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The Underground Church of the West


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#1 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 06:45 PM



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The church through history has hurt more people than it has loved and won more wars than hearts. It's painful to think about; but it's history, right? We can't change it. What then do we do if we realise that today is tomorrow's history? That maybe there's still time to change it? Will the war in Iraq be viewed as we now see the Vietnam war in future years? Will the errors of the modern church become more evident in a couple of centuries? I know that the underground church in the East undergoes real suffering. That it forced out of sight to preserve its freedom from the control of government run churches and to escape persecution. My question is this: Does such a church exist in the west? Not a people who undergo such extremes of suffering, as say those in China, but a people who have no home in the modern day church as it stands... Freethinking Artists: In need of a loose structure and space to be themselves.Seekers of genuine friendship: Tired of keeping up appearances.The broken and damaged: Finding they are brushed under the carpet with textbook answers that provide little comfort.The burnt out: Have served themselves dry and found that the church is disappointed that they lack the strength to continue.Lovers of the world: Delight in the beauty of their existence and want to engage with the world they live in, have non-christian friends, burn barriers between religion and reality, sacred and secular.Facilitators of Change: See the fresh movements of God's spirit in the world and want to follow without being held back by structure and tradition that lacks relevance. I leave no space here for those who think that the world exists to revolve around them and that they have the right to put their feet up and have the church cater to their every need. I speak of those who want an outlet for their love. Who understand that God is love. Who know that where there is no love, there is no God. Those whose patience with loveless Christians who claim to know God has run dry; completely dry... I believe that the kingdom of God can be stifled by institution. That when it is pushed down it bursts up in unusual places. That when it appears to have died; seeds will spring up. That it is unstoppable. However, there is one thing that it cannot be, and that is ugly. It cannot be brash, or gaudy, or selfish, or condemning, or false; saying one thing and thinking another. It cannot give and expect anything in return, or give and not enjoy doing so. It cannot, indeed, live without enjoying doing so. I believe, sadly, that the church is not the same thing as the kingdom of God.

#2 mrmando

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 06:56 PM

The church through history has hurt more people than it has loved and won more wars than hearts.

Debatable.

Paragraph breaks are your friend.

Edited by mrmando, 17 May 2011 - 06:56 PM.


#3 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 07:16 PM

Sorry about the paragraphs. I pasted it and tried and failed to put them in.

You are the first person to reply to any of my posts. The first response to my attempts at being open about my feelings and opinions. I have tried recently to go back to church but no one bothers to connect with me. Hiding instead behind flashy worship and playing quiz games in home groups. I see this forum as somewhere I hope to be able to connect with people in openness. It had, until your comments, given me hope. I plead with you to be gentle with me and not to shoot me down. I'm clutching onto straws here. Seriously.

#4 mrmando

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 10:13 PM

OK. I may bark but I don't bite.

I like the image you posted ... is that your artwork?

No question that many people, including artists, have acquired wounds in their interactions with the church. But: 1) there are churches that embrace the arts; 2) churches need all the artists they can get, so I don't necessarily support the idea of artists going underground, at least not long-term. It may be necessary to withdraw for a while, of course ... or to consider checking out what other churches, i.e., denominations you're not familiar with, may have to offer.

Broad generalizations like your first sentence tend to get my dander up. As the Bard noted, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with the bones." So too with the church -- I doubt its bad works outnumber its good ones, even though they make a bigger impression and are easier to enumerate. Besides, "the church" is such an enormous and far-flung organism that any generalization made about it is likely to be useless.

Most of the regulars here are connected with a church in a completely above-ground way. You may well find some of the support you need, but you will also find people who challenge your assumptions. Statements like "burn barriers between religion and reality, sacred and secular" and "want to follow without being held back by structure and tradition that lacks relevance" will need to be carefully unpacked. They both sound appealing, of course, but whether I support them would depend on what you mean by them.

Engagement here is often rigorous, but not meant to be taken personally. If someone here disagrees with me, it doesn't mean he is out to crush me. In fact, if I keep my mind as open as I like to think it is, I may actually benefit from the experience.

#5 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:01 AM

Thank you. It is my artwork.

I agree with what you say. I don't necesarily agree with all that I said. I wrote it a while back and I guess how I feel about things changes from day to day :)

I love that you talk about keeping an open mind and to consider other denonimations. It is refreshing when people talk like that. I'm going to an Anglican church from time to time now... there is a Woman Vicar with a wicked sense of humour. My mind is very open at the moment; perhaps even too much so...

