Monday, February 15, 2010

This Grieves My Heart

I thought this post by one of our law enforcement bloggers deserved a full treatment, because it speaks to a weakness of both our American church and our American culture. We don't know how to give help. We don't know how to ask for help.

Link is here, from "Officer Smith: Thoughts From Behind the Badge" but I am going to put it right here in this entry so you can read it and weep--especially if you are a Christian.

I'm a bit torqued off lately.
I have an uncle who has been in the hospital for some time, and tends to slip back and forth from doing well to doing poorly.

My aunt regularly posts updates of his condition on Facebook. Reading her posts, I can tell she is having a really rough time of it, and I wish I lived closer so I could actually do something. I would like to be able to go over once or twice a week and just give her a day off of caring for him. A break. A minute or two of freedom.

Unfortunately, I live too far away to be of regular use to her.

What bothers me is the comments left on her posts by the members of their church congregation. These supposed "friends" who actually DO live in the area. Do these "religious" people offer to help? Do they offer to pitch in for even one day? An hour? Do they offer any sort of physical, tangible help?


They say "We're praying for you."

They say "You're in our hearts and minds."

They say "May God give you the strength you need during these trying times."

Goddamnit, my aunt has plenty of strength. What she needs is not prayer. What she needs is a hand now and then. There area a hundred-something members of their church. If one a day stepped up to help, they would only have to do so once every three months.

But no. These people are so fucking full of themselves that they can't be bothered to provide any sort of physical assistance to their "brother".

Remind me again why I haven't gone to church since I was a kid...

I cannot tell you how much this blog post grieves my heart. Not to excuse anybody from Officer Smith's aunt's church for their failure, but it is more complicated than this, which in many ways makes it even sadder. It means that important aspects of the Gospel message have not been completely transformative.

Giving help requires two participants: A willing helper and a receiving helpee. Christians often fail on both counts. We are often good at the "mouth help"--the "We'll pray for you." and the "If you need anything, just call." We are not good at doing concrete things to give help and the "mouth help" feeds the false independence that some American Christians exhibit. We are afraid to show that we are not perfect, not perfectly strong--we put on the "Yes, yes, everything's fine." face for the gang at church. We don't feel safe enough emotionally at our churches to show that well, we could use a real hand with things right about now. Our American culture, with its stress on independence and self reliance, also makes it hard for us to accept help.

However, this does not excuse the lack of help. Sometimes, you have to come on strong, and step in and give help even when it seems it is not totally welcome. People are very afraid of offending. "What if I help and the person gets mad?" Not terribly likely, really. Think about it, you give competent help, and someone gets mad. Does that even sound sane? No, actually, it sounds like an excuse.

We fail the gospel and God then in two ways: one, we have not created a community that feels safe enough for its members to admit hurts and needs. Two, we have not created a community that actively helps the hurting and needy without reservation. The Church Universal is said to be Jesus Christ on earth, to represent Him, until His return. We fail in that mission when we do not help each other and carry each others' burdens. We need to repent of this failure--admit we've failed and ask God's forgiveness; then in the strength of the Holy Spirit move on, and do what we know is right, what is biblical, and what is Christlike.

Finally, that last sentence. This grieves my heart especially. How can a person see the true nature of Christ, and the wonderful life changing salvation through Him when the Church is in the way? Even for the mature Christian, the Church can get in the way of understanding God's love, with unchristlike conflicts and divisions. Imagine you are seeking, and trying to understand. Imagine you are a young person--with the young's idealism and unerring radar for hypocrisy--looking at the Church. The Church will never be perfect--it is run by finite humans. We, the church, must repent of our lovelessness, judgment, condemnation and laziness. We must ask for the Holy Spirit for help in doing what we know is right. We must make our churches safe places for hurting and needy human beings. We must be Jesus' hands and feet, giving the cup of water in His name. We must continually look to the Lord Jesus Christ as our example. That way, the Church will never obscure the view of the Savior.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
You are hitting all my zap points just lately!

Maybe a substantive comment later,
Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T

Looking forward either way.

Thanks for reading along!

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Once I get into specifics, it blows up into a magnum opus.

Basically, I have a history of searching for a spiritual home. Continually I find myself treated as a person--and acting as a better person--on a no-church, no-dogma path. It enables me to activate my own conscience without added distraction and cuts my judgmentalism down significantly.

I'm always glad to find anyone who's trying to live an examined life, in whatever discipline, however, which is why I enjoy your posts.

Ann T.