Faith

Church No More: Part 6 — Back to Church Again

"Going Home" by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners, 2012. All rights reserved.

"Going Home" by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners, 2012. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note: This is the sixth and final installment of Presbyterian pastor Mark Sandlin's blog series "Church No More," chronicling his three-month sabbatical from church-going.

They say you can never go home again.

The thinking is that, having left and experienced new things, you have changed and the people back home have continued in their lives just as you left them. Your experience of going back home again necessarily will be very different from your experience of home as you remember it, even though it may have changed very little.

In many ways, Church is one of my homes and I left it. I walked away for three months and experienced a bit of life outside of it. The three months are up and I'm going back home. This coming Sunday (Sept. 2) will be my first Sunday back.

The saying “you can't go home again,” probably originated from Tom Wolfe's novel, You Can't Go Home Again. It's the story of an author who leaves his home, writes about it from a distance and then tries to go home again. It doesn't exactly go well. The folks in the town are none-too-happy about him airing their dirty laundry so publicly.

So, you can't go home again? Well, I'm going to try.

Survey: Economy Continues Negative Effect on Churches

The economy continues to weigh on pastors, with a new survey showing that nearly two-thirds say it has affected their churches negatively.

LifeWay Research asked 1,000 pastors about the economy’s effect on their churches and found that 56 percent described it somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. Nine percent reported a positive effect on their churches and one-quarter said the economy was having “no impact on my church.”

“Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. “We weren’t surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative.”

Tyler Clementi’s Parents Leave Their Church Over Homosexuality Views

Joseph and Jane Clementi, parents of Tyler Clementi and their son, James

Joseph and Jane Clementi, parents of Tyler Clementi; (right); and their son, James; are seen during a press conference

RIDGEWOOD, N.J.  — The parents of Tyler Clementi have left their longtime evangelical church due to its views on homosexuality.

Jane and Joe Clementi told The New York Times that they had grown increasingly out of step with the Grace Church, a nondenominational evangelical church in Ridgewood, N.J., due to its casting of homsexuality as sinful.

Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in 2010. His death came just days after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had spied on him during a tryst with another man in their freshman dormitory at Rutgers University.

Ravi was convicted of 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, in March. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, of which he served 20.

The case garnered national attention from the media, as well as gay rights and anti-bullying activists. Clementi had come out to his parents just days before he left for college, and numerous news outlets reported that he had left feeling rejected. According to the Times, Tyler told his mother that he did not believe he could be Christian and gay.

I Need a Hero ... ?

Superhero image by file404 / Shutterstock.com.

Superhero image by file404 / Shutterstock.com. Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners.

The scandal du jour across the morning news shows today was Lance Armstrong's decision to stop fighting doping investigations. It means he is stripped of his record seven victories in the Tour de France and his bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics. 

While saying uncle in the doping fight doesn't necessarily equal guilt, the presumption is that Armstrong knew things were going to come out in the investigation — that there was some evidence or testimony that would not look good. 

Today on Morning JoeI thought MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart hit the nail on the head:

"This is yet another institution that has failed. …  We've seen everything that people believed in — whether it's the financial institution or government itself or just heroes — just falling by the wayside. You're seeing that this world that we have constructed of sort of purity and perfection, it's just not real."

Filmmaker Spike Lee Focuses on Faith in 'Red Hook Summer'

Spike Lee is not about to give up filmmaking but – at least for a moment or two – he sounded a bit like an expert on the challenges facing the church as he promoted his new movie Red Hook Summer.

“Any church whose members are senior citizens and there’s no youth coming behind, they’re going to die out,” Lee said in a roundtable discussion with reporters.

“Now that goes for synagogues, mosques, temples too — any institution,” Lee continued. “You got to always try to have that infusion of youth. They might not be as smart but youth has energy.”

Obama, Romney Discuss Role of Faith in Their Lives

Both President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been somewhat hesistant to discuss their faith in detail during the campaign season. In a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, fewer than 50 percent of Americans identified Obama as a Christian. About 60 percent knew Romney is Mormon. 

