Dan Clenendin highlights in his post, the outrage of outsiders, repeats depressing research findings from America (Kinnaman 2007) showing how 16-29 year olds regard the church. Here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:
antihomosexual 91%, judgmental 87%, hypocritical 85%, old-fashioned 78%, too political 75%, out of touch with reality 72%, insensitive to others 70%, boring 68%.
It would be hard to overestimate, says Kinnaman, “how firmly people reject — and feel rejected by — Christians” (19). Or think about it this way, he suggests: “When you introduce yourself as a Christian to a friend, neighbor, or business associate who is an outsider, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: antihomosexual, gay-hater, homophobic. I doubt you think of yourself in these terms, but that’s what outsiders think of you” (93). This is a far cry from the reception of the first believers, who, according to Luke, “enjoyed the favour of all the people” (Luke 2:47). The church’s message isn’t ringing the right bells for generations of our people.
I wonder if we have forgotten to love our neighbour – that person who lives the other side of the fence with a different lifestyle and set of beliefs. In a fearful culture neighbours are suspect until they prove themselves otherwise by “coming round” to our way of thinking. The first believers lived a different culture, being sent out to neighbours with the simplest of messages “peace to this house: peace to you” and with a love that was to overcome all sorts of barriers and offences. I wonder if we could ring more bells with more resounding wishing wells to those who now see themselves the other side of the wall – and the wrong side of-fence.
>What do you do if you want to change something? You ask permission.
What do you do if you live next door to somebody who wants to change their house, or if a builder proposes developing land opposite? You complain and you object. ‘Twas ever thus in Nimbyland.
And the way through? Thank goodness for our planning authorities so that when we want to make changes we have to ask for permission, and those who are our neighbours should realise that, make their objections and then leave it to those who are a lawful lot better than us at these things and accept the judgement – “permission granted” or otherwise.
I feel sorry for friends Jane and Bob asking for permission to change/demolish/rebuild. Suddenly they find themselves on page 2 of the local paper with friend Mark flying the preservation flag – no doubt supported by friends and neighbours around – Janet, Bob, Jo, Alice, Tom, Dick, Harry and Jemima. What a difficult situation – all have their legitimate concerns – to be weighed in the scales of justice. And through it all they continue to meet in the waiting room of the Friends’ Meeting House for Kingdom come and Peace on Earth. Meeting together, waiting together makes it so much better than avoiding one another and makes the church a Friends Meeting House – if not now, then – working/praying out how to come to terms with our differences.
That’s what we’ve been doing with our project for St Peter’s. We have been asking for permission and we will see how many people have objected, and how the Chancellor weighs the difference of opinion. Then we will be told whether we have a faculty – aka permission – or if we’ve lost. Whatever way it goes we have to then get on with our neighbours – loving them – which we have to sometimes do before we can ever like them.