Ron Rolheiser on Churches as Field Hospitals

Ron Rolheiser on Churches as Field Hospitals

Most of us are familiar with Pope Francis’ comment that today the church needs to be a field hospital. What’s implied here?

First, that right now the church is not a field hospital, or at least not much of one. Too many churches of all denominations see the world more as an opponent to be fought than as a battlefield strewn with wounded persons to whom they are called to minister. The churches today, in the words of Pope Francis, have often reversed an image in the Book of Revelation where Jesus stands outside the door knocking, trying to come in, to a situation where Jesus is knocking on the door from inside the church, trying to get out.

So how might our churches, our ecclesial communities, become field hospitals?

In a wonderfully provocative article in a recent issue of America Magazine, Czech spiritual writer, Tomas Halik, suggests that for our ecclesial communities to become “field hospitals” they must assume three roles: A Diagnostic one – wherein they identify the signs of the times; a Preventive one – wherein they create an immune system in a world within which malignant viruses of fear, hatred, populism, and nationalism are tearing communities apart; and a Convalescent one – wherein they help the world overcome the traumas of the past through forgiveness.

How, concretely, might each of these be envisaged?

Our churches need to be diagnostic; they need to name the present moment in a prophetic way. But that calls for a courage that, right now, seems lacking, derailed by fear and ideology. Liberals and conservatives diagnose the present moment in radically different ways, not because the facts aren’t the same for both, but because each of them is seeing things through its own ideology. As well, at the end of the day, both camps seem too frightened to look at the hard issues square on, both afraid of what they might see.

To name just one issue that both seem afraid to look at with unblinking eyes: our rapidly emptying churches and the fact that so many of our own children are no longer going to church or identifying with a church. Conservatives simplistically blame secularism, without ever really being willing to openly debate the various critiques of the churches coming from almost every part of society. Liberals, for their part, tend to simplistically blame conservative rigidity without really being open to courageously look at some of places within secularity where faith in a transcendent God and an incarnate Christ run antithetical to some of the cultural ethos and ideologies within secularity. Both sides, as is evident from their excessive defensiveness, seem afraid to look at all the issues.

What must we do preventatively to turn our churches into field hospitals? The image Halik proposes here is rich but is intelligible only within an understanding of the Body of Christ and an acceptance of the deep connection we have with each other inside the family of humanity. We are all one, one living organism, parts of a single body, so that, as with any living body, what any one part does, for disease or health, affects every other part. And the health of a body is contingent upon its immune system, upon those enzymes that roam throughout the body and kill off cancerous cells. Today our world is beset with cancerous cells of bitterness, hatred, lying, self-protecting fear, and tribalism of every kind. Our world is mortally ill; suffering from a cancer that’s destroying community.

Hence our ecclesial communities must become places that generate the healthy enzymes that are needed to kill off those cancer cells. We must create an immune system robust enough to do this. And for that to happen, we must first, ourselves, stop being part of the cancer of hatred, lying, fear, opposition, and tribalism. Too often, we ourselves are the cancerous cells. The single biggest religious challenge facing us as ecclesial communities today it that of creating an immune system that’s healthy and vigorous enough to help kill off the cancerous cells of hatred, fear, lying, and tribalism that float freely throughout the world.

Finally, our convalescent role: Our ecclesial communities need to help the world come to a deeper reconciliation vis-a-vis the traumas of the past. Happily, this is one of our strengths. Our churches are sanctuaries of forgiveness. In the words of Cardinal Francis George: “In society everything is permitted, but nothing is forgiven; in the church much is prohibited, but everything is forgiven.” But where we need to be more proactive as sanctuaries of forgiveness today is in relation to a number of salient “traumas of the past”. In brief, a deeper forgiveness, healing, and atonement still needs to take place apposite the world’s history with colonization, slavery, the status of women, the torture and disappearance of peoples, the mistreatment of refugees, the perennial support of unjust regimes, and the atonement owed to mother earth herself. Our churches must lead this effort.

Our ecclesial communities as field hospitals can be the Galilee of today.

117 thoughts on “Ron Rolheiser on Churches as Field Hospitals

  1. St.B

    no one here has asked you to be silent and not speak your mind . . . why do you have a problem with people here speaking out?

    you have tried to shame people into silence, and no one here has done this to you

    I don’t understand why you are so down on people here, as we have for some years been a community that tried to honor Michael Spencer with our own honesty about our own thoughts . . . I admit to ‘screaming’ about the border babies’ suffering, yes;
    but that is who I am, and yes, I KNOW WHO I AM.
    Question is: who are you? and why do you want people to be silenced?

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  2. I love Israel and the idea of the Israeli state, yes.

    But I would never approve of how the Palestinian people have been treated since their homes were taken from them in 1948 and they were displaced. . . . .

    they also are human persons made in the image of God, and they and their forebears have lived on that land for centuries

    a more equitable and peaceful solution needs to be found for the sake of all the Jews and the Palestinians in that area,
    because for one group to be ‘favored’ at the expense of the other is simply WRONG.

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  3. The glorious irony of the whole New York field hospital thing is that Samaritans Purse are refusing to allow anyone to volunteer unless they agree a completely irrelevant theological statement, then complaining that they are not being welcomed as volunteers because New York doesn’t agree with their theology.

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  4. It’s just easier to throw rocks from behind the bushes. At least some folks engage in debate and dialogue. What they don’t seem to understand is that a lot us used to subscribe to the very things they are defending. We know the arguments. We used to make them ourselves. I was born in 1956 and I grew up in the South. I once was blind…

    For what it’s worth, I deeply appreciate your contributions.

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  5. I hope he stays, and the others, and that more join them. But what I don’t understand is the pressure to get regular commenters to shut up, to stop talking about the things people talk about here. And what is especially distasteful and inappropriate are the one or two commenters who only appear here to criticize and insult regular commenters (like me) in personal terms — they have nothing to say about the posts, they just go after the commenters they don’t like, and then they have the nerve to accuse the regulars of being unChristian or some such nonsense.

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  6. God bless you Robert. Talk about thin skinned. What’s that saying about heat and the kitchen?

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  7. dan, your complaints, at least to my reading are ironic. I’d wager the word count of your comments since you’ve joined this little community exceed most if not all other commenters. That’s not a complaint. You don’t have a problem sharing your religious and political beliefs to a group of folks who don’t wholeheartedly embrace them. I applaud you for that. I’ve also observed you have been treated with respect. You have shared your journey just as many others here have done. I also know it can be frustrating to think that you are not being heard or understood. Many of us have had the same experience in our faith journeys. I hope you don’t shake the dust off your feet and leave us. Peace!

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  8. Conservative evangelicals getting a bad rap around here? So what? That’s the same group who for years have shouted from the housetops that everyone else is headed straight to hell because they weren’t “true believers”.

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  9. Eeyore, Who does jump on here to vent about unfair evangelicals are treated? This is typical of this site, Look at all my comments today for example, where is the “story line” about evangelicals being treated unfairly.. Where is the dialogue about the issues. So 3 people post here that are not a part of the wilderness mob and that is troubling. Look at Jon, who posted 2 good comments and got the usual poor response, Echo on steriods

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  10. This blog is one of the few safe spaces where troubled, ex-, and recovering evangelicals can talk about our experiences. And when folks like you, Seneca, and Stbndct come on here and tell us to shut up, all that tells us us that you don’t understand why we say what we say, that you don’t care to understand, and just want us to go away.

    Ain’t.

    Gonna.

    Happen.

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  11. And who jumps on here only to vent about how unfair evangelicals are treated, and says little else otherwise? Pot, meet kettle.

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  12. And my understanding of what Israel does to it’s neighbors and it’s non-Jewish citizens colors MY perspective on our support of it. Ethics is a two-way street.

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  13. Forcing people to sign off on your beliefs before letting them work with you IS petty, no question.

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  14. and there are MANY Jewish people and Muslim people who also do good works and attempt to help those in need selflessly,
    so it is that the ‘boundaries’ of who is truly ‘Christ-like’ become blurred and all who love are brought within the circle of Our Lord’s realm

    why can we not see this?

    pour pride?

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  15. they are running from the hypocrisy of the pharisee, the finger-pointing of the judgmental, from the exclusion of the smug ‘saved’, from the unkindness of them what said ‘Lord, Lord’, but cared not for the suffering of others when they might have reached out to help them

    this is not altogether a bad thing to leave behind that which no longer focused on Christ the Lord, but was contaminated by hubris and pride and self-righteousness

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  16. Those are pretty petty criticisms. They are a Christian organization and expect people who work with them to adhere to the same basic set of beliefs. What is so wrong about that? He didn’t require anything of the people who needed help. Yes they do evangelism while giving aid to people. What is the problem with that? Jesus also preached the good news of the kingdom while healing people and told his disciples to do the same. Luke 10:9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ If having to hear “Jesus loves you” is too big a price to pay for free life saving medical care then God help you. If a Muslim gave me help in dire need and at the same time wanted to tell me about Islam I’d thank him and politely listen.

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  17. Robert F. so my comments at 9.10 are not clear enough or whatever enough to get you to quit beating this non essential point. Ignore all the issues I have commented upon and fixate on nonsense. If you call BS , I am sure they will answer you .

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  18. Ran neck and neck in the last century, with ‘humanity’ ahead by an eyelash.

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  19. dan, That was the clear implication of what you said: people here should stop being hung up on their negative experiences with bad religion so that they could live full and rich lives, like the survivors of the Holocaust who had it so much worse, yet got over it and moved on. You don’t want to be accountable for what you say, so you disingenuously accuse me of throwing out a red herring. I call bs.

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  20. Robert F. There you go again. You take a sentence about holocaust survivors living a full and rich life and apply that to people who comment here, in a negative way. Let me state it clearly, I do not think nor even meant to imply that the commenters here do not lead full and rich lives if they are capable of doing so. Again another red herring, subject changing distraction for what purpose? This gets the dialogue into the weeds and the original context out of kilter. Below someone questions my knowledge and empathy for holocaust victims, that is quite a presumptive leap for no logical reason. I am waiting for the Hal Lindsley bomb shell and viewing the holocaust as equal to pelvic issues moral conduct.

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  21. Clay you are exactly right. There are a couple of people who think they know it all and are very unchristian in there supposed arrogance of the rest of us. They have ruined the blog and comment 24/7 all day as if they had nothing better to do.

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  22. Chris A. My father was a hopeless alcoholic and i personally know the effect it has on the family and individuals. An alcoholic may have the disease but the family especially the children suffer. I think way too much effort is placed on the alcoholic and the family gets a support role . It is a terrible situation and like many areas no good solution. Thanks for sharing. I can relate after all these years have passed. I do think this is one of those you had to be there experiences, growing up with an alcoholic father. It made my early life harder, unpleasant and hard to overcome but thanks to God I did.

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  23. Christiane, Been to both. Been to Auschwitz near Krakow, had great opportunity to speak to a survivor of Sobibor., the only death camp that had a uprising and 300 prisoners actually escaped. There is a of made for TV movie about Sobibor that is quite real and good.. A really chilling and real movie that may still be available is Conspiracy about the Wannsee conference in 1942 where the details were ironed out on the final solution. been to Anne Frank hiding home . The numbers of the holocaust are staggering but putting places and faces on the subject makes it very personal. That is why they colored the little girls coat in the Jewish round up in Schindlers List , to personalize the horror. I think I have a small clue of the holocaust and am alarmed at some of the denial that is always lurking.

    Again the attitude that I need to know more about what the Holocaust did to people is based on what? Do my comments indicate that I am not educated, not aware of the holocaust or have little understand of the history or impact of the final solution on people. Why is that your take a way? Because of Robert F. conclusion that my poor choice description of got over negates any valid comments I might make. However thank you for the concern but I am confident I have an understanding of the holocaust even to just read the real history would be enough .

    My understanding of the holocaust colors my support for Israel and her right to exist.

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  24. Dan,

    As the adult child of an alcoholic, (and I’m 64 years old) I can attest to the validity of most of what you say. You and I may differ on many other viewpoints, but we are in agreement on this blog becoming an echo chamber. And it has been one for many, many months.

    Plus, and I think there is both loads of irony and comedy in the statement posited by Rick Ro earlier; to wit……… Hmm… I guess my real point was wondering what will get Christians from acting like a**holes. In effect, he just called every poster here, save Klasie, an asshole…….an arrow that hits much closer to the mark than he probably intended.

    In closing, I borrow the prescient words of Burro, “your mileage may vary.”

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  25. Dan, you might benefit from going to one of the Holocaust Museums. There is one in Washington DC.
    Or if you can, visit Yad Vashem in Israel.

    You need to know more about what the Holocaust did to people, I think. These museums are designed to help with that.

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  26. You’ve never been to an AA meeting. There are no restrictions on what people are allowed to talk about. People talk about whatever helps them in their recovery. And my question about what makes you think the conversations here mean that people are not leading full and rich lives hasn’t been answered.

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  27. People attending an AA meeting would have a medical, physical and mental addiction to a drug. They are concentrating on improving themselves and not worried about what their former alcoholic circle of friends are doing. They are trying to move on from their addiction or obsession. Does AA concentrate on the personal issue or does it wander into the weeds of social approval of alcohol and demand a Carrie Nation solution. They do not dwell on the rampant scourge of alcohol and drugs , they concentrate on own salvation from the addiction. AA members at a certain point do not look back as much as they look forward, as they ,like people who accept Christ are not what they use to be. Or to be simple , you can beat the horse to death. There is a time to move on and grow. M Spenser seemed to me to be searching , growing and living in the present and future , not the past , not that he forgot or did not acknowledge the past. I would love to know where his earthly journey of faith unfolded if God had so willed.

