I love opening up the main blog page for #MyKindaChurch. I love each of the individual entries, but I love the main page most. I let my eyes wander over each of your faces as I scroll through, looking at your smiles, remembering the stories they represent, and when I see all of the beautiful diversity that’s there (something so often lacking in our churches) I think to myself, “The Reign of God is like…..”
The Reign of God is a place that you actually want to invite people to.
The Reign of God is a place where we can bestow kindness, exchange ideas, nurture and lift others up.
The Reign of God is a place where we can actually help the physical world.
The Reign of God is a place where social justice is emphasized over petty rules.
There’s so much longing here. And honestly, so many good ideas. And I just keep thinking, “Why CAN’T we have a church like this?”
What’s stopping us?
That question can come across kind of rhetorical and inspirational, like, why can’t we create these kinds of churches? And I mean that too.
But I think that this question deserves an actual answer.
Why CAN’T we have a church like this? Or better yet, why DON’T we?
Answer: It’s about power.
People of power are given power.
Our churches, our beloved institutions, are set up so that powerful people are given power: the power to control money and resources, the power to make decisions, the power to control messaging, the power of leadership over people.
And that idea? People with power having the power? That is not the message of a Gospel where the first shall be last, the last shall be first, God is one with the least of these, and the Reign of Heaven belongs to the poor, the meek, the persecuted.
People with privileges like white privilege, male privilege, middle class privilege, citizenship status privilege, straight privilege, cisgender privilege, and so on tend to be the ones that are granted more power by virtue of being put into positions of leadership. And even the most well-intentioned people of privilege tend to create and recreate structures that benefit them and people who look like them. This is so ingrained that EVEN IF there is a surface level diversity in many congregations, that in most spaces, oppressed people are expected to assimilate to the dominant (often oppressive) culture to fit in.
Kelly said it well in her entry this week when she said she wants a church where someone like her “can run the place.”
The Reign of God is like a place where someone like Kelly can run the place.
Someone young. Queer. Femme.
When I worked in youth ministry the common refrain was, “If they [youth] are not leading, they’re leaving.”
People don’t come to spaces where they aren’t represented in the leadership because it sends the message, “This is not for you. You do not belong here.”
That’s why Jesus came as one of us. A human. To show that we belong.
A poor, brown boy born into an occupied land with a sketchy birth story and family history that’s hard to trace.
A wandering, homeless, itinerant preacher who cursed out religious leaders.
A “criminal,” an “insurrectionist”, killed publicly by the state for refusing to know his place and asserting his scandalous claim to power.
But this claim to power was not like other claims to power. This claim to power was in opposition to the idea that those in power have the power. Jesus’s claim to power was the kind of power where the first shall be last, the last shall be first, God is one with the least of these, and the Reign of Heaven belongs to the poor, the meek, the persecuted.
Maybe those of us with some relative power in the church (by merit of being white or male or straight or cis or middle class or citizens etc), would do well to redistribute some of that power to where Jesus says it rightfully belongs.