsibility for by secular Government.

    And some Churchmen have advocated for worldly socialistic Government programs.

    The world is a fallen place and there is no remaking it into the Garden of Eden, not by science, not by Government diktat

    The real truth it is individual Christians who can and do make the differences that really matter and this usually goes unseen – except by the Good Lord himself

    1. I guess there is also a third element, Andrei. Governments have been positively influenced by Christian tradition into also picking up part of the church’s mission. Blessings.

      1. Indeed they have Fr Bosco – the ending of slavery is a lovely illustration of that.

        A few years ago a woman stabbed her husband who was disabled by a stroke – he survived but in the court evidence was produced she was at the end of her tether with it all. She got off.

        The person who told me about this was a neighbor and she said “why couldn’t the Government have done something before it came to this?” or words to that effect.

        Who might have been in a better position to see things were wrong and “do something” do you suppose?

  2. having just heard Paul Farmer speak, I have a new understanding of “failure of imagination”–and it’s not just institutional imagination, it’s my own. Part of me clings to tradition, but the prophetic voice is tradition, too.

  3. I wonder if some people in the Church (like, for example, me :-/) are just saying “The prophetic task is very important, but it just looks weird to outsiders! (See: Ezekiel 😀 ) If I’m a prophet, and no one even pays attention to me, am I a prophet? What good is that?”

    How should I answer myself?

    1. An interesting thought, Matt. I wonder if you could unpack it a bit more with maybe some examples – they don’t have to be too personal, you could make up the sort of thing you mean.

  4. ‘Tradition’ will always be a problem. It divides, and will never conquer. But, as the pyramid reaches its apex, who is there?

    When it comes to various traditions, think of the base of the pyramid and all of the conflicting issues that arise between the faiths. Climb the pyramid and, as you reach the apex, there is only one omnipotent power, one God, one Master and Saviour, who died so that each one of us might be forgiven and saved. The apex: the place where no conflict arises.

  5. I wonder how much you can be “pushed out of” anything you’re doing exceptionally well?

    Regarding Sci-Fi, apparel and places that look different are part of it, but so many churches are trying to look boringly secular. It’s not just Sci-Fi either. Costume, ritual and ambience play a part in a number of current ways of engaging with a community beyond oneself. They are tools to say, “We are different, an elective few, a counterculture”. They are tools to communicate solidarity and to remind of objectives and shared experiences.

    Just as the church must not overvalue tradition and appearance, neither must we undervalue them. These things send many messages we cannot afford to abandon, and often do so in visible ways in a very visual age.

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