I’ve been on a bit of a “community” kick here lately. Here’s why:
I currently go to a Lutheran church. If you put me in a corner and made me pick a denomination I would say I’m a non-binary Christian and your prejudices can’t force me into a box. All joking aside (I think it’s funny anyway), I believe there is one true Church and focus on unity above denominational labels. As an individual though, the Catholic Mass resonates with me the most.
So why am I going to a Lutheran church than?
For one, my wife isn’t a fan of Catholic Mass because she doesn’t get to participate in communion. It bugs her more than it bugs me. I’m okay with not being all-inclusive. The main reason why I go to the church is the community.
There is a bit of a story that I want to dig into here. Recently the pastor of the church made a claim that Jesus did not die for our sins. I immediately took issue with that. I spoke to him in the lobby. He is a very knowledgeable man and I don’t believe him to be teaching incorrectly, but more incomplete. See, in the conversation with him, I picked up that he had come from an old school tradition where everything was a sin. Singing, dancing…all sin. So, as the pendulum swings, he now rides heavily on the side of love. For if God could be pinned down to a 2 sided coin, they would be Love and Justice. His upbringing was so focused on the Justice part, that he could only focus on the Love. Which I think, if you were to err on one side, I guess an error on the side of God’s love would be the better option. His teaching was more along the line of Christ’s death being a demonstration of love, than the taking of blame. (This is multiple sermons summarized into a couple of sentences, so don’t go to crazy.) This whole thing bothered me quite a bit. I think the church is doing good work. The people are good people. The community is great. In a past life though, I would have sacrificed all of that for a single mention of unsound doctrine. This time I did not. I am in a different situation now.
I chewed on this for a lot longer than anyone else in my family did. I wanted to pull everyone out and find a more sound church. This is one of the reasons I like the Catholic church. You don’t get a lot of variation between parishes. Where as in Protestant churches it can become the “Church of Insert-Pastors-Name-Here.” The problem with the Catholic church is that the sense of community is not the same. Now, I know every parish is different, but I’ve been to quite a few. The ritualistic nature of the church does not allow for the things that a 4-year-old needs to remain engaged for an hour. The music has to be hopp’n, the sermon snappy, and it has to end in under an hour. My daughters are fairly engaged in the services and they need that. If they went to a stuffy old service, Catholic or Protestant, they would get bored and begin terrorizing everyone. I would get frustrated and the whole experience would turn negative. I don’t want their early, formative experiences with the Church to be negative.
One of the reasons I was more willing to accept a Lutheran church is because they do have an authority structure. But once I started to look into it some, the ELCA interprets the Bible even more liberally than this particular instance. So, I was actually angry. I was mad that I had everything I wanted in a community but the doctrine wasn’t perfect.
I finally came to grips with the fact that no one is perfect. I will never find a perfect church as long as we are on this side of Resurrection. I also looked at it the same way I view school. It’s not the teacher’s responsibility to ensure my child is educated, it’s mine. Just like it is not the Pastor’s job to teach my child, it’s mine.
So for now, I have chosen the community that engages my children, loves them, and shows love to others. This is a good community for my child. Once my child get’s older and begins to ask the harder questions, I will answer honestly. Even if it is contrary to our community. It’s not perfect, but for now, it’s a good environment to for my children’s development.
Please let me know your thoughts. I know there are others who have had similar experiences. How did you handle them?