The Multipersonality Disorder of the American Church

Multipersonality Disorder – A disorder characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states.

Disclaimer: I have had multiple drafts of this post.  When my communications/writing major daughter read through it she commented that the post was obviously connected to my experience locally.  She felt it was not objective enough to just be a neurtral treatise (whatever that may mean – but it sounds scholarly, right?).  

I thought about that a lot and I imagine none of us are truly neutral.  If we were neutral, we would be pretty BORING.  We would be like robots, cogs in a wheel.  If we are to have opinions and be passionate about any issue, we must have personal experience with the content.  My personal experience with this content is my local congregation and others we have attended in the past, both while church “shopping” and visiting friends and family in different parts of the country.  I don’t think the experience is unique to my local congregation.

As stated in one of my all time favorite movies, “Write what you know.”  So, I shall, with this rather long disclaimer.

We don’t know who we are.  How can we expect to be any sort of compass to a world in terror & confusion when we ourselves are confused?  I’m talking specifically about what some might call the “Order of Worship” on any given Sunday. (Although my apologist friend may argue that we are very confused about what we actually believe and why – but that’s for another post, or for me to point you to his blogs.  Check it out!)

This confusion is not good for people like me.  Magpies who are easily distracted by shiny things.

We don’t have a plumb line.  There is nothing grounding from week to week that is ritual and meaningful.  We try so hard to be relevant to everyone that we end up being spastic and the Order of Service ends up feeling haphazard.  I know that is not the intention.  I’m not discussing people’s intention or their desire to make it meaningful. And I know that quite a bit of trial and error goes into creating the flow of a service.  That is not in doubt in my mind, at least when it comes to my local congregation.

I believe there is value in ritual – even if we end up just going through the motions.  In fact, I believe that may be the point.  The beauty is in the ritualistic part of the ritual.  The beauty is the fact that we have done it so many times we could do it in our sleep.  We can participate when this crazy life is so insane and we can’t think straight; and precisely because it’s a ritual, we can still participate.  The beauty and mystery of it is that even when we just mumble along with the words and ‘go through the motions’, the words or actions are still keeping those neural pathways open in the brain and connected to the meaning of the words or actions, particularly when we find it hard to remember what we’re saying or doing or why.  

It can be as simple as a paragraph or scripture that we repeat as a congregation every. single. service.  
It can be as elaborate as celebrating the great mystery and intimacy of communion every. single. service

Instead our churches are filled with a buffet of styles to choose from, and sometimes that buffet is offered up during a SINGLE Sunday service!

We are trying too hard because we think we are losing the next generation.  The leadership reads all kinds of theology books, studies, and polls about why people are leaving, why people are staying, what supposedly works, what supposedly doesn’t work, etc. We try to appeal to the dissenters.* Those within and without our church who throw accusations at us so as to put us on the back foot; such as:

  1. “The church is full of hypocrites!”  Well, duh!  It’s full of humans.  
  2. “The church doesn’t meet my needs.”  Boo-hoo.  Maybe you’re supposed to meet someone else’s need.
  3. “I can’t find a church that does things they way I think they should be done.”  Umm…there is no perfect church (see #1)

I know, I know.  You see my list and say to me “Duh! Is she really this thick?” YES, I am; but I get it.  Remember, this blog is so I can talk to myself without raising eybrows at the grocery store.  

The church is full of souls who have no idea how to live life, how to be a friend, how to move beyond those shallow conversations.  None of us have it together, although some pretend like they do.  I try to ignore these folks; but the more I try, the more I notice.  Hmmm…

The church should be a safe place where we can bare our struggles in community and I believe that ritual can help us be just that.  Something to cling to, something familiar.  Familiarity can breed comfortableness. You can  argue that familiarity breeds complacency, perhaps…in some.  But, I believe that those finding meaning in the ritual will far outweigh those who become complacent.  There will always be weeds in the church.  Jesus tells us so (Matt. 13:24-30).  

“Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.  Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth.  We might just create sanctuary.” – Rachel Held Evans in Searching for Sunday

We can tell the truth in the ritual.  When we…say, recite the Beatitudes every Sunday in unison – that becomes telling the truth; to ourselves and each other.  Frankly, I don’t need another worship leader trying to force spiritual meaning on me from his life during the previous week: what God told him through a gas station fill up nozzle.  I need Jesus infusing meaning into my life from the coporate acts of speaking His Words out loud, from sharing communion with my brothers and sisters.  It’s when we are vulnerable that we find meaning.  Ritual allows for vulnerability because our minds are free from worrying about watching the screen to read what to say next or whose turn it is the speak – the leader or me? – and instead we can say the words by heart and our souls can be vulnerable and feel the balm and notice the hurting soul beside us.  

