Thursday, August 16, 2012

Keep Church Weird

This is the back of my car and the slightly bedraggled bumper stickers that adorn it.  One is the bumper sticker for the church that I am a part of, and the other ("keep church weird") was created by some very creative individual and given to our church members as a fun little gift.  I have found that these two bumper stickers can spark conversations, but never like the one that was sparked today.

I was at the bank this afternoon, just wanting to dash in and out, and go merrily on my way for another appointment.  I park near the front and jump out, in a bit of a rush.  A van with an older man and woman in it pulls into the spot next to mine.  Here is the transcript of our conversation:

Old Man: I can't help but notice your bumper sticker.

Me (distracted): huh?

Old Man: Your bumper sticker.  (This is not narrowing it down for me)

Me: Which one?

Old Man: What does keep church weird mean?

Me: Well, you know.  Re-imagine how things could be.  Break the mold.

Old Man: Do you think that is a good idea?

Me (still distracted): Think what is a good idea?

Old Man: (He points to the bumper sticker on his car.  It says, "Traffic on the road to hell is bumper to bumper...U-turn now.")

Me: And?  (I am fairly intelligent and I know where this is going, but I decide to drag it out anyway.)

Old Man: What do you think?

Me: What do I think about what?  (Who IS this guy?!)

Old Man: Shouldn't you be taking The Church seriously?  You know, otherwise you could be going to hell. (He appears to be very self-satisfied.)

I give him my best condescending, scathing smile, turn my back, and walk into the bank.  Shit like this makes me crazy.  If this old man was trying to put forth some kind of Christian sales pitch, he failed.  The fact of the matter is that I do take faith seriously, I take the Triune God seriously, in fact deathly serious.  Death-on-a-Cross serious.  I take theology seriously, I take tradition seriously, and I take loving assholes like this gentleman seriously.  (even though I am not that good at it.)

I do take the Church seriously, serious enough in fact that I dare to consider what it could be.  That it could be beautiful beyond our wildest expectations.  That it could challenge us to grow beyond what we could ever imagine for ourselves.  That in community as Church we could love one another, bear each other's burdens, and challenge each other to face our own brokenness that we may emerge on the other side as beautiful and blessed people of God.  But we won't know what that could look like until we dare to try and "Keep Church Weird."  The church is weird already.  A group of people who profess to follow the teachings of a resurrected Jewish carpenter said to be the incarnate God.  A group of people who (theoretically) care about closing the gap in social justice, giving to the poor, hanging out with the sick, elderly, and marginalized, and loving others as they would love themselves.  Weird.  Countercultural.

We run a real danger in taking ourselves and the way that things have been done in the past too seriously. We could miss real opportunities.  If I had not been in a hurry and already annoyed because of three miles of bumper to bumper traffic on Colorado Blvd (which depending on the time of day can actually feel like the road to hell!), I might have engaged this gentleman differently.  I might have asked him what his tradition was, why he thought it was perfectly acceptable to condemn a stranger to hell in a parking lot, why he had that bumper sticker on his car and what it meant for him.  I might have told him what I do and why I do it and maybe we could have had a conversation where no one felt like they needed to prove anything.  Or maybe it would have ended the same way.  Who knows.



Daniel Tisdel said...

Amen. Jesus was weird in today's society. He hung out with all the wrong people, said all the wrong things to piss off all the wrong people, his own followers didn't really understand him, to the point that they thought he was going to overthrow the government...and instead all he was going for was to overthrow peoples hearts.

Thanks for the post. You always make me think.

Ryan said...

Hi! Loved your story!

I found it because I am searching the Internet to find the "keep church weird" bumper sticker! Any chance you can point me in the direction of how to attain one? I saw one on a car this week (in Maryland), and haven't stopped thinking about it!

Shoot me an email if you can help: