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"The Lonely American Man" and The Church

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Listening to podcasts is my stereotypical millennial habit. Of the podcasts I listen to, Hidden Brain is among the most consistently good and I would recommend every episode Hidden Brain puts out. However, I believe the March 19th episode is one that I would recommend for you to listen to right now. In fact you can click the audio player below and listen right away.

The show has two titles - The Lonely American Man and Guys, We Have a Problem: How American Masculinity Create Lonely Men

I was convicted in listening to this episode as a church leader because much of what is missing in the lives of men is present within the walls of a church. We as a church have failed not just to "make disciples for Jesus Christ" we have and are failing at the basic levels of community. 

At this time I do not have any solutions to what ails us, but I was struck at one study cited in this episode. Specifically the people in the study do not have a fear to have a conversation with a stranger, but there was an overwhelming fear to start a conversation with a stranger. 

I am not sure how others start conversations, so perhaps if you have gotten this far you can leave a comment about how you start conversations with people.

Source: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Choosing Conflict Over War

War is often thought of as the ultimate conflict. Of course there is great loss of life and civilization in any war, there is great devastation and destruction in war. As it has been said, war is hell.

However, according to Peter Rolins, war is not the ultimate conflict but the absence of conflict. Meaning that we would rather see the eradication and elimination of the other person(s) than be in conflict with them. As such, war is what happens when groups/people refuse to have conflict and wish the destruction of the other.

Photo by  Jordy Meow  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jordy Meow on Unsplash

The United Methodist Church has been in conflict for a long time. For some it is exhausting and no longer worth the fight. Some believe that we have irreconcilable differences. Some feel that we cannot be united as long as the Book of Discipline is not changed or if it is not being followed. Some believe that we are better off apart than together. 

Put another way, there are many who would rather not have see or interact or be in conflict with others in the denomination. There are some who choose war because it gives a false comfort. We believe that no conflict means comfort. No conflict means war. Even the building of peace has conflict. The difference in peace and war is that peace puts conflict in its proper place and war banishes conflict all together. 

I choose conflict over war. 

I choose to be in conflict with those I disagree with. Those who I feel are being total jerks and those who think that I am a jerk. I choose to be in conflict with those who break the Book of Discipline and those who desire it to remain unchanged. I choose to be in conflict with those who think I am a heretic and those who think I am saint. I choose to be in conflict because I choose relationships (even conflictual ones) over war.

The Uniting Methodists are people who understand that conflict is nothing to fear. In fact, conflict means we all are alive! If there is no conflict then the "others" have been eradicated. If there is no conflict then there is only war. I pray the UMC will come to see that the long conflicts of our denomination are signs of health and engagement. Let us not fall victim to the false comfort that comes from the sirens calling us to war. 

Parable of man on an island and the UMC

There is a story that Peter Rollins tells in his book Idolatry of God and it goes like this:

There was once a man who had been shipwrecked on an uninhabited deserted island. There he lived alone for ten years before finally being rescued by a passing aircraft. Before leaving the island, one of the rescuers asked if they could see where the man had lived during his time on the island, and so he brought the small group to a clearing where there were three buildings. Pointing to the first he said, "This was my home; I build it when I first moved here all those years ago." "What about the building beside it?" asked the rescuers. "Ho, that is where I would worship every week," he replied. "And that building beside that?" "Don't bring that up," replied the man in an agitated tone. "That is where I used to worship."

While this story is not factually true, this is a True story. Anytime there is a quest to find the "perfect", "pure", "correct" church we will always be disappointed and leave. If we believe the Church we are in is not upholding the ideal that we believe it should be upholding then we will always be building new churches. 

Parable of man on an island and the UMC

There is a story that Peter Rollins tells in his book Idolatry of God and it goes like this:

There was once a man who had been shipwrecked on an uninhabited deserted island. There he lived alone for ten years before finally being rescued by a passing aircraft. Before leaving the island, one of the rescuers asked if they could see where the man had lived during his time on the island, and so he brought the small group to a clearing where there were three buildings. Pointing to the first he said, "This was my home; I build it when I first moved here all those years ago." "What about the building beside it?" asked the rescuers. "Ho, that is where I would worship every week," he replied. "And that building beside that?" "Don't bring that up," replied the man in an agitated tone. "That is where I used to worship."

While this story is not factually true, this is a True story. Anytime there is a quest to find the "perfect", "pure", "correct" church we will always be disappointed and leave. If we believe the Church we are in is not upholding the ideal that we believe it should be upholding then we will always be building new churches.