Foolishness of Faith

I get why some people stop going to church because it feels stale, lacks relevance for their daily lives, does a poor job of fostering meaningful relationships, and seems disconnected from the real needs of hurting humanity (and ends up actually hurting far too many people).

I understand why some people give up on the church because too often it is more concerned about air conditioning than the condition of the environment, about politics than compassion, about the order of service than community service.

I can see why people lose faith in faith when science so often tells a more compelling story about humanity’s place on the planet with more systematic evidence and more seeds of hope.

I deeply grasp why the suffering, abuse, torture and violence in the world makes it virtually impossible for many to believe that a God of love could be behind all of this.

What is actually baffling to me is the reality that so many of us still participate in a church community at all, still believe any of this stuff at all. It seems like a miracle that any of us find some measure of freshness after a few thousand years of reading the same book and singing songs about the same themes, that some of us find something at church that speaks to our modern lives, that some of us find a measure of community and connection, that some turn their churches outward to care for others, that some care about God’s created world, that some still even believe that God created life and cares about all life, that some people find ways to embrace both God and science, that some people see the God of love trying to use us to overcome violence with love. It’s miraculous–it appears to me–that for many of us, after our orbits have swung wide into the world during the week, we still come crashing back together to explore something we can’t see, touch, smell, taste or hear, at least not directly. Why don’t our trajectories move inexorably apart? Why do we come back together, even when so often fighting our own desires not to? Why do we sing and pray? What is this gravitational force that keeps calling us back to community, back to a place where we share questions, experiences and unusual casseroles at potluck?

I get why so many of my friends have left the church community and/or given up on trying to find truth in the pages of the Bible. I don’t have any less respect or appreciation for them. I’m just surprised that not everyone has done the same.

I raise my glass to all who are seeking community, seeking truth, seeking meaning, seeking creativity, seeking peace, seeking justice, seeking love, seeking joy, seeking goodness, and seeking beauty even in the dark corners of the human experience. May you find or create what you need, and may you encourage others in the quest as well. And if there is a God, as some of us still believe, may this God be very close to each of us, helping us know and experience the way, the truth and the life…

Grace on the Way to a Jesus Shindig

This past weekend I attended The One Project–Chicago. I had two encounters on the way that made me pause. I failed to aid one person, while two others showed me what grace and compassion look like.

First, while I was in Union Station moving from Amtrak to a local Metra line, a young man in his late 20s or early 30s stopped me and asked for $6 or even just $1. I brushed him off, trying not to make eye-contact despite his repeated requests. “How do the city swindlers pick me out so easily? They always ask me! Well, I’m not falling for this sob story.”

Later, as I got off the Metra train, I needed to find a taxi. Since there were none around, I asked two ladies who had also been on the train if they knew where the motel was. I basically knew the way once I got pointed in the right direction. One of them looked it up on her iPhone, and off I headed for a 3 1/2 mile hike in the winter drizzle wearing my backpack.

After 10 or 15 minutes, I was surprised to see the two young ladies pull in front of me in their car. “We’ll give you a ride if you promise not to kill us.” They said I was the first person they’d ever picked up. I thanked them, saying I didn’t usually offer rides either.

“So where are you going?”

“To a conference about Jesus.”

“Well then I guess you won’t kill us after all.”

“And what were you two doing in Chicago?”

“Nothing about Jesus. [laughs] We spent two days drinking with some friends.”

“Well, I’m going to a conference where we’re going to talk about Jesus, but you two just did what Jesus would actually do–help out a stranger.”

Within a few minutes they covered the distance that would have taken me more than an hour to walk in the cold drizzle on poor sidewalks. I (the self-labeled Christian) had ignored a guy who needed help in Union Station, and these two ladies (the partiers) had been good Samaritans. Because I had a few hours until I could check in to the hotel, this comparison tumbled round-about in my mind as I sat on a metal bench with no distraction behind which to hide.

My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.

(1 John 3:18, NCV)