Center for the Study of
CHURCH AFFECTIVE DISORDER
The following is a rant sent by a member of the Singleton household to a number
of kind Christian folk who tolerantly endure his rants. The Resident Old
Curmudgeon of the Singleton household makes no claim to truth in the following,
but simply presents it as a perception that bubbles up from time to time. It
was this rant that led to our self-diagnosis. If you are prone to this sort of
discursive thought, you may also be afflicted with CAD.
Most congregations could do with a good weeding-out. Too many in the pews are there only because they are like lemmings. This is what one does on Sunday morning because this is what one did on Sunday morning for years, and this is what mom and dad and granny and grandpa did for years, and thus it goes for generations. I have firmly come to believe that mothers are the chief reason that most people remain in Church beyond their teen years. I can't tell you how many times I have heard variations on, "Well, we aren't really religious, but we are having a church wedding because it would kill mom if we didn't." That mantra is followed in due course with "Well, we aren't really religious, but we are having little Algernon baptized because it would kill mom if we didn't." Such people often wind up on Church Councils, Vestries, Sessions, and the like. The assumption is that giving these folk some responsibility in the church will deepen their spiritual commitment.
This all is a holdover from the Constantinian settlement long ago. The identification of church with culture and state, and the preferment that the church enjoyed (and with which it was cursed) for centuries, made Christianity difficult as anything but an idealized abstraction.
Someone needs to get up in church assemblies and say, "If you wish you weren't here, then opt out. There is no earthly advantage anymore to being here. Unless you are on a quest to keep company with Jesus, Lord of the outcasts and the lost, what are you doing here?"
I am mostly sympathetic with clergy. A few, and only a few, I have met seemed to be on an ego-trip with a need to be Herr Pastor, authority figure of all authority figures. Interestingly enough, I find such folk only among extreme reactionaries and those who consider themselves radicals and maybe even revolutionaries. But even most reactionaries and radicals would prefer not to be Herr Pastor. Mostly, I think pastors are pushed into that role by laity who don't want to do a damn thing. Some just want to be left alone (and those are the ones usually who are the lemmings who "aren't really religious.") Others, who consider themselves very, very religious, are the ones who believe the purpose of the church in general and pastors in particular is to minister to them. They have no clue about the ministry to which they are called through baptism.
As for our national and synodical leaders of the church, they should study more theology, more history, more philosophy, more social science, and less about managerial styles. They should also forget about Myers-Briggs and read more Kierkegaard, Kaufmann, Berger, and Cox.
We should all be living lives of radical commitment to the Risen One, and ministering in His name day by day, minute by minute, and not giving much concern to what comes next. (Yes, I am as much a failure at that as anyone, but at least I know that is what I should be doing.) However, my guess is that the leaders would be horrified by pastors who actually led in such a way. The point of the modern church is to make certain that no one has any real demands placed on them as a result of their Christian identification. After all, some folk would leave if we made it clear that we are serious about the theology of the cross. Triumphalism mixed with cheap grace--requiring no commitment or effort--is what sells and what gets the folk in the door. What the hell kind of sales pitch is actually suggesting that we should sell what we have, give it to the poor, and take up our cross and follow Jesus? If I were presented with that on a regular basis, I might leave. What I hope and pray I would do is be confronted so clearly by the reality I know is true to radically change my life and start to live for others.
But, of course, no one is going to force me to make that choice.