A Silver Linings Playbook for the Church

The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.

The more I watch this movie, the more I appreciate it.  (It’s on almost every daySilver Linings Playbook on my TV for some reason.)

Yeah, their God is juju and their religion is football, but this movie speaks volumes about everybody’s God and everybody’s religion.

There is a SLP-esque response for so many church scenarios.  For example:

  • Tiffany: “I did my research”     When somebody says – at a congregational meeting – that things are not as great as they were in the (pick a decade: the 50s, the 60s, “when Rev. ___ was our pastor”) we need to have done our research like Tiffany:  In the 1950s, Protestant Church participation was at an all time high in the United States, with most citizens belonging to a congregation – if only on paper.  Blue laws were in effect in every state, keeping businesses closed on the Christian Sabbath.  Roman Catholics were clustered in specific parts of the country and so in many towns “everybody was Protestant.”  Jewish citizens were definitely clustered in specific parts of the country and you would be hard-pressed to find a Muslim, Buddhist, or Bahai neighbor in most communities.  Only the bravest citizen would admit to being an atheist.  Being a church member equaled being a good citizen and all politicians, bank presidents, and gentlemen farmers were members of churches – often the prominent churches in town (e.g. Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist.) Pastors did not deal with homelessness, AIDS, transgender teenagers, suicide, divorce, Sunday youth travel games, drug addiction, and 100 emails each day.  People pledged their money to the church because it was the main avenue for charitable giving.  Pastors in the 1950s married, baptized, and buried people, preached each Sunday, taught a Bible study or two, and visited their parishioners (who most likely never shared what was really going on – like the alcoholism and mental illness and marriage problems – because those things were kept in the family and family was close by.)  Church leaders:  do your research.  Of course your church isn’t like it was in the heyday of the 50s and 60s.  It was never like that before and it will never be like that again.  Today this is the truth.  It’s no more your pastor’s fault than is global climate change.
  • Tiffany:  “You’re killing me.”  