The Church

The Bride of Christ has OCD

(Sidenote: This is my inaugural post on my new wordpress account. I’m trying to import my xanga posts but you basically have to have invented the internet to know how to do it, so don’t hold your breath.)
I’ve always had weird these weird (let’s call them) quirks. Lately, I’ve been watching the show “Obsessed” on Netflix.  It follows two people who use compulsions for dealing with anxiety.  A counselor then forces them to face their fears- Touch this toilet seat for 15 seconds. Leave the faucet running all night. Put a fingerprint on that book.  By confronting their fears, the people learn to deal with their anxiety instead of escaping through performing their compulsions.  Well, my compulsions and strange fears have nothing to do with anxiety, so I’m not sure what a counselor would do with me, but if I went to a cognitive behavioral therapist, they would have me do the following to face my fears:

  • Squeeze wet bread.
  • Dry off my FACE with Alex’s towel after he’s already used it (and thus his butt germs are all over it) AND/OR make me use the same towel for body and face. (I have always used two towels- a head towel and a body towel and never the twain shall meet.)
  •  Put wet paper on my face.
  • Have Gracie lick the inside of my mouth. 
  • Make me use the words “supple” and “duty” ten times a day in my everyday speech.
  •  Have a coal miner walk through elephant dung, wipe his feet on my pillow like it was a welcome mat, and then make me sleep on it.  (Someone who has a foot fungus or… just regular feet would also work).
  • Make me watch a movie while facing the screen. (Ever since I was teeny tiny, I have watched television and movies out of the side of my eyes. I think I started it because it’s really cool that you can see through the side of your nose. My grandmother took me to every eye doctor in Fort Worth because she thought something was wrong with me.)
  • Make me massage someone’s nub (a stump, an appendage that has been removed).
  • Have me sit through a boring conversation without spelling out what’s being said with my fingers (cause I took a sign language class is 7th grade and, since I’m obviously a genius, I love spelling things out with my fingers so much that it’s become a subconscious thing)
  •  Make me wear velvet.
  • Leave trash in my car overnight.
  •  Make me take a bath in a bathtub that a large, indigenous pig showered in (okay, or just a regular person)
  • Force me to take a 4 hour train ride with someone who uses their fingers for emphasis. If they repeat themselves over and over, it’s an added bonus.
  • Make me drink out of Alex’s mug. (Although, in my defense, he “cleans” it by swirling water around in it every five days and I have literally sponged mold that looked like cake batter out of there.)
  •  Make me sit on a convenience store toilet.
  • Make me sit by and watch while people take samples of  pineapple at Kroger with toothpicks that have been licked by a 3 year old.

And those aren’t the weirdest ones. I have friends and family (who shall remain un-named to protect the innocent) who:

  • Are afraid to take the trash out to the dumpster because they’re afraid a baby will be in there (living or dead)
  • Are afraid to use public restrooms and hold it all day until they get home
  • Literally cannot look at a hair that is detached from someone’s head without ralphing.
  • Have a fear of people who don’t have teeth
  • Fear that the government is tracking their every move

Did you know that the Bride of Christ (at least the American version) has OCD tendencies? Did you know that when I say the “Bride of Christ”, I mean “Church”? I know that I rail on the Church alot and some of you must be wondering, “Geez, what church do Beth and Alex go to? It must be AWFUL.” Well, fortunately (and unfortunately), when I say Church with a capital C, I mean the Body of Christ- all Christians acting together to represent Christ in the world. You see, just like you have ten fingers, a palm, a wrist, a forearm, an elbow, etc… Christians similarly have different functions within the Church, but all of us acting together make one Body. Get it? If you don’t, let me know and I’ll explain it a little more. It’s a pretty amazing concept, actually.

