Lesson 10: So What?

Paul responded to my last post suggesting it is time to talk about steps we can take in order to address the present crisis. He agreed it is important to share the narratives that give meaning and purpose to our lives. However, there comes a time to get down to action. Otherwise, he wrote colorfully, we are just writing bylines for a Peanuts carton or a freak show.

It’s interesting that another foreign participant, Lupe, came up with the same insight a couple months ago. She maintained the pandemic calls us to ask how we are our brothers’ keeper. I think that is the critical Christian question: “How do I/we help those in need during this crisis?”

I am convinced the answer depends at least in part upon the situation in which you find yourself. In the past, I would without hesitation have talked about what you can do in your local congregation. Nowadays, I think you have to begin by asking if your local congregation offers an opportunity to follow Jesus. I no longer think it improper to change churches if it does not.

Many congregations in the US are torn in two by competing narratives. Labeling these is not much help, because for the most part the labels are set by politics, not theology. You are a liberal or a conservative, leftist or rightwing. Those in each group have more in common with like groups in other church bodies than with others in their own. The result well might be an inability to speak and act for Jesus in your present institution. You might find the message is either cacophony or therapeutic but never the prophecy needed in our time and place.

Some of my friends have chosen to drop membership in any kind of church group and even refuse to call themselves Christian. Those include people who were asked to leave when they proposed actions that they believed followed Christ’s teachings.

Others seek out alternative Christian groups. Throughout my life I have affiliated with disciplined communities that include people from other church bodies. All contained members who regarded the alternative as their only church group. Most participants, however, were also active in an institutional church. Like me, they used the ecumenical group as support for speaking and acting in their formal congregation and as a way to hold themselves accountable.

Whenever today’s question was asked in any of my groups, the response was always that each Christian had to choose for his/herself. People agreed you had to stand up and speak for what you believed but refused to come up with any compulsory action for all. Usually suggestions were made that included participating in public demonstrations, engaging in political actions, sharing finances with people in need, and similar social action projects. The emphasis was always on social ministry, perhaps because the competing narrative is best described as Christ providing a victory for me and my group.

I plan to post further suggestions for actions in the coming weeks. Next week, I examine those made by my alternative Christian community, the Company at Kirkridge.

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  1. John Myers says:

    What a thought provoking lesson! Thank you, Fritz.

    You ask the question – How do we help those in need in this crisis? I’d like to illustrate the difficulty in our current environment. Recently the ELCA facebook site had an entry from someone asking a question to this group – wondering if time will tell us we did not serve our people well spiritually by having our churches remain closed. There were over 1,000 comment generated on a site with 17,000 total. I was shocked that every one was negative and filled with vitriol, fear, angst, and ‘labels’ (as Fritz refers to them) were everywhere as they supported the policies currently in place shutting down in-person worship. We can’t even have a discussion of how we meet the spiritual needs of our community! I tried to support this person a bit by asking and making the point that electronic services first are difficult (at best) spiritual experiences, and that many in our community have no access to equipment to participate. I was attacked as well. Of course, respondents pointed out that the Church is not a building. I certainly agree, but it does beg the question – what is church and should we examine that? Are we serving our community? I fear we are allowing politics to govern us and not theology, to extend Fritz’ thought. I love the the test Fritz sets up – are we offering an opportunity to follow Jesus ……..by what we do as the Body of Christ in our community?

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