Would you read this if I said Rachel Held Evans wrote it?

Sorry for that cheap headline. It’s like I write for Gawker now.

So first of all, you guys… Last week I told you how I was not going to write about Justin Timberlake anymore, and don’t worry – this post isn’t about him, but I need you to understand how much of a struggle it’s been.

It’s like when someone tells you to not think about a pink elephant, and then you can ONLY think about a pink elephant. I know there are tons of other subjects and events to write about, but when I think about what I should blog about, I just think, “I got that tunnel vision, tunnel vision, for you…”

He’s in my head! I can’t get him out!

Anyway, I promised I wouldn’t blog about him, so I won’t.

But seriously, you should buy his album when it comes out tomorrow. I’ve been listening to the free preview on iTunes for the past week and it’s:

And that comes from a person who uses Spotify religiously and hasn’t bought an album in probably five years SORRY MUSICIANS! I KNOW YOU’RE BROKE. I’M SORRY.

Anyway.

Sometimes when I don’t feel like I have anything interesting to write about, I’m tempted to just plagiarize Rachel Held Evans, because I always like what she writes. I mean, I don’t actually do it. But sometimes I wanna.

Recently, my mom sent me her book Evolving in Monkey Town (because she’s the greatest – my mom, not Rachel) and I absolutely loved it. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a memoir(ish) by Evans, a woman who grew up in the south in a pretty conservative Christian home. Always the “perfect Christian girl,” she found her faith radically changing as she became an adult. For the first time, she noticed – or least, paid attention to – doubts about her faith. At first, she was afraid of these doubts – living in a Christian subculture obsessed with having the right answers, she thought this might mean she had lost her faith. Instead, she came to peace with her questions and realized that she hadn’t lost her faith in Jesus – she just no longer had all the answers.

I’m sure most people who grew up in an American Christian home can relate to her story in some ways. Although my childhood wasn’t exactly the same as hers, I relate to the post-childhood trajectory of so many Christian kids:

– Become an adult. Have strong beliefs, but also meet people who don’t agree with me, and who actually have some very valid points. Feel unsure about what that means.

– Realize: I’m a Christian. I believe this stuff. But I don’t know everything (in fact, I know very little). I have a lot of questions. And then the kicker:

– I may never get all these questions answered. And then the even bigger kicker:

– I may meet other Christians who fundamentally disagree on some things.

I read an article this morning about a mega-church that’s experiencing some “management” problems, and the author commented on how many churches now are run like businesses. In some ways, I agree, and don’t necessarily think that’s bad. For instance, churches need to be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, and someone needs to make sure the bills are paid on time, and employees need salaries. And those are good things. I don’t think we need to always freak out when our church feels too “corporate.” Although I often do, because I’m an opinionated whiner, and on Sunday mornings, I often think to myself “do they really need those damn signs in the sanctuary that light up with a child’s number when the teacher needs the parent to pick the kid up??” NO. Until I have kids, and then yes, yes I’ll definitely think we need them.

But I digress.

This morning, I was reflecting on another way we often treat churches like businesses. In many big companies, the president or CEO will create policies and cultivate a particular type of culture, and if you don’t like it, you can see yourself out. The point of this is to get everyone to buy into the same ideology, understand common goals and attitudes, and move forward in a totally united way.

In business, this can work well.

But in church? There’s a fine line between “unified” and “fall in line.” (disclaimer: I’m not talking about MY church, specifically – I’m talking about the church church)

For sure, Christians need to agree on the fundamentals. Who Jesus is, what he did, why we worship him.

But there are all kinds of Christians out there, and it’s troubling to see us asking everyone to fall in line or get out.

I have certain questions and doubts right now that I think I may someday answer or overcome. But I know I have some that I may just always have, for the rest of my life. Maybe not! But maybe. And I sit in church on Sundays and worship with a bunch of people, and sometimes I look around and think, “I probably fundamentally disagree with that guy on some stuff.” And I really want to be OK with that, but sometimes, I’m not sure if I am. Intellectually I am, but emotionally, it’s a hard reality to grasp, because I have this built-in cultural bias telling me that that’s bad, but Rachel wrote this really lovely paragraph that gave me a new perspective on that:

“For as long as I can remember, the Christian response to conflicts within Scripture has been to try to explain them away, to smooth over the rough spots and iron out the kinks. The goal is to get everyone on the same page, to come up with one consistent, coherent, and comprehensive biblical worldview so that we can confidently proclaim  that God indeed has an opinion about everything, including politics, economics, theology, science, and sex. We think that if we can just have a perfect, seamless book that can be read objectively and without bias, we will have the ultimate weapon. There will be no need for a God who stays hidden on Mount Sinai, and there will be no need for each other. Instead, we will have a physical representation of God on which to dwell, personal idols made of paper and ink.”

She put words to a sentiment I’ve felt for a long time — that if we know everything, and have every answer, why do we need each other?

I hate to say this, but there are certain people in the world that make me really uncomfortable. People to whom I want to say “you’re wrong” or “that’s weird… you need to change.” Because people can make me uncomfortable! (oh gosh, I’m such an introvert and it’s really coming out now…)

If I knew all of the answers, if I could diagnose (to put it kindly) or condemn (to put it harshly) everyone, I wouldn’t need ’em.

But I really think God wants us to be in community. He made it so that people are born into families. Heck, he made it so that if you want to make another person, you have to do one of the most intimate things possible! I mean, I think we’re supposed to realize we need each other. As an introvert, to be honest, that idea makes me a little uncomfortable, because I often find it easier to not deal with other people (you can tell I’m a real introvert because I use the terminology “deal with”), but I know God wants to teach us through our relationships with others. Although it’s often been uncomfortable, my periods of greatest learning have typically been with people I wasn’t very comfortable with, and I think most people would say the same.

So, we’re doing this thing together. You, me, that guy in church I don’t agree with, that weird girl, that person I don’t want to talk to. That’s who we’re doing this with. We have to.

Now somebody remind me of that on Sunday.

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