The tale of 2 funerals

April 28, 2008

I heard a story last weekend. It was the tale of 2 funerals. The first funeral was of a man who was a nominal Christian. His family barely attended church and when the man died, his funeral was attended by a mere sprinkling of family and friends. The second was of a man who was an actively serving church member and when he died, the church community rallied around the grieving family.

I might be missing the forest for the sake of the trees a little bit but this story really bugs me. I’m guessing the point was to communicate the joys of Christian community and the importance of getting plugged into a church yadayada. It’s not that I disagree with the intention of the message. There is a lot to be said about the joy of Christian community. But the story seems to be chasing after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to me – the white picket fence and 2.1 kids, playing happy families version of the Christian world. Very nice in theory but it is terribly unrealistic in practice because it assume that this is a good enough model and denies an entire plethora of ways to experience God and enjoy Christian community. Surely funeral attendance is poor proxy and it bothers me that Christians are willing to settle for outward signs of community that say nothing about the robustness of the Christian relationships therein.

Frankly, I’m more interested in what is REAL. Show me relationships that do not breakdown outside this one-size-fit-all mould and then you have my attention. Show me the Christian to who attends funerals to support a grieving family, regardless of church/religious etc affiliation. (Surely if church attendance/service is the key to people attending your funeral, we Christians must be an awfully superficial lot.) Show me Christian love and unity that remain after you control for circumstances and personality. Show me, beyond the smiles in church on Sunday, people who actually give a shit.

Someone said to me once that Christians were nice but they weren’t real. Stories like this just increase my Pinocchio complex. I have little interest in being thought of as nice. (A great line from an email from my boss this week said: We aim to be respected, if not necessarily well-liked. Totally out of context but that really resonated with me.) So my prayer for myself this week is that I am found to be REAL. I want a faith that is robust under all circumstances and a relationship with God that is evident in all situations. I have no illusions of grandeur. I am still a hopelessly flawed work-in-progress but man, I’m so over playing church like it is some kind of game.

Am I crazy to be *this* dissatisfied with what goes on in the church? God intended for so much more than this.



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