There is a bit of a rant that has been building in my head for a while. Something that irritates me, but that I know I also do, so felt it was wrong to get too stroppy about. So I am going to attempt to articulate it, without getting too judgy, recognising the fact that I am as guilty as anyone for doing it.
I want to talk about ‘The Church’. It is a phrase often used in writing, speaking and complaining. ‘The church is really bad at’, ‘what the church needs to know about…’ ‘what the church is doing wrong…’
I have used these two words myself, in the context of what the church needs to know about mental health. There is a need sometimes to use it, but I always feel bad when I do. You see, ‘The Church’ is a huge beast. It is a diverse and broad ranging, complex and confusing mass of individuals, organisations, belief systems and theology.
There is probably almost nothing that ‘The Church’ could agree on across the board (even if one might hope that they would agree God is God, Jesus is the son of God etc). There is equally not one thing, I would argue, that ‘The Church’ gets wrong across the board.
Using mental health as an example, the church is both brilliant at responding to mental health and terrible at it. We are both hugely welcoming, loving and generous to those struggling with their mental health and horribly judgemental, cruel and insensitive.
We, ‘The Church’, are a collection of people from every walk of life, every country, every culture. I am tired of seeing articles entitled ‘what the church needs to learn from…’ because whilst elements of the church will certainly need to learn from whatever it is the article is expressing, there will be huge numbers of people within ‘The Church’ who are already doing extraordinary things in that area.
I have seen several articles within the Christian press in response to the EU referendum, they come from people from both sides of the debate, but there has been an awful lot of people saying things such as ‘what the church needs to consider’ or ‘how the church has got it wrong’.
Many of the things people say within this are valid for large sections of ‘the church’ but they also fail to recognise the voices and actions of those who are already doing what they say needs to be done.
Articles which speak of ‘The Church’, regardless of the issue at hand, often seem to take a problem that one section (and it may well be a large section) of the church has, and apply it to the lot. Leaving those who are doing amazing work, who are speaking into areas often ignored, who are peace makers, love givers and welcoming, being forgotten on the side lines.
What ‘The Church’ needs to remember, and by that I mean each of us individually, is that those that we know and interact with, those on our social media feeds, those who write the articles we read, are not even nearly representative of the diversity offered by ‘The Church’.
There are many issues that can be found within the church, and we definitely need to tackle them and bring them into the light, but I just wish we could do it without writing off the entire body of Christ as failing in that area.