The two discussed their faith in eight questions presented by Washington National Cathedral's magazine Cathedral Age. From the release

"'First and foremost, my Christian faith gives me a perspective and security that I don’t think I would have otherwise: That I am loved. That, at the end of the day, God is in control,' said President Obama. “Faith can express itself in people in many ways, and I think it is important that we not make faith alone a barometer of a person’s worth, value, or character.'

Governor Romney said, 'I am often asked about my faith and my beliefs about Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.'"

For the full story, go HERE.

 

Human Rights Lawyer: Denise Siwatula

Denise Siwatula

Denise Siwatula

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States from 1933-45

“If we just sat with crossed arms, what would happen then?” is the question Denise, a Congolese civil rights attorney, asks us.

She has seen the destruction of her home through natural disaster and the pain of thousands of Congolese women who are raped every year. Still, she is faithful with the calling that she has been given—working to prosecute the cases she can to help rape survivors seek justice and find the hope to continue on.

Denise knows that to make peace, it is necessary to restrain and often punish the evil that humans do to one another.

“The Bible takes evil seriously and clearly says that evildoers should be held accountable for their deeds, and that the state has the legitimate role of bringing to justice those who perpetrate terrible crimes,” writes Jim Wallis in a July 2011 Sojourners’ column, “The Things That Make For Peace.”

But Denise’s work does not focus just on the punishment of those who commit rape but on the restoration of the survivors.

Want to Know God? Get Religion.

Wooden crucifix photo, cosma / Shutterstock.com

Wooden crucifix photo, cosma / Shutterstock.com

Tony Jones has asked some of us progressive Theobloggers to chime in on God, you know, perhaps some kind of definition or doctrine (that word many of us progressives despise). You can read his invitation here. Tony doesn't want us to talk about Jesus, per se, but about God. I get that. He's in his evangelical context and he gets tired of all the Jesus talk. Lately it seems that the Emergent conversation has been all Jesus all the time. Now, that doesn't bother me, but then again I feel that in my end of the progressive mainline (free church progressive) we don't talk about Jesus enough. We talk about God all the time. Jesus, well, he's a bit of an enigma. What else is there to say? Nevertheless, Tony's invitation is an interesting one and I'm willing to chime in.

One caveat: I'm doing this as a way to speak of one Person of a Trinity. To speak of the One is, in many ways, to speak of the Three and the Unity. But this is just a blog post and not a 20-page essay. So ... yeah.

My answer: If you want to know God, get Religion. (Have you got good religion? Certainly, Lord!) Religion is a combined set of activities embodied by people. These activities are not limited to but may include the following behaviors: liturgy, charity, politics, and even theology (mystical and systematic), and doctrine. Religion can be communal or individual. Religion is the principal craft by which we know (cognition) and understand (hermeneutics) God.

Why I Prayed With the Sikh Community Last Night

PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/GettyImages

Indian Sikhs place flower petals and candles near pictures of those killed on Sunday. PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/GettyImages

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled into the parking lot of a local Sikh temple — or gurudwara— last night, but I assumed it would be culturally enlightening and offer a glimpse into a worldview and religious tradition I have only sparingly engaged. While yesterday was the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity for the victims and mourners of the shooting in Wisconsin, I felt deeply compelled to stand with them in their pain as a follower of the Prince of Peace. 

Walking into the gurudwara's courtyard holding my two-year-old daughter’s hand, my wife and two friends were immediately greeted by the priest with a handshake and smile. He thanked us for coming and invited us into the experience that included a short service in the gurudwara and vigil outside to remember the six worshipers who were shot by a man that had never met them. I can only speculate, but if this man would have engaged these people on a relational level at any point, he certainly would have reconsidered his actions.  

Much like the response of the Amish after the horrific schoolhouse massacre in 2006, the Sikh community has intentionally chosen to respond to by offering radical love and forgiveness. Although somber, they carried a deep conviction to embrace the way of peace as retaliation for the death of these innocent victims.  

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