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  28. What makes you think the discussion here means the lives of the discussants are being dominated by the discussions? Would you walk into an AA meeting and complain that the attendees are spending too much time talking addiction and recovery? Would you assume that because they are attending AA meetings several times a week their lives were not full and rich ones? And besides that, isn’t it clear that the people here are almost always talking about the bad religion they see going on in the world of American Christianity today, not 30 years ago, though they naturally see a connection between the patterns then and the same patterns now?

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  29. 197Robert F. There you go playing a semantic word got cha game. I know you understand my poor selection of got over to describe how the survivors learned to cope and move on from their ordeal. So discuss my thought, my comments about how the holocaust survivors did not let evil dominate their lives. They recorded , they wrote about and did the best they could to tell their story but it was not their obsession. They lived as full and rich lives as possible. I love that Israel unofficial slogan is Never Again and we know why. So again your take away is my poor grammar not the meat of my observation. Is that what it is about? Israel and the world need to have a minor obsession that state sponsored genocide is not forgotten, ignored or covered up. Would there be a state of Israel without the support of the USA? Any American my age who is not aware of the holocaust and its horror lives in a bubble.

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  30. This is a case in point – Franklin Graham set up his field hospital then blew any goodwill he might have got when it was discovered he was requiring anyone who wanted to volunteer there had to sign a statement condemning gay marriage. Samaritans Purse, the organisation that runs it, have also been on a number of occasions using aid money to fund evangelism and using their presence as aid workers to distribute evangelical literature.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-yorkers-are-right-to-be-skeptical-of-samaritans-purses-evangelical-coronavirus-ward-in-central-park
    Pulling this sort of stunt every time they are supposedly just helping out is exactly why evangelicals don’t get credit for what they do.

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  31. “Good Grief Guys, Holocaust survivors got over their horrible , unbearable treatment and moved on with their lives, they even built a nation against overwhelming odds.”

    You haven’t read many stories or biographies about/autobiographies by Holocaust survivors, have you, Dan? They never “got over” their experience. Never.

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  32. Good Grief Guys, Holocaust survivors got over their horrible , unbearable treatment and moved on with their lives, they even built a nation against overwhelming odds. Were some here in a cult with absolutely no contact with the outside world and reality? If as an adult coming of age in America you have choices and while they may be hard they can be made. Was complete contact with the outside world not allowed. I hear nonsense from secular, religious and all types of viewpoints and take them for what they are worth. At what point can you let the past be the past. I do not think this site is a “tribe, it appears some here have an obsession as big as Ahab’s whale. Do not let the evangelicals who you do not agree with dominate a portion of your life. Most people get it and move on. Jim Bakker was/is he gave up his gold mine in S.C. out of pure stupidity and greed and now sells emergency food for the next crisis. America success in based on slavery, racism, white privilege and a lie, it could have been better by who. Hal Lindsley and Jack Chick who I only know about from this site have as much sway now as Casey Kassam, leisure suits, mini skirts and disco, times have changed. God does not bestow any favor on America because it is not warranted and those who believe so are misusing their faith, may be true but that is your opinion not the Gospel. Your faith should guide your actions in secular matters. I do not carry about denominations but I do care about finding my own personal way in this world as best as I can , being a good Christian and a good person but knowing when , not if , I fail Jesus has me covered. We have many organizations, political parties, government agencies and charity can do social justice, that is not the Gospel , at least to me. Stupid evangelicals and Catholics who believe Jesus came as the Savior, not a social worker. Who gets decide what is the right way to dispense social justice and what will be the foundational belief of that social justice?
    Christianity has made the world a better place due to the works of Christians , like the Catholic Church but to me , to me personally Jesus came as a personal savior , changing me and then I should take it from there. None of admonishments / teachings/blessings of Jesus apply to you unless you accept Jesus as Christ. Do not let the evangelicals warp your perspective , move on. Lolita was an obsession and that turned out bad as do all obsessions.

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  33. As a reminder, many folks who linger here have been burned by churches claiming to be perfect and that are the epitome of tribalistic. Thus, the tone you are hearing. I’m not sure that this site and the people here are as tribalistic as you think, we are just wary of bad religion, specifically bad Christianity.

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  34. I get your point. At the same time, if there were no mainline Protestant churches, I and others like me who would not be accepted by the Catholic Church as we are — in my case, married to a divorcee — would not be members of any church at all.

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  35. Yeah, secular space is a space where religious people are not allowed to use stakes and crusades.

