Augustine said: The Church is a whore, and she’s my mother.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the church and how it relates society: the church at times has shaped society and at other times has been shaped by society. I think we are in a “being shaped by society” phase right now. When I have a hard time distinguishing between church related activities and those in secular culture, I think the society is shaping the church. I am not an advocate of the church remaining apart from culture like a little island, but I am also a huge advocate of being able to tell the difference between the lives of Christians, or believers, and the lives of those with no religious compass to point their ways. If you know me, you know that when I speak of believers, I really mean adherers to any compassion based, humanity based, love driven religion. I want to be able to tell who we are. By that, I mean, through our actions, we should know each other. I don’t care what you look like, what you wear, if you have pyrotechnics at your concerts, if you say fuck and shit a millions times, or if you are any type of freak, but I do care if you use your resources to help other people. I do care if you are compassionate to your fellow beings, if your life mirrors the life of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or whoever is the central figure in your religion, and if you live your life in a non-selfish, charitable way. By living your life in this manner, the rest of things (how you look, what you wear, etc.) become unimportant. I will say one thing for modesty’s sake however: no one’s ass cheeks should hang out of the bottom of their shorts, if I can see your areola, your shirt is cut too low, and if I can guess the size of your package because your pants are so tight, you probably should think about how you are dressing.
John Wesley once said, as it is memorialized in the United Methodist discipline:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
If as a church our goal is to accomplish this challenge set forth by Wesley, why can we not tell each other. Certainly, the emphasis of our lives is counter-cultural. Our focus is on how much we can do for others, not on how much we can do for ourselves. This, is why I think the church is being shaped by culture right now: look at all of the buildings being built and look at all the money being spent and look at all the people who still have nothing. I would love for a church to refrain from building a new grotesque structure because they have outgrown their old one and move into an abandoned store front just down the block. We need to figure out some ways to conserve our space and to stop simply building things for the sake of building.
All of this to say: the church is a whore, but she is our mother.