What did you think when I said that Church and the kingdom of God are not necessarily the same thing? Do you thing that's true? Or maybe something that isn't black and white?

#6 Andy Whitman

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:47 AM

First, welcome Tuesday. Even though it's Wednesday.

The Church is a big and varied place. So while I think that some of your statements are true for some portions of the Church, there are many, many counter-examples to your claims. The Church has played a major role in fomenting wars and divisions, engaging in internal wrangling, and wallowing in judgement, censure, and condemnation. But it has also played a major role in abolishing slavery in England and America, founding hospitals, anchoring the American Civil Rights movement, caring for orphans and widows, and providing immeasurable material, emotional, and spiritual support for millions of people for two thousand years. The Church has done all those things.

I can honestly say that my local instantiation of the wider Church is a place that welcomes freethinking artists, seekers of genuine friendship, the broken and damaged, the burned out, those who want to engage the culture around them, and facilitators of change. I’m fairly certain that I fit into most if not all of those categories, and I’m sure that many people here would say the same things about their local churches.

In other words, I’m sympathetic to your views. I just think you slightly overstate them. :) Look, it’s easy to bash the Church. There are many reasons to do so. I get it. But I, for one, am very, very thankful for the Church. I came into the Church, and I remain in the Church, as a freethinking artist who is very much broken and damaged, burned out on black-and-white thinking and easy labels and judgement (both the judgement that others have placed on me, and the judgement that I have placed on others), sick of rules and doctrines and trying to do Christianity, and very ready for genuine friendship and real healing, yearning for authenticity, longing for consistency between beliefs and actions, and longing for the courage and openness to admit it when I’ve screwed up and when my actions haven’t conformed to my beliefs. And I have found those things. In Church, of all places. It happens. I hope it happens for you, because it sounds like that’s what you want.

It happens here, too, surprisingly often. This isn’t Church. This is just pixels. But many of the people here want what you want. And I hope this can be a place where those unmet needs can be met in an imperfect but substantial way.

#7 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:20 AM

Does such a church exist in the west? Not a people who undergo such extremes of suffering, as say those in China, but a people who have no home in the modern day church as it stands...

Allow me to highly recommend Michael Spencer's Mere Churchianity - his entire book is pretty much devoted to answering your question.

#8 M. Leary

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:41 AM

The End of Evangelicalism is also very helpful.

#9 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 10:21 AM

I'm not trying to be trite or condescending--it is a text only medium, so it's not easy to fully communicate. What I've seen to be more often true than not for new participants to get real engagement is for them to participate on other threads first, before starting their own--especially starting a thread with a generalized complaint of the "church". I think if one spent a little time exploring and participating in other threads, esp ones already similar to the thread one wants to start, it builds a little bit of a relationship with the board. Otherwise, it's easy to come across as spam, or troll-like behaviour. I'll be honest--when I saw a link in your original post, I immediately thought, this is a spam link or a virus link. But if I see a link from someone who's new but has participated elsewhere, I don't have that worry. Just my $0.02 on maximizing your experience here.

#10 Greg P

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 10:41 AM

I'm not trying to be trite or condescending--it is a text only medium, so it's not easy to fully communicate. What I've seen to be more often true than not for new participants to get real engagement is for them to participate on other threads first, before starting their own--especially starting a thread with a generalized complaint of the "church".

I think this is an ideal attitude to have when joining a congregation as well...

You are the first person to reply to any of my posts. The first response to my attempts at being open about my feelings and opinions. I have tried recently to go back to church but no one bothers to connect with me. Hiding instead behind flashy worship and playing quiz games in home groups. I see this forum as somewhere I hope to be able to connect with people in openness. It had, until your comments, given me hope. I plead with you to be gentle with me and not to shoot me down. I'm clutching onto straws here. Seriously.

Tuesday --forgive the analysis- but it's likely that your initial approach to people in a church setting is what alienates you, not your passionate ideals per se. Having said that, welcome to the group.

#11 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:46 PM

I like you people. I do really.

I'll read the books you recommended.

I know my attitude to church is pretty screwed up. Was good to hear good things said about it. Especially the historical stuff. I'm pretty hurt and am frustrated that wounds take so long to heal... 7 years ago I left the mission field after 5 years in South America with a bad case of burnout. Thought I'd be OK in 12 months, but nope. The journey's long and uphill it seems.

Sorry for posting before joining in with other posts a little more, that was obnoxious. But born more out of desperation that arrogance. But I'm teachable and admit mistakes quickly. Really hoping to learn alot from you all...

#12 mrmando

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:58 PM

What did you think when I said that Church and the kingdom of God are not necessarily the same thing?

