The church’s cancer is insidious. But we know it’s here, growing, consuming all that is sacred and if we don’t do something to stop it now, the fabric of our society and our world will be torn beyond repair and we will lose everything that is holy to us. But let’s thank the Lord that we have the tools we need to direct the radiation and begin the treatment.
We know the feminists really messed up the God ordained structures of our society. Our men were emasculated and our children were abandoned. Suddenly men thought we really needed one another. We thought that talking to others like ourselves would help us understand our unexpressed thoughts and feelings. We needed the reassurance of our faith. We needed to build up our trust in an all powerful God. We needed more hugs and we began to call one another brother. We needed family ministries because our families were falling apart. The church doubled down and courageously survived the waves of feminism. Thank the Lord, no one started praying to Sophia on Sunday or radically changed our time worn liturgies and languages to reflect that anything but the ancient belief that only the male sex can hold divine qualities. Yes, some of us allowed girls to become pastors and priests–but only if these girls were able to support the powerful God-ordained patriarchal top down order of the church. Sustaining this order is certainly the key to the church’s survival. But here we are, having won the battle of the sexes and still: our churches are dying. And it is with this understanding that I have come to realize how men’s bible studies have become the cancer that is infecting us all. And because we can take it: you can begin directing the radiation here.
Kate Murphey recently claimed that Youth Ministry is killing the church. But let’s man up a little bit. Children are an easy target. Do we really want to send our kids to the front lines of this cancerous battle? Maybe. I’ll be the first to say it: If we are going to cut youth ministry, then it’s time to surrender our men’s bible studies too. We too have become our own sort of mickey-mouse eared church. We are like a clique that lives to serve it’s own selfish purpose. We have deep conversations that are meaningful together that no one else would understand. Damn, we have even cried together. But it’s time to grow up now and be a role model for our youth. It’s time to get thicker skin. I know that this will be difficult for us to do, and that’s when it hit me: a radically reinvention of church is necessary.
I mean, we really can’t afford to hire a youth minister anyway, so let’s just be honest about why we think it’s youth ministry that is killing the church. That certainly alleviates a lot of pressure. After all it’s nearly impossible to find someone who is willing to work at such a low wage with no insurance, who actually has a theological education, who has been trained in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd or Godly Play and understands the spirituality of the child anyways. Besides, even if we found someone willing to do this work, it would require the parish to embrace this spirituality of the child and we may have to radically change church in ways we can’t control. Honestly, and let’s admit what we only post on other blogs anonymously: youth ministers are really just immature people who don’t really deserve our respect. I mean, they work with children after all, children who are not even fully human and put very little into our offering plates on Sunday mornings anyways.
Whatever Jesus said about becoming like a little child to understand the heart of Christian spirituality is forgetting how much fun it is to practice a religion filled with masochistic guilt. Our graying congregations have already figured out the secret to building a vibrant community and it’s not by self-serving anyone but our inner curmudgeon. What little children need to understand is how to worship like grown ups. They need to put down their iPhones and come rake my leaves.
It’s time to put a stop to all the tender feel good ministries of the church and get everyone back in their uncomfortable pews on Sunday morning. It’s time to stop asking questions, stop having meaningful conversations with our peers. We all should be forced into a community with people and that’s why no one is going to be allowed to pick their own seat anymore. We’ll assign pews so everyone must sit by strangers because the most important thing about church isn’t being comfortable or welcoming, but perfecting the liturgy and keeping our bills paid. (In fact, lets all invite our rich friends because the poor have become such a drain on us in this economy). Let’s cut all the fluff ministries. No more kids programs. No more men’s bible studies or women’s groups. No more home visitations (what have they done for us lately?) And yes, no more youth ministry.
But let’s be honest about why we’re doing this. It’s because our overworked priest really gives us all that we need for one hour on Sunday. The rest of us already know that we are not worthy and could never live up to our priest’s spiritual standards and that’s why we’d rather not get involved anyway. And frankly, we’re quite happy to carry the burden of guilt because we enjoy suffering silently. And besides, being passive aggressive is actually kind of an exciting way to live one’s life when you’ve got nothing better to live for.
It’s time to cut the crap and get our churches back on track. And I’m willing to give up the ministries that feed my soul in order to do that.
–J. Creech was an immature Youth Minister in the Episcopal Church for ten years, who unwittingly helped kill the church by creating sacred spaces for children of all ages to respond to God at age appropriate levels.