Letter 1: The Ideologizing of the Church
In his letter David Fitch makes a plea for us to expose our ideology, our “false consciousness” of identifying ourselves by who we are against. He suggests that we should abandon the cycle of the ideological church by “going local.”
Unfortunately, the church in North America is now defined more by what we are against than who we are or what we are for. This kind of ideology happens all the time in our churches. We notice it when someone says “Oh that church is the Bible-preaching church—they believe in the Bible,” implying the others don’t. Or “We’re the church that believes in community.” The others somehow don’t. “That church? They’re the gay church and that one is the church that is anti-gay. We’re the church that plants gardens and loves the environment,” and “Oh, by the way you’re the church of the SUVs.” On and on it goes as our churches get identified by what we are against.
We get caught up in perverse enjoyments like “I am glad we’re not them!” or “See, I told you we were right!” In the process we get distracted from the fact that things haven’t really changed at all, that our lives are caught up in gamesmanship, not the work of God’s salvation in our own lives and his work (missio Dei) to save the world. This cycle of ideologization works against the church. It is short-lived and it breeds an antagonistic relation to the world. In the process we become a hostile people incapable of being the church of Jesus Christ in mission.
And so today, this week and in the months that lie ahead, we must join together as Christians to break this cycle of ideological church. I suggest we can do this by “going local.” We can resist the ideologizing of the church by refocusing our attention on our local contexts. In going local, we inherently refuse to organize around what we are against and instead intentionally gather to participate in God’s mission in our neighborhoods, our streets, among the peoples that we live our daily lives with. Here we gather not around ideas extracted from actual practice in life that we then turn into ideological banners, but around the participation in the bounteous new life God has given us in Jesus Christ and his mission.
We participate in his reign, the kingdom, by actually practicing the reconciliation, new creation, justice and righteousness God is doing and made possible in Jesus Christ. Here we become a people of the gospel again. It is only by doing this that God breaks the cycle of ideological church.
Read David’s entire letter here.
Get involved and write your own letter here.
With open letters from Andy Crouch, Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne and more, Letters to a Future Church paints a portrait of the world as we have it and the mission we have in it. You may find your calling in this book; you may even find your own voice.
Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz
at March 23, 2012 8:51 AM