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  36. Many on this site need to listen to the old Bing Crosby hit “Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative:. It is one thing to be objective, analyze critically and hold power accountable. Many of the regular commenters here are in search of perfection it seems. America , a hotbed of racism, violence , intolerance , unfairness and greed. At times what realistic narrative is America compared to, in the real world. The old saying forsaking the good in search of the perfect comes to mind.
    No religious denominations seem to be pure enough for the judgmental few here. Nit picking about semantics and code words and phrases replace real dialogue. Talk about tribalism , this is the tribe of not good enough for us as we are in search of perfection or our idea of it. As Christianity ebbs to irrelevance what will take its place, a combo of feel good sayings and abstract thoughts. Do not like the evangelicals , ok, get over it, leave , be done, not impressed with the contribution of the Catholic Church as it did not reach the unreachable East in its time, what would be the alternative. Actually many times the dialogue is like freshmen in college out doing each other in distain for their heritage and upbringing for street creed.. If I went to a secular site and they talked about people of faith with such distain I would be surprised. Of course Paul spoke to the gentiles so we now are all tribes. What tribe is represented here but the snarky. Some here really need to get over it. As they say time to move on. Truly becoming an echo chamber , which is sad.

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  37. sometimes ‘the Church’ reaches out in the form of those whose minds and hearts have conformed to the mind and heart of Christ:

    ‘The Prison Angel’

    ” . . . inmates told how Mother Antonia once walked into the middle of a prison riot while bullets flew and tear gas filled the air. When the inmates saw her, fearless in her habit, the fighting stopped. She never seemed to stop smiling”

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  38. I point my friends here to Dreher’s latest (as of my commenting this time today):

    “Weird Christianity in Covidtide”

    Do please read. It’s germane.

    Dana

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  39. Yes, there are many people doing good works at this time. Some of them even happen to be Christians!

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  40. If there’s constant criticism here (which there isn’t) it’s because the evangelicals are notoriously UNself-critical.

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  41. But those institutions, practices, and channels seem to be like milk – they have an expiration date, after which they start to stink.

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  42. Since said criticism often came in the form of stakes and crusades, can you blame them?

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  43. The evangelical church has done plenty. For example, I’m sure many here are not fans of Franklin Graham, and there have certainly been times I wish he hadn’t said what he said. But when New York got slammed with the corona virus Samaritan’s Purse went and set up a field hospital free of charge. And for thanks the governor of New York has told the volunteers that they are going to have to pay New York income tax for living there over 14 days. Beyond this many evangelicals and evangelical churches run crisis pregnancy centers, do food drives and clothes distribution, are involved in jail ministries, help fix up people’s houses. Most of the help that has been provided in my own community the last couple of months has come from evangelical churches. As I said in an earlier comment, there is plenty to criticize, but comments like the one you just made are over the top and unhelpful. We ought to seek to build each other up. Part of that is correction, but constant criticism without anything encourage or helpful just tears down.

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  44. I’m not fond of the ‘Christ’s Church is basically a roll call’ ecclesiology.
    There are institutions, practices, channels for the human energies. These can be well- or poorly-designed and well- or poorly-implemented.

    For better or worse, my bishop, this blog, and Charisma magazine are part of that panoply.

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  45. Well then how do you understand them? Do you know or at least have a good guess as to what he means?

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  46. The world didn’t used to be ‘secular’.

    Sometimes I think it became so to make a space to escape from the criticism of Christians.

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  47. Oh, he had a mirror all right. Called the Holy Spirit. Each encounter he had with the Pharisees contained a moment for them to examine their own actions. Unfortunately, there are very few accounts that any of them took him up on it.

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  48. Very few churches in American will have the ability to become field hospitals. For most, it would require massive changes in outlook, opinions, culture, connections, attitudes, and so much more. I have to say, as an outsider for almost ten years now, I see significant segments of the church as sources of tribalism, with malice and malevolence for outsiders. Those are the last places I would go for help. Doubly so if the offending church were rich and white and I were a minority.

    Not all, of course. There are still points of light. But they have become fewer over the years, and many of those are on the far fringes of church institutions at best. If you’re an outsider looking for help from the church, the chances of finding it are pretty low. When that happens, people stop looking, stop seeking in the church, and instead look elsewhere.

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  49. Worse, they criticize the secular world while having an air of superiority (tribalism!), and often failing to recognize their own faults and hypocrisy.

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  50. It is allowed, but it might not carry much weight. You almost have to be one of the tribe speaking into the tribe than an outsider speaking into the tribe. But, even having said that, Paul (and others) certainly did a good job of presenting the gospel to those outside his tribe.

