Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Killing dreams

Jason Clark has an interesting post about church ecclesiology and describes four superficial tendencies. Here's a summary:

1. Hyper-real Church:
Where church is hyper-real, more culture-bound than real, and where its proponents “rather blog, podcast, write about the image of a better and more authentic church than actually be involved in ‘real’ church.”

2. Simulation Church:
Fantasy conception with no depth or substance. We react against a false image of the evil modern church and indulge in endless discussions/conjectures about what’s real and authentic, and ultimately become “endlessly self-referential with our false reality.”

3. Fetish Church:
By countless re-branding and re-imagining, the aesthetic of church becomes the church. We call ourselves “missionaries in a post-Christian context,” expose the shallow commodification of the modern church only to end up being lifestyle-faddish and superficial ourselves according to a yet even more artificial construction of church.

4. Pastiche & Nostalgia Church:
Cut-and-paste church patched together from traditions of ancient church, liturgies, and random images of culture. We promote experience through “aesthetical art spaces, that degenerate into consumer therapy, self-justified with the user experience,” and ultimately become self-authenticating.

You could say each of these ideas represents attempts at being the authentic church, a kind of reaction to what is perceived as the church’s failure to live up to an imagined ideal. Jason asked if we see any of these interplay in our churches. He also seems to say that the above tends towards removing an individual from being involved in the ‘real’ church. Bonhoeffer once wrote that such ideals are dangerous stuff. In his book Life Together he had this to say:

"God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all
others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself."

Bonhoeffer seems convinced; our visions of the dream-community must die. Not that we shouldn’t be visionary, but that they should not tie God’s hand in making the Church according to His own vision. He also wrote, "If you love the vision you have for community, you will destroy community. If you love the people around you, you will create community." Of course it begs the question, what is God’s church like then?

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