Sick of church? Tired of spending all your energy sustaining your friendships? Eager for mischief of a diabolical kind? If so, this post is for you.
Based on nearly twenty-seven years of experience, I bring to you an authoritative (albeit abridged) guide to killing a church, community, or friendship. If you follow these instructions carefully, you might manage all three at once.
In case you are beginning to wonder if grad school has finally broken my sanity, perhaps I should explain myself. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my church lifegroup, and how important that group was to me. However, in the draft of that post, there was a paragraph which I cut from the final version. That paragraph began, “Eventually, however, my lifegroup died.” I excised this section because its narrative of a more or less quiet dissolution interfered with the tone (love! victory! Jesus!) of that post. However, after talking with a friend, I realized it would be dishonest not to address the fact that even my precious lifegroup failed in many ways to be a home for all its members, and, eventually, failed to sustain itself as a group at all.
I am not, however, going to tell the story of my lifegroup’s failures here. It would serve no good purpose, and could veer toward finger-pointing and gossip. If you have ever been part of a church or relationship, you could probably imagine a version that is fairly close to the truth.
Instead, I have made a list of ways to kill community. Not all of these things happened in my lifegroup, but some of them did, and I’ve witnessed all of them in various gatherings and kinships. At the same time, bitterness is unbecoming, and my point is not to air grievances, but to look honestly at these failures so that we can learn to confront and avoid them. Through this blog I want to learn--with you--how we can form communities in which we help one another become fully human: at home with God, one another, and ourselves. Today, because I am feeling rather contrary, I am approaching this quest through the back door. As you read, please know that at one time or another, I have been guilty of everything on this list. I ask you to read it as a confession, not a rant.
1. Don’t pray. Prayer is old-fashioned, you’re not sure if it works, and it makes others uncomfortable.
2. Assume that people know you appreciate them. Don’t call to tell them, and never send thank-you notes for the work they do for your church or group.
3. Worship the Bible as the Word of God. Interpret it strictly, literally, and rigidly, OR dismiss the Bible as an unreliable set of semi-historical documents, ethically problematic and historically suspect.
4. Mistake yourself for God OR mistake your pastor/leader/friend for God.
5. Judge others OR never venture to challenge others on the things they say and do.
6. Make decisions regarding this church/group/friendship by asking “What is best/most satisfying/healthiest for me?”
7. Be passive aggressive. This can be fun. Look for little ways to undermine the ideas, plans, or programs of others: roll your eyes, sigh, and post pseudo-cryptic status updates on facebook. In all things, be smug.
8. Look down on people who doubt. If you’d rather, you can also look down on people who never “question their faith.”
9. Don’t laugh. Ever.
10. Don’t talk openly about hard things, like tithing.
11. Don’t eat together.
12. Don’t do any hands-on ministry together.
13. Don’t ask each other questions.
14. Don’t sing. If you forget and do begin to sing, make sure to argue about the style of songs afterward.
15. Fade away quietly. Don’t return calls, and come up with excuses not to come.
16. Decide you can do this whole “Christian” thing, and probably this whole “life” thing, on your own.
What would you add to this list?