I’ve been reflecting recently, on a number of problems I see or experience in the Church (global). In my vocational work, we wouldn’t call these problems. We’d call them opportunities, a chance for someone, somebodies or some new method to get involved in creating a better outcome.
As I was thinking about the various ‘opportunities’ I can see around me, I realized a lot of these ‘opportunities’ have been sitting in front of us for a while. Since I was a teenager at least, maybe even further back. I think these are opportunities to drastically improve the manner in which we do Church, community and generally go about our business.
Not all of these opportunities will seem initially apparent, but here’s my crack at the first one. Censorship. Let’s knock that one on the head. ‘What?’ I hear you say. ‘Censorship? But how else do we keep our minds and hearts and eyes pure, the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Yes, you’re right. That’s not the kind of censorship I’m talking about. I’m talking about the censorship of our lives as Christian workers, leaders and volunteers. The Christian college that makes people sign codes of conduct to not smoke, drink, swear or fraternize. The Church that includes non-drinking clauses in their contracts, resulting in second and third-hand censorship of social media accounts, blogs and general activities so as not to be seen to be behaving in an unacceptable fashion. The Church has, at it’s conservative best, become a master of censorship, projecting an image of superimposed morality without a viable proposition.
‘Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…..think on those things.’ You know what’s lovely? Openness, honesty and integrity. What’s not is intentional dishonesty, deviousness, hidden secrets.
So often we corral people into active deceit in order to satisfy an unrealistic image or goal. The more we do it, the more it drags others in. And it makes the Church look ridiculous to the external observer. Censorship is an escalator to hypocrisy because we censor out the bad behaviour, the plain old human stink of life. And by removing the stink, or trying to – we destroy the aroma of authenticity. Looking in from the outside, it’s no longer convincing, it’s lost a ring of truth.
We don’t even let our role models remain human, we push them into super-hero status. It might start small but eventually it creeps all the way in until we forget that it’s not what we’ve done that determines our future but how we respond and what we do next. No wonder the Church struggles with confession – but that’s another post.
We’ve created a sliding scale with no slide, just a steep drop-off into applied situational morality. Because too many drinks might be bad for someone watching, all drinking is bad for everyone. There’s no equation on the planet that can find compelling truth in that way of thinking. Yet, the more we let censorship run through the heart of how we do life as faith communities, the more removed we become from one another.
I walk a funny path – I’m more likely to censor aspects of my spiritual life from my friends and colleagues so as not to raise contentious issues (yes, I’m guilty of censorship myself), but I’ve worked hard at maintaining a life that allows me to be honest about all facets of my humanity. But when our Christian culture prefers to hide perfectly reasonable human behaviour as well as the perfectly unreasonable stuff behind a smoke screen of ‘don’t show, don’t tell’, of course we fall from pedestals on a weekly basis. Human life is not meant to be experienced from, on or looking up at a hero on a pedestal.
Censorship, no matter how small, is a ladder to the top of the pedestal.
Censorship is prideful, or vain – an intentional crafting of your appearance or the appearance of others for the sake of advancement.
Censorship of behaviour removes positive learning environments, it doesn’t create them.
There’s an opportunity to change something, to be more realistic – to choose fruitfulness over silence. To confront the messiness. To invite people to live truthfully, to give people – especially pastors and leaders, permission to live truthfully.