Anyway, I’ve been noticing a number of OCD compulsions that the Church is exhibiting as a whole (not all churches at all times have these issues, but the American church as a whole has them). If I was a cognitive behavior therapist, I would make the Church:

– Stop putting people into nice little categories. Alex and I have been super frustrated with the churches that we’ve visited lately cause they want to put you into a box and we’re an oddly shaped couple. Yes, we are “Young marrieds” but we aren’t that young. I mean we’ve been married for four years (tomorrow!). So the next group up is the young families. We’ve been there and done that whole “let’s be in a small group with married people our age”. By the time we left, we were the only ones who didn’t already have kids or weren’t expecting. AND since literally everyone that’s my age is pregnant except for me, I have a feeling that we would quickly run into the same issues if we were grouped with married people our age.  Which brings me to my next point…HOW BORING. Why would I want to fellowship only with people who are in the same stage of life as I am? Having older people in my inner circle allows me to see what things I have to look forward and having younger people allows me to look back and remember how fun it was. I highly value a group that has people of all ages, genders, and walks of life. I’m not positive, but I would think that the early Church had everyone all smushed together- old farts, tweens, college kids, moms, widows, and babies. Churches in developing countries get this concept right. They don’t have enough space to separate everyone out into their proper boxes, and so you get this fabulous mix of people- like moms who nurse their babies right in the middle of the sermon, in front of God and everybody, because Hey! We’re all family! I wish that we would get away from this tendency to divide people into these teeny-tiny factions. I think people in my generation are craving spiritual leadership from the older generation but we’re not old enough to get into the old people Sunday schools…..

– Step out of its comfort zone. ‘Nuf said. Christians nowadays mostly minister to other Christians. In fact, the word “ministry” has been usurped to mean “helping inside the church”- children’s ministry, youth ministry, music ministry, donut ministry, clown ministry…. Not that those things are bad in themselves, but I think we end up patting ourselves on the back far too quickly. Good job. You did your ministry this week. Now you can go be a hermit. Too bad that’s exactly how Jesus DIDN’T do it. Sure, ministry to people outside the faith can be messy (heck, ministry to people inside the faith can be messy) but that is what makes it fun and wonderful. Oh, and it’s what God wanted us to do. If 75 percent or more of the people that you spend your time with are Christians, then you are missing out on getting to know some pretty amazing people who deserve to feel the love of God as much as you do.

–  Stop acting like crazy people. This week, on As the Altar Turns, the music minister tried to get me (and the rest of the congregation) to play a gospel version of Simon Says during the service this week. Guess who has two thumbs and immediately sat down to protest it. This girl. Have we really sunk to that level? What’s next? Pew Poker? The Holy Hokey-Pokey? Divine Darts?  Are churches so desperate for young people that they feel like they have to play games and have circuses and fire eaters to get people to come to church? Maybe, in today’s society, that’s a true sentiment but I have this to say. If you go to church on Sunday to be entertained and then forget that God ever existed for the rest of the week, then you (and the church) are missing the point of following Jesus and you aren’t getting to experience the fullness of life that comes from following Him.  Church isn’t about you. It’s about God.

– Put its wallet in a safe (or give it to Jesus). Geez. I can’t even really talk about this because everyone knows this but SO MUCH MONEY is wasted on pointless CRAP. Sure, some things matter. Do I want to meet with other believers in a dumpster? Of course not! But, do I need to meet with them at a building that has a mall, swimming pool, basketball courts, colonics doctor, tattoo parlor, ukulele factory, and a sanctuary? Obviously, I do. I can’t talk Jesus without having my latte and movie butter popcorn and perfectly groomed nails. Alex and I rarely give money to actual churches because we don’t want to pay for stupid stuff. I understand light bills are important, but when I go there on a Tuesday morning and the entire building is lit up like a Christmas tree because there’s one person inside, I have a problem footing that bill. Or  when churches, who as a whole are on the decline in their congregational numbers,  want to build a new welcome center. No, I don’t want to pay for paisley pew cushions. No, I don’t want to pay for a projector that has the sole purpose of projecting the new $50,000 logo on the floor in the foyer.  No, I don’t want to pay for a fun-house mirror so you can make a pun in your sermon on Sunday. No, I don’t want to pay for more choir robes because NO ONE CARES. No, I don’t want to pay for a $150,000 organ that’s going to be obsolete in 25 years because all of the people that care about organ music will be dead.  What do I want to pay for? How about food for all of those starving people in Africa? How about money for anti-trafficking programs? How about money for AIDS research, prevention, and education? How about helping single moms out with their rent because they lost their job and this economy sucks? The Church could literally transform the world if people 1) actually gave out of the abundance God has given them and 2) spent money on things that actually mattered.

Perhaps, if I made the Church do these things, it would have a panic attack and shake and cry and want to tap the light switch three times. But then, it would get over it and start functioning normally again, as Jesus intended it to. There might not be much hope for me and my quirks, but I pray that someday, the Church will get it and start being the hands and feet of God effectively again.

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