For the uninformed, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church – a conference that takes place once every 4 years – has recently ended. While I am not Methodist myself, I attend a Methodist school, are friends with Methodists and pretty much am surrounded by Methodist “things.” As such, I hear many stories and insights about their denomination. Of particular interest is the General Conference’s ruling that GLBTQ persons are “incompatible” with Christian teachings.
This ruling proved painful and heartbreaking for many of my UM friends, gay AND straight. Certain words uttered during the heated debate of the Conference border on bigotry and even hateful. But we Christians seem to have a way with such words, often reasoning and masking them as in the “spirit of Christian love.” While I acknowledge that such a thing is possible, hiding homophobia, hate, ignorance and bigotry under such rationale is outright insulting, if not hurtful.
To return to the subject, I submit that I too am severely dissapointed with this latest ruling which ultimately seeks to exclude GLBTQ folks, folks that genuinely love Jesus and are willing to lay down their lives for the Kingdom from the Methodist Church. Perhaps I should be thankful that the UMC is having this conversation. Other denominations or non-denominations would not even entertain such a notion.
While I still claim to be a Christian, and an evangelical one to boot, I have reached a point in my life where I feel that the Church in all its manifestation is severely broken, divided, exclusive and worst of all, lost its way. Back when I was more “naive” or “idealistic,” I have always harbor a feeling that if we Christians would simply stop fighting and reclaim the “original” and “true” essence of the Gospel, as well as adding social components to Christianity, things will set itself right (through God’s will of course). But times have changed, and I have changed. I am no longer the naive and idealistic person that I once was. Nay, if anything, I am a tired, cynical and jaded (while remaining “hopeful”) follower of that carpenter from Nazareth.
I do however feel the need to qualify what I mean by “hopeful.” By stating this I am not claiming the Evangelical notion that since Jesus has already redeemed me/us, things are sure to get better no matter how crappy the outlook is in the world. Nor am I subscribing to a teleological worldview of the early 20th century US Social Gospelers and Latin American Liberation Theologians of the 70s and 80s which calls forth to workd for the culmination and coming of the Kingdom of God. Rather, I am admitting, in a Camus-esque manner that there is no meaning whatsoever to life (or to what I do). Such admission is in a sense liberating, and it is this sense of liberation that drives me to continue hoping against all hope that God in all its infinite power will right the wrong sometime/where down the road, even though things are peceived to have no meaning or carry no consequences whatsoever today. I know this is not exactly a well-articulated idea, and I have already digressed far enough from this post.
And so, my cynical, tired and jaded self am contemplated that perhaps the “best” way to “save” the Church is not reform, evolve, progress or change. I am not exactly a fan of the “reform or perish” paradigm myself. It is also not wise for the Church to “dig on its heels” and be firm to the “traditions” of Christianity, whatever such traditions may be. I am also not in favor of the Church’s constant obsession with unity. If anything, the Church should purge itself.
Like Shiva, the Hindu God of Destroyer, the Church should just be destroyed. It should just die. But destruction is just one part of the equation. With destruction comes rebirth and new life. Bear in mind, I am not talking about a linear form of thinking. If anything, it is cyclical. This would mean that there will be multiple “destructions” of the Church and with it, multiple rebirths. I am confident in God that even if the Church is destroyed, there will still be tendencies among Christians to start anew. This will not be easy of course, but in a world where churches are hopelessly corrupt, hateful, exclusive, divisive, broken (and dare I say, irrelevant to a certain extent) to the injustices of globalization, pre-emptive wars, homophobia, racism, etc. perhaps killing the Church might jumpstart things.
Of course, this is wishful thinking, because destroying the Church would mean that my ministerial bound friends would be out of a job (and church-goers would be out of a place to “feel good about themselves” and congregate). I have never been a fan of denominations. I do however acknowledge the cultural heritage and identity formations that come with denominations. Still, our (religious) identities and cultures are fluid categories. It is always in a constant mode of negotiation, accepting, rejecting, make anew, etc. with our surroundings. With a major avenue of identity formation destroyed such as the Church, one has to wonder what would happen to our construction of identities. What would a post-Chuch religious identity look like? What would a rebirthed Church identity respond to the times? These questions are of course, complicated at best, and to begin to answer that would require for the Church to “die.” The cynic in me will say that this is not going to happen anytime soon, if not, ever. Yet, I continue to hope against all hope, that the Church will implode or get destroyed. Perhaps too, the Church will then reconstitute itself into something new (but necessarily better) that could take on issues such as the GLBTQ question, among others.
I swear, (certain) graduate education fucks up all areas of your life. Word of caution: don’t do a PhD in religious/theological studies if you can’t take that.