Okay, so I wrote about my evangelical background and the gifts it gave me (without sarcasm or bitterness).
So I thought it was only fair to write about the gifts the United Methodist Church (and the Episcopal Church, too, since that was mostly home before I married a Methodist) give me now. I owe a debt to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), too, since my college was affiliated with both the DOC — that's the liberal arm of the Christian Church — and the conservative one.
This isn't for one second to say that the church I call home is perfect.
There's a saying that patriotism is to have "a lover's quarrel with one's country." I agree. I'm not sure what you'd call that in the church, but so I'll just say I'm a patriotic United Methodist who has some extremely passionate quarrels with the church.
But it's easy to criticize and harder to find the good — for me, anyway. So today I'm thinking about why I'm here, and why I stay.
Mainline churches taught me that when Jesus said, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," he was talking about now. For whatever reason, I said those words over and over without thinking Jesus might have meant we should be trying to make earth look like the kingdom of God, not just waiting for Jesus to come back.
Mainline churches taught me that economic choices are also theological choices. We don't always get this right, of course, but I like that I can (and do) buy fair trade products during coffee hour at my church. There's no pressure, but it's available. (FYI, fair trade products are those where the producers, such as farmers and artisans, make a real profit on their products instead of providing insanely cheap labor for big corporations.)
Mainline churches taught me that faith can be inclusive rather than exclusive. While I often wish for more emphasis on doctrine (yes, I'm that person), I appreciate that my church isn't so concerned with who is and isn't going to heaven. The emphasis is on following Jesus now, at least on our best days.
Mainline churches taught me to emphasize Jesus over Paul. While I actually wish we talked more about Paul, I'm glad that when the two seem to contradict each other, we'll pick Jesus every time. Same goes for the Old Testament. Again, I'd like to read those in light of Jesus rather than ignoring the parts that are hard or that we don't understand because of culture and history, but I'll take this emphasis.
So I'm finishing by saying there's plenty to hate about any institutional church. But there are things to love, too.
Tomorrow I'll go back to that lover's quarrel in a personal, private, and real way, but tonight I'm thinking about the love part.