    For me, though, my annoyance is with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are a-holes. I tend to give secular a-holes a pass as they don’t profess to follow the Lord of light, hope and love.

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  51. Except the evangelical church has done little but criticize the secular world. A season of keeping our mouths shut might do us all a bit of good.

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  52. Rick Ro. I think Jesus did more than that plus Jesus did not own a mirror. Jesus gave people a way to repent (change) by believing in him. None of his teachings are we on our own able to accomplish but we can though Jesus. I am weak but he is strong, pretty good summation of what happens. Jesus came to do what we could and can not do for ourselves .

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  53. Rick Ro, I think Christians might ask the same question of the secular world or is that allowed?

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  54. If Dan has an evangelical background, he may not understand Church history from a ‘Cathodox’ perspective.

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  55. All one can really do is hold up a mirror and hope someone recognizes the need to change. That’s all Jesus could do, really, is give people moments to look in the mirror and see.

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  56. well, the Church in the Dark Ages was the first and only ‘hospital’ people had, which is how over 90% of Catholic clergy perished during the Black Death by way of ministering to the sick and the dying.

    how is it that some ‘Churches’ became so exclusive and saw themselves as superior to ‘the lost’ and to ‘those other sinners’? They put up walls and barriers and manipulated people into accepting certain beliefs and practices in order to ‘belong’ and eventually they ended up being places with stages instead of altars and with bands instead of choirs and the pastor became an entertainer instead of a shepherd. . . . . and then came the politics and the big money and power trips until the whole house of cards began to come down on the perpetrators of the medicine show that sold ‘prosperity’ instead of ‘the Cross’.

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  57. Personally, I believe tribal is okay. I am an American. I’m a boardgame. I root for the Seahawks. I am a UW Husky. It’s okay to belong to a tribe, to see yourself as part of a community.

    Tribalism, in the other hand, isn’t okay. This is when you begin feeling your tribe is superior to the other tribes. When it becomes Mexicans are worse than Americans. You are dumb because you don’t play board games. People who root for the Forty-Niners are idiots. Cougars are pathetic party animals.

    Tribalism is what Jesus spoke out against.

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  58. This very picture was painted this morn’ at my place.
    And the birds?
    What songs they sang!
    What joy they announced!

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  59. With each head attacking the others and new heads constantly springing up.

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  60. I quote myself:

    Above all else they seem to be looking for a way to make somebody important in their life act differently than the way they are currently acting.

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  61. I’m pretty tribal.

    News stories like this during a pandemic warm the cockles of my heart.

    I know I need to repent.

    Show me how.

    O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to condemn my brother.

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  62. Hmm… I guess my real point was wondering what will get Christians from acting like a**holes.

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  63. Oh, Rick Ro,

    Why did I have to come here this morning and fall into this, another heartfelt, urgent plea the for Hubert Humphrey-osis of the Church and Christians? We already have one Democratic Party in the USA, one Labour Party in the UK, one Liberal party in Canada, you get my drift. You want the Church to empty? Turning the Church into a social service agency with a sprinkle of god(ess)-talk on top is as quick a way as I can think of to accomplish that.

    People are leaving because they can’t find Jesus in the Church. Not that people are particularly looking for Jesus these days. In my contact with people, they are usually looking for something other than Jesus; a job, sexual variety, an affordable house in a neighborhood with good schools, affirmation, freedom from abuse, friends, vengeance. Above all else they seem to be looking for a way to make somebody important in their life act differently than the way they are currently acting. It should be left for an exercise for the reader if the Church should busy herself helping these people find what they are looking for.

    One of the verses in The Gospel of John that gets under my skin more deeply than many of the others is the statement of Jesus that “it is to your advantage that I go away” . Yeah, right, Jesus. You know our track record, yet you say this.

    Let’s cut the crap. Jesus said it was necessary for him to go away so that the Bible could be written, or that the Church hierarchy could be established, but rather that “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” I’ve been looking for the Holy Ghost my whole friggin’ life, and it seems like I’ve always been about four or five steps behind Him. I thank God for the Orthodox Church, and I thank God she has preserved a tradition of Spirit-filled living, even if it appears to be mostly the province of monastics, and there are just as many dry bones here as everywhere else.

    I have so much more to say. hell, I make Elihu look like Calvin Coolidge. 1) We need to reorder our relationship to the natural world. We are returning great evil for great generosity and this cannot continue. 2) Our age idolizes sex, and gets it all wrong. This has to stop, somehow. You can call me out for being obsessed with ‘pelvic issues’ but where was a man useful if his pelvis was out of whack? 3) Men’s allegiances are all twisted around. We are being encouraged either to be true to ‘ourselves’ and ‘our passion’, or to great windy abstractions like ‘humanity’ or ‘social justice’. Genuine local allegiances such as our family, our land (as in ‘dirt that we own and work’), or our city have no power to sway our imaginations.

