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A massive letdown

This week, I happened to listen to Counterpoint with Amanda Vanstone on Radio National. The slot was entitled, ‘Why we distrust organized religion’ (available at http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgMVjNaglV?play=true).

In the introduction, Amanda said she found the church to be a ‘massive letdown’ and she distrusted it.

She pursued this theme with a researcher, who revealed that many people rarely experience Christians entering into conversation with them; instead, they become an object, whose assigned role is to respond to and agree with a pre-determined, conservative, Christian agenda.

Their views are not sought. There is no to and fro, no interchange.

(I wonder what your experiences are…)

There is a curious corollary to this finding: Christians, who dislike this approach (including me), often keep their religious views private for fear they will be seen in a similar light.

The result is that few people outside the church realize that the church embraces many views, especially ones that don’t fit a conservative agenda.

This perception has no doubt been strengthened recently by the loud campaign conservative Christians organised in the postal survey concerning gay and lesbian marriage.

As I think about these findings, two questions arise; firstly, what is it that makes church people veer towards being closed-minded, even those of us who don’t go around forcing our agenda upon others?

Do we feel the need to protect fiercely something that is precious?

Do we worry that if we don’t stand firm then what we cherish may disappear?

I do believe that issues like this influence many church communities, especially where members witness declining numbers.

Ironically, clinging on to what is treasured may have the opposite effect; diminishing it rather than protecting it.

When I reflect on the life of faith, I am reminded that whenever sufficient space is offered, and whenever things are not held onto too tightly, new life emerges.

This enacting of space requires trust.

At our recent Tuesday night meeting, Angie Moore reminded us that ‘spaciousness’ is one fruit of meditation. (Many of us experienced precisely that under her leadership.)

What gives you a sense of internal spaciousness, a large space where there is room to move, to contemplate, to hold views passionately and welcome the views of others?

The second thing I wonder is how to communicate to the broader community that there are different points of view in the church.

(Also, and equally as necessary, a sense that we don’t feel pressure to defend these views; we are happy to invite people into meaningful open-ended conversations.)

Sadly, we live in a world where the sledgehammer approach seems to work. By definition, spaciousness cannot be communicated with a sledgehammer!

That leaves us with a conundrum…

For me personally, I am reflecting on how much I trust that sense of spaciousness.

I believe that with a deepening sense of trust, other avenues will open up.

What about for you?

As we share our reflections, we may uncover ways to shape a church community that is not a ‘massive letdown.’