I think there's some overlap, but obviously the kingdom of God entails the church reaching beyond its walls to take action within the world at large. Furthermore, it's possible for churches, or people within churches, to lose track of their priorities. Not everything a church does will automatically or necessarily further the kingdom of God.

I've always liked Kierkegaard's distinction between Christianity and Christendom.

#13 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 02:17 PM

I've always liked Kierkegaard's distinction between Christianity and Christendom.

Me too

Looked into the books (Amazon) The one about evangelicalism was a little over my budget (I am a poor artist, and my husband is in a band) I liked the look of Mere Churchianity, but then read this review:

"for those who have been hurt by their experience in the local church, my concern is that this book would become a tool to nurture any lingering resentment that may exist in their hearts."

I want to read things that challenge me to change, not make me sit smugly in my eronious mentality.

'I started reading church, why bother' by Yancey... but didnt get too far.

I need to finish the stripping away of my old view of religion and to start to write new things on the page of mind - which now sits, somewhat awkwardly, blank.

So, what should I read?

Thank you for your patience with me!

#14 Attica

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:16 AM

Hi Goodnight Tuesday.

You had mentioned that you were attending an Anglican church from time to time.

FWIW I had attended Evangelical churches with a slight charismatic leaning for over a decade, and was often frustrated with with
the lack of understanding of the arts, or desire to engage with the arts and especially with "secular" artists (I'm not as inclined to make as clear of
as distinction as some). In saying this I'm of course only talking about the Christian communities in which I had walked, and can't speak for
every evangelical community.

I'm now attending an Anglican church, after looking into several Anglican communities, and have found that these particular communities
are more open to the arts. My educated hunch is that Christian traditions that entertain a more sacramental worldview are more likely
to be interested in the arts, and God speaking through art. This is of course generally speaking.

Yet the thing is.... when I look back at my days in the evangelical movement I can say that there were things in this that
helped me in my Christian walk, even though some stuff didn't sit right with me. I guess I'm starting to realize
a bit of charity in this. Sometimes artistic leaning Christians can feel frustrated with, misunderstood, or ostracized by certain
Christian communities, but that doesn't always mean that some of these communities don't have valuable things to offer us. Some of them are
forward thinking, according to the gifts and personalities they were given, and many of them are trying to care for the burnt out ect. according to their
understanding.

I realize now that they often were not doing it in the ways that I would do it. I think it often comes down to different personalities, giftings and
callings.

As well, it's reassuring to note that an inclination towards caring for similar concerns as yours has been steadily growing within Christianity (North American
anyhow) in the last 10 or so years.

Oh and I think your artwork is great.

A couple of good books to read are

- He Loves Me! Learning to Live in the Father's Affection [Paperback]
Wayne Jacobsen (Author)

and


-The Power of the Blood Covenant: Uncover the Secret Strength of God's Eternal Oath [Paperback]


These really touch on the love of God in a very non-legalistic and freeing way, yet also still being Biblically grounded and Christian rooted.

Hope this helps.

Edited by Attica, 31 May 2011 - 04:08 AM.


#15 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 12:54 AM

Boy do I sympathise with the missionfield burnout and resultant spiritual ennui. Oh, and feeling out of place in a fellowship. My father left the field early due to the benefit of a contract clause not adjusted (term lengths changed by custom and not contract clause during our secend term) on pain of a nervous breakdown if term was completed. That was a long time ago and it took him almost twenty years to get back on track.

Hey, if books, or a book helps you get your balance back, great. That never worked for me. Sooner or later you and God will get in synch as you try to reach out to Him. Don't let fellowships and parishes define what you are looking for. And never expect humanity in any guise, or form to bring all of the answers either. Heh, venting here will probably be more healthy than where you worship as well. Keep it coming.

#16 Goodnight Tuesday

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 02:55 PM

Thanks. Those last two posts have encouraged me to continue visiting this site.

It's a funny thing feeling 'needy' and being transparent about it. It's something I've never been before. I find that when people sense this about someone, they tend to back away, asuming that the person is a trouble causer after attention. Thanks for not doing this, you may have saved me from a future in crime...

#17 Attica

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 11:45 PM

Thanks. Those last two posts have encouraged me to continue visiting this site.

It's a funny thing feeling 'needy' and being transparent about it. It's something I've never been before. I find that when people sense this about someone, they tend to back away, asuming that the person is a trouble causer after attention. Thanks for not doing this, you may have saved me from a future in crime...





Good stuff. Thanks for sharing that. :)