I woke early this morning, 4am to be exact. Lauren and Violet were still asleep less than a arms lengths away, and after a bit of tossing and turning, I decided to go ahead and make coffee and do some reading.
I have been plowing through some books that through the school year only allowed me to read a chapter here and there. Reading an entire book from start to finish is like listening to a vinyl record. It takes a conscious effort to skip around if one chooses, and while digital downloads are convenient something is just lost in the process. Maybe that’s why good albums from start to finish are a rare thing. Maybe books are the same way too.
When I read I pay attention to footnotes and references to other source material. Higher Ed has trained me to think in this manner. Usually, at a break in the story, I’ll do a quick search of an author or source material mentioned and distract myself usually longer than I intend. This morning I did just that and found a quote from one of my Wake Divinity professors talking about one of my favorite Christian anarchists.
While I’ll spare you the names and the backdrop, a statement was made of this individual saying they could “sanctify profanity like no one else.”
Sanctify profanity. I like the sound of that.
It sounds like Church work to me. Hear me when I say “Church” work which shouldn’t be confused with “steeple” work. Steeples churches are institutions which, be they good or bad, will eventually become self-absorbed, self-preserving, and self-serving in some form or fashion. Sometimes it’s hard to see this, especially if the institution's ideology lines up closely with our own. Institutions are always looking for acolytes to carry their messages and purposefully initiate innovative conversions. Be they hate-filled messages laced with racial rhetoric of superiority or university mottos which implore one to bow before the academic throne, BOTH are done so to keep a self-focused creed moving along.
The Church Jesus spoke of in Matthew Chapter 16 is far removed from “steeple works.” Yet Church, instead of engaging creation and acknowledging ALL HAVE been reconciled through the incarnated Christ, we erect steeples…Instead of seeing and affirming that Christ has already sanctified all which is profane, we substituted divine reconciliation for a structure of dogmatic beliefs. A swing and a miss. If the definition of sin is to “miss the mark,” then I think it’s safe to say the institutional church has, and is, sinning.
For those that know me and know I work within the institutional church, let me be quick to say I confess and see the “beam in my own eye” (Matt. 7:5) as a problem that needs correcting. Now to try and think I could simply fix the issue would perpetuate what Baptist have been doing since their emergence; splitting while still producing the same result. I do not wish to fabricate another “steeple,” because that’s what happens when we think “if we just did it this way it would be better.” I’m taking a different approach and it’s the only one I feel somewhat qualified to perform; to work on the fringe while simultaneously being a "detached voice, offering criticism that is provocative yet rarely heeded."* This means steeple churches need a Minister of Disruption so to speak. Someone to call them back to the Church of a 1st century Galilean. One who has, and is continuing, to sanctify the profane.
That is the message of reconciliation. That is the message of the Church. That is the Gospel.
*Will Campbell: Radical Prophet of the South, Merrill M. Hawkins, Jr.