Pages

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Post-Restoration Hope #3: Mosaic

Be all things to all people, even the people who can’t figure out who they are.

Drop in on just about any Church of Christ or RM congregation and you will find a lot of people who look very much alike. Mostly the same race, mostly the same socio-economic level, mostly the same political leaning, mostly the same in a lot of ways. No one would say it out loud, but in these churches deviations from the prescribed way of doing things, being, and believing are cause for a remedy. I actually remember someone talking about (not to) an African-American fellow in a mostly white church say that “he was OK because he had been whitenized.” I’m not sure what it means to be whitenized or what processes one goes through accomplish this task, but I just can’t bring myself to think that it is all that good. Did he get bleached of his blackness? And is that better?

Anyway, I think the RM and C of C’s are guilty (by intention or by accident) of whitenizing, Republican-izing, money-izing, male-izing (OK, it’s getting’ weird now) the flock. Paul said he would be all things to all people, but the practice of the Church of Christ all too often has been the expectation that all people should become one thing – an exact reversal of the great desire and effort of Paul.

Paul sought to be all things to all people.
1Corinthians 9:20-23
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


But he also viewed people not according to their categories of distinction:
Galatians 3:28
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

At first glance, Paul seems at odds with himself. But a closer look would reveal that the reason he is seeking to be all things to all people is precisely because he does not elevate the distinctions between people to a level that matters. The more you think about it the more it makes sense. The more the distinctions do not matter, the less you risk by being something different for the sake of the gospel. On the other hand, when distinctions of these kinds do not matter, you take a greater risk because you highly offend the people for whom these distinction are foundational, essential, necessary for them to maintain their status. Race, gender, politics, SES, are all issues around which people gravitate for the sake of power and control. You risk less from the people different from you and risk more from the people who are the same as you. Sound familiar? Sounds like something Jesus did, a lot!!!

What Paul is seeking, I believe, is a mosaic. A larger beautiful picture made from smaller beautiful pictures.

It is now more important than ever to pursue this mosaic ideal Paul conveyed because the world can no longer be thought of as black and white (it never should have been). People these days wrestle with rather than embrace their old identities and are seeking and searching for new ones. This is true across the age span, but is more frequently true for the 30 and under crowd, maybe even the 35 and under crowd. There are lots of people who do not have a clue as to who they are and don’t like the options available to them at the social and spiritual identity buffet table. The world is going postmodern and rather than blame it, we need to engage it with the same posture that we in the RM did the modern. (OK, maybe not the same posture. We swallowed the modern era hook-line-and-sinker and that was a bit naïve).

Maybe what I am about to say is some kind of crazy-eyed dream (nightmare), but I think there is coming a day when churches which are comprised of only one kind will be seen as weird, weak, impoverished, inbred, wicked, hamstrung – or even severely handicapped, getting wheeled into the Kingdom of Heaven in the most pitiful of ways. Maybe, from heaven, they are already viewed that way.

10 comments:

TCS said...

First, I have to remember the poisonous snake in the house comment from yesterday! Second, I think you are correct that a time is coming, in fact is here, (hows that for sounding like Jesus) when churches that only "allow" people like us {PLU's} and not people like them {PLT's}will be seen as weaker. Some of that is we are being taught that diversity is a good thing. But often we CofC's have thrown the baby out with the bath water. I remember my father in law saying that a service was "just trying to be like the Methodists" because we had call and response readings. Some want to throw out all things PostModern and some want to throw out all things Modern... Logic was a god to the modern era, but was any era void of logic? getting too long, maybe I better go to my own corner and write. Enjoying your thoughts.

David U said...

I love your "mosaic" theme and thoughts!

Uniformity is for sure a high priority with many people. So is being distinct and unique from other believers.

Keep bloggin, bro!
DU

Keith Brenton said...

As children we sing "red and yellow, black and white," then as grown-ups we mumble "separate but equal." There's a "Mosaic Church" that meets near the UALR campus, and its name has a double meaning. The church is predominantly black, and the name recognizes Moses' leadership of Israel from slavery. But it also welcomes people of all races/colors to contribute to its "mosaic."

Eric said...

Uniformity is a plague that has eaten its way into the church. The church is designed to be the reflection and image of God on earth. What is God? God is inherently three-in-one, a unified diversity. The church must find a way to be that which it is, a 'mosaic' of humanity that is unified in the midst of its diversity (racially, ethinically, politically, theologically, etc.)

I love the three terms Cunningham uses to describe this in These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology. He concludes that the church must reflect the Triune God as it practices God's polyphony, participation, and particularity. Polyphonic is a musical term that refers to the bringing together of diverse sounds into one symphonic peice, the church unites in the midst of our differences so as to bring us together in the midst of our differences. Participation refers to the mutual intimate interaction between people that allows us both to know and to be known by those in the church. That kind of knowing brings us together as one body, united in our differences. Finally, particularity highlights the fact that we only really know and appreciate our own identity, as well as that of others, when we are able to bring ourselves along side those who are different. True unity highlights our differences, our particulatiry, just as the characteristics and beauty of an individual piece of colored glass is made more clear when it is found with others of varying colors in a mosaic.

Thank you for your challenging us all to continue to think about these things.

Finally, my wife and I recently moved to Lake Orion. I noticed in a previous post that your wife is from here. What church did she attend? Do you visit here periodically?

Fajita said...

Eric, nice post. Leonard Allen speaks of Trinitarian theology as possibly the most important thing lost by the RM and Churches of Christ.

My wife, Gail, attended the Lake Orion Church of Christ. Her folks moved to Arkansas several years ago, so we have not been up there in a long time.

Eric said...

Chris, I now work with Garth Pleasant at the Lake Orion church. It is a small work in the S-C Movement.

Grace, Eric

Fajita said...

I've met Garth and he's good guy. You've got a decent church up there. Make some good things happen, bro. Love the people and love God.

James said...

Amen, brother! Great post.

Eric said...

Chris, I now work with Garth Pleasant at the Lake Orion church. It is a small work in the S-C Movement.

Grace, Eric

Eric said...

Uniformity is a plague that has eaten its way into the church. The church is designed to be the reflection and image of God on earth. What is God? God is inherently three-in-one, a unified diversity. The church must find a way to be that which it is, a 'mosaic' of humanity that is unified in the midst of its diversity (racially, ethinically, politically, theologically, etc.)

I love the three terms Cunningham uses to describe this in These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology. He concludes that the church must reflect the Triune God as it practices God's polyphony, participation, and particularity. Polyphonic is a musical term that refers to the bringing together of diverse sounds into one symphonic peice, the church unites in the midst of our differences so as to bring us together in the midst of our differences. Participation refers to the mutual intimate interaction between people that allows us both to know and to be known by those in the church. That kind of knowing brings us together as one body, united in our differences. Finally, particularity highlights the fact that we only really know and appreciate our own identity, as well as that of others, when we are able to bring ourselves along side those who are different. True unity highlights our differences, our particulatiry, just as the characteristics and beauty of an individual piece of colored glass is made more clear when it is found with others of varying colors in a mosaic.

Thank you for your challenging us all to continue to think about these things.

Finally, my wife and I recently moved to Lake Orion. I noticed in a previous post that your wife is from here. What church did she attend? Do you visit here periodically?