A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking who is part of a nondenominational church. In the air was a current events conversation and she was speaking against the recent outbreak of sexual harassment incidents against women in America. She was saying all the right words, advocating how all deserve to be treated equally and granted opportunity irrespective of gender.
Then I asked, “What does your church believe about the role of women in the church?”
There was a long silence. “I am not sure”, she said.
“Do you have any pastors who are women?”.
The answer was “no” and she promised to go find out what her church thought.
The conversation raises a question concerning the underbelly of Christian America. How many church members really know what their church advocates? Does your church let anyone receive communion? What does your church say about women in leadership? And while some Christians have a very informed faith, a painful truth is that many do not, and when people make decisions about belonging to a church ‘because I like the music’ and do not explore the deeper convictions the church holds that member is in store for a theological surprise.
Another friend of mine, for example, moved to the country recently and joined a Cowboy Church. At first they were enamored with bringing your horses and guns to church – I was too. Once they discovered, however, women could serve in no leadership capacity and heard what the church said women ought to do they left and made another choice.
Unexplored faith has unintended consequences. Deborah and I saw the new film Darkest Hour which depicts Winston Churchill at the beginning of his time as Prime Minister of England. Every time I see a World War II movie I am reminded of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who accused German Christianity of a ‘costly grace’. Bonhoeffer believed the church acquiesced to the Nazis, saying the name of Jesus without any deeper thinking about either the Gospel or the evil Hitler represented. Faith in Jesus cannot be cheap we might say today, and if we leave our faith unexplored is that not in fact the faith we have?
A challenge for all of us then is to know our church. As the exploration occurs there will be questions, and the questions are worth it. An informed faith creates a more powerful disciple who blesses us all.
As Saint Anselm’s motto tells us, ‘faith seeks understanding’. Maybe when it comes to faith and church today it is time for all of us to dig in.