Picking up on Kim’s post about the The Disappearance of the Church as the Demonstration of Its Truth, I can’t help but to post my view of the American church. Kim describes it as walking tall or medium height. Frankly, I think the idea of that is preposterous. Instead, I’m reminded of a movie I watched a few weeks ago called The Chumscrubber. On the surface, the adults in the portrayed suburban community are full of life and laughter. There is the veneer of community. However, it is all an illusion. In the movie, English actor Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliott fame) portrays Dean Stiffle, who finds his best friend dead but decides not to tell the adults because he doesn’t figure they will care. The Bell character even tries to pretend that the dead kid wasn’t really a friend or that he doesn’t have or need any friends. The adults ask the kids about their world, but don’t pause to hear any answers or to ask any folowup questions. In fact, they have little to no clue about their children’s lives. Almost to a person, the adults are alienated from the youth of the community. The alienation is so complete as to make the adults oblivious to what is really going on. The adults are in fact so oblivious that there is no time to appreciate that one of their kids has been kidnapped.
In ongoing theological and political battles, the American church is barely aware that there is a world beyond its shores. Or, if it is aware, its vision is so triumphalist as to be impotent as a means of transforming lives. There’s a lot of shallow praise music that says very little of discipleship or obedience.
The American church is greater in numbers and in attendance, but can’t bring itself to ask serious questions about war, economic justice, environmentals needs, racial relations and more. We can’t bring ourselves to address the growing disparity between rich and poor. We can, though, have a fine argument about who is entitled to belong to Christ’s Church. The relative “health” of the American church may come to prove that the Church is neither a building, nor a creed, as useful as both are.