There’s an interesting post today at Experimental Theology called Loneliness and the Church. I’ve read it a couple of times, and I’m still not sure what I think about it. Here’s an excerpt:
In short, we need to think of churches as moral rather than social communities. When I go to church I need to have ethics on the brain and not intimacy. This, I think, is a huge problem with many churches. People go to church to have their relational needs met. They don’t go to get morally challenged or changed. Thus, if I have a good social time at church then church is great and fulfilling. Conversely, if church is a lonely affair I stop going and think it sucks.
The goal of church, to my mind, is to be better, not to be known. Of course, in the effort to become better I become known. I’ll need to confess and ask forgiveness. I’ll need to give an honest moral accounting of myself. And so on. These things promote community and camaraderie and even friendship.
On one hand, church is not a social club. On the other hand, it’s actually more – it’s family. Shouldn’t we feel like we belong? Shouldn’t we feel as connected as Paul says we are? Is church primarily about becoming more moral people? Is Christianity primarily “sin management” or perhaps working your way to some higher state of holiness? Even if it is, which comes first? Are we drawn by the Spirit (present in the Church) closer to God, or do we have to get closer to God – as the author suggests – to get closer to people?
Of course, your answer will depend upon your theological foundation; at least I think so. Lutherans, for example, hear the words of absolution within the first few minutes of the liturgy. Other traditions never hear absolution; they keep folks working till the moment they die (and Catholics keep them working even after that). How we feel about the origins of morality determine whether we’re interested in the subject at all.
What do you think?