“And he opened his mouth and taught them saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Imagine!  EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY! At the same time, no matter what.  Then, imagine that followed by communion! 

Peace to you!! xx

*ADD moment:  I appreciate the plethora of books about church written by women and men much smarter than me.  People who have degrees and lots of capital letters after their names, but I think that the people in their churches might benefit from our pastors reading books like:

The Idiot by Fydor Dostoyevsky

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

The Cantebury Tales by Chaucer

The Aeneid by Virgil (The Lind translation is best, in my opinion)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (seriously any thing written by Wendell Berrry, seriously)

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

The Office of Assertion by Scott Crider

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Norms and Nobility by David Hicks

Evensong by Gail Gibbons

and just for fun

May B. by  Caroline Starr Rose

Currently, I believe the best books for a time such as this in the American Church are (and it’s precisely because these two titles/authors may seem incongruous to one another that they are beneficial):

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

A Weed in the church by Scott Brown

This post does NOT contain affliliate links.  Alas, I wish it did 🙂

In Which I Discuss Blogging

I haven’t blogged for a while.  I suppose I haven’t had much to say – yeah, right.

There are several reasons for this.  I won’t deny that I’ve just ignored it because it’s easier.  It’s hard to put out quality content on a regular basis.  That’s the case for me, at least.

For me, Blogs come and go.  I can only think of ONE that I still read on a quasi-regular basis since I started reading blogs.  A big reason is my season of life (whatever that means).  However, another reason has increasingly made itself clear.

Marketing and Advertisers have stuck their noses into blogs and where it used to take a limited amount of time to read a post and gain insight, the addition of so many ads makes it a long drawn out process.  Sites won’t load content until all the sidebar ads are loaded and by then I’ve wasted time and it’s not worth the read anymore – don’t even get me started on the ones who have imbedded (sometimes vidoe gif) ads which make the actual post look as if a blanket has been thrown over it so you MUST click the X when you can find it to get back to reading the content.  I’m not a blog purist I just don’t need an ad for Disney every two paragraphs.  I’ve been to Disney and it’s not all that (unless you like being jostled on all side by that older set of parents with completely out of control toddlers).  But I digress…

If your blog attracts the attention of the Big Dogs and they want to send you on vacations so you can blog about their stuff, great for you.  However, even though you claim that your opinions are not influenced by their generosity, I can’t believe that.  Behind every Blog is a human – and humans like to have money to spend.  If a Business comes along and makes it possible to earn money while sitting in a coffee shop typing your opinion, then “Bully for you”!

So, if, and it’s a huge IF, my little blog somehow earns attention in the future for some reason and I get catapulted into the “writing a blog for money” category, I will accept that opportunity.  But I won’t delude myself or you into thinking that my opinion is not affected by the money or product sent my way.

I realize we have made marketers go this route. We don’t (if we have any brains in our bodies) pay for cable or satellite.  Oops, I forgot, this is a blog originating from America…but, increasingly, we turn to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, etc for our entertainment.  They have to find other ways to sell us their product.  Because if I’m not told to buy this brand of over and over again on a blog, then how will I survive?

I’ve also noticed another trend with bloggers.  Blogging at some point is not enough. They move onto books.  Some are authors who use blogging as a platform to write really good books (I’ve read several).  Some are just bloggers who try to write a book (I’ve suffered through way too many…in e-book form…for a small fee).  If you are a student of their blog or even just a casual sometimes readers you will notice quite quickly that their “book” is just a compilation of blogs they have already written.  Sometimes they don’t even change the wording to make it at least sound like a new thought.

Who am I kidding?  I’m just envious.  I have good ideas.  I have a quick wit.  I can be profound at times.  Yet….my blog is stuck in the wasteland.  I suppose that’s my fault.  I could market it; shop it to advertisers; join affiliate programs; promote it ad nauseum on social networking sites.  But I won’t.

I write this because I talk to myself and that can be embarrassing.  With a blog, I can do that without causing raised eyebrows.

So, I’ll continue to read those 2-3 blogs I enjoy and dabble in others if they are worth my time.  Unfortunately, if the blog is held hostage by ads, I close it and move on with my day.

What blogs continue to hold my interest, the ones I eagerly read?

Modern Mrs. Darcy
Amongst Lovely Things
Your Welcome 🙂