    I’ll shut up.

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  64. –> “Today our world is beset with cancerous cells of bitterness, hatred, lying, self-protecting fear, and tribalism of every kind. Our world is mortally ill; suffering from a cancer that’s destroying community.”

    Yes. And Jesus so clearly spoke out against these sorts of things and yet here we are, with people of the church some of the worst offenders. I’ve come so close to unfriending a few of my Christian friends on FB because of their un-Christlike-ness.

    (And again I wonder… where is the Holy Spirit in us, for us to be so like the world? But I digress….)

    I think his take on community is key. Either you see yourself as a bigger whole, willing to help its betterment, or you see yourself as an individual, and everyone else exists around you. As I said a few days ago, I see Christians who give more respect to the American flag than they give to flesh-and-blood human beings, and who will fight for the life of an unborn fetus but not give a hoot for the living, breathing people around them.

    What will get people like this to change? Especially people who have heard the Good News and should know healthy community is key, yet live completely opposite, and share opinions that are so un-Christlike?

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  65. > Folks who bemoan the state of the church today might just be looking back to
    > a golden age that never was

    Nope. It is a recognition that it (A) wants to claim Authority, to speak in Prophetic Voice yet (B) conducts itself as a sycophant to the privileged. The church, or anyone else, gets to choose A or B, not both.

    That, yes, Humanity has always kinda sucked does not diminish the hypocrisy.

    > What we’re seeing, rather, is the falling away of people who were culturally Christian
    > ***BUT*** functionally idol-worshipers.

    Which sounds a lot like a game of No True Scotsman.

    Also, if indeed so many were left at “culturally Christian” isn’t that a stunning failure of the church this argument is meant to defend? Again, of those who want to claim Prophetic Voice and Holy Wisdom.

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  66. A lot of cynicism here today, and maybe rightly so. But all it takes “to be the church” is showing up to help, or giving a cup of water to someone who thirsts.

    The church I attend has partnered up with a refugee non-profit and several food distributors (some non-profit, some for-profit) to distribute bags of groceries and boxes of food every Wednesday to people who drive up. Several people also deliver these things to families who aren’t able to drive there. The volunteers are a mix of people from the church, the refugee non-profit, and some who heard and just want to help. One of the for-profit food distributors has loaned us a refrigerated truck during this effort.

    We gave away food to over 500 families this past Wednesday.

    This came about mainly because of one person, the leader of the effort who is a go-getter and willing to make calls for getting the food and aid. The rest of us are just people who want to help those who may be in need. Not all of us are of “the church,” but those of us who are are trying to “be the church.”

    What does it take to be a field hospital church? I guess my takeaway based upon this experience: It takes at least one really strong take-charge personality who feels led to be a field hospital church, and a bunch of people who catch that vision and are willing to help.

    So… maybe the cynicism is warranted, as most churches maybe don’t have the personalities to be a field hospital church to this scale. But maybe even those that don’t can do something good during this time. Just serving one or two families in need…. can’t most churches at least do that? Aren’t there people in most churches who can at least help a little?

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  67. Folks who bemoan the state of the church today might just be looking back to a golden age that never was.

    At every point in history, there have been idols – nationalism, political ideology, racism, wealth, intellectualism, workaholism, etc. – that compete for the allegiance that we should only offer to Christ. What’s changed is that in the past someone could be, in truth, an idolater, but still sit in a pew on Sundays. But I’m not convinced that the percentage of the population who are true worshipers of Christ instead of worshipers of idols is actually dropping so rapidly. What we’re seeing, rather, is the falling away of people who were culturally Christian but functionally idol-worshipers.

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  68. I agree. Yet in my agreement lies a recognition of a deeply rooted game of no-true-scotsman. By the time we get done cherry picking the true scotsmen, do we have stone soup?

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  69. > I am certainly not Catholic however my appreciation and respect for the history of the Catholic Church is deep

    Same.

    And they at least have the schema to facilitate some kind of change; vs. the myriad headed hydra of Protestantism.

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  70. Agree. This is something I no longer have the strength to believe, believing in the church is utterly exhausting.

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  71. “It is doubtful that anyone at all would even be concerned about forgiveness, healing and atonement for the issues mentioned were it not for the years of influence of the good news of Jesus Christ and the teachings we find in the New Testament.”

    True, but most of that influence came from (at least in my life) individual points of light – Michael Spenser being one of them. And those people were often on the margins of the institutions we were part of.

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  72. Yes, it was a powerful international organization, and individual members of it did great good. But for the greater part, it was often more of a hindrance – supporting slavery, declaring representative democracy a heresy, condoning persecution of dissenters, etc etc. I have little faith left that church organizations can get us out of the mess they got us into.

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  73. Wow, The Catholic Church for 2000 years has been a powerful leader in world affairs , actually the most powerful leader for most of those years.

    Actually, for most of that time in a large parts of the world the Catholic Church was almost completely unknown. You just don’t count regions outside of European (mostly) Christendom as significant parts of the world or world history. That is one of the problems with the Eurocentric attitude of the Church and churches. Time to stop pretend the Church is leading, or should lead, by any measurable secular standard, and try a little humility.

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  74. I’m glad the Church, and the churches, are losing their secular power. If they are to lead, they must lead from below and behind, from a position of humility, and being humbled, by being accounted of no importance, as nothing special, by the rest of the world. The kind of leadership that is not noticed by others as leadership. But to do that, the Church and churches must first learn humility. Loss of secular power is an opportunity for that.

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  75. of course I meant without the influence of the Catholic Church not with but that is the evangelical upbringing slipping out.

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  76. Jon, I totally agree. The world is such a better place because of followers of Christ who believe Jesus is who he said he was.

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  77. Wow, The Catholic Church for 2000 years has been a powerful leader in world affairs , actually the most powerful leader for most of those years. The Roman Catholic Church was the first international organization. Our western civilization would not be what it is with out the Catholic Church. It kept the flame of education, faith and civilization alive and then the rebirth exploded. The Holy Roman Empire was the glue that stopped the Muslim invasion and changed history. Art, literature, education, research, science and almost every area was kept alive and nourished by the Catholic Church. The Church was not only a leader it was the only leader. I could go on but the point is easily researched.
    I am certainly not Catholic however my appreciation and respect for the history of the Catholic Church is deep. I tell my evangelical friends and relatives where did MLK come from and what was he trying to reform not destroy?

    I think people of faith do lead and change lives. How dark the world would be with the influence of the Catholic Church which like all things in this world are given to us by God.

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  78. A lot of days there is nothing but criticism of churches, and especially evangelical churches, on these comments. I’m here early so I just want to say at the start that yes a lot of churches have a lot of problems and there are a lot of legitimate criticisms to be made. However, a lot of churches and a lot of Christians are also doing a lot of good and overall the Church has done more good for this world than evil. It is doubtful that anyone at all would even be concerned about forgiveness, healing and atonement for the issues mentioned were it not for the years of influence of the good news of Jesus Christ and the teachings we find in the New Testament.

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  79. In brief, a deeper forgiveness, healing, and atonement still needs to take place apposite the world’s history with colonization, slavery, the status of women, the torture and disappearance of peoples, the mistreatment of refugees, the perennial support of unjust regimes, and the atonement owed to mother earth herself. Our churches must lead this effort.

    But they won’t. The churches have been followers, having to catch up with everybody else, for a long time now. Often I feel that’s a good thing. The churches — and the Church — have not done a great job at leading when they’ve been in the position to do so.

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  80. Mike at the end of the article you say ” In brief, a deeper forgiveness, healing, and atonement need to take place,” What do you mean by atonement in relation to the issues you list afterwards?

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  81. Generally speaking, I don’t see that churches have what it takes to be field hospitals. I don’t see that they possess the skills, the prophetic power referred to in the post, the commitment, or competence for that. What I see is that churches themselves need hospitalization, and many of them intensive care.

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  82. When churches shill for big business and the wealthy…

    When churches persecute the abused and protect the abusers…

    …the diagnoses of conservatives and lberals alike are irrelevant. If churches will not model the dynamic relationship between Father, Son and Spirit, people will rightly dismiss Christianity as a fraud and will go elsewhere.

    Sorry.

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  83. I am a Christian I believe this , which I picked up somewhere in my travels so it is not an original thought but I think it is germane to the discussion
    (1) Repair the world I must repair myself and that begins by knowing myself. What do I believe as a Christian?

    Christianity was and is the base of overcoming the traumas of the past, while contributing to the traumas individual belief in Christianity led to slow but steady change in the areas where Christianity had/has influence. Without Christianity there is no social justice that works.

    Last verse in Judges paraphrased “every man did what was right in his own eyes”.

    So what does Cardinal Francis George think about the Catholic Church giving Communist Party in China a major say in the workings of the Catholic Church in China. The devil is in the details. The people of faith are responding to the traumas of the past as best they can giving the complexity of the world. Without the context of Christian values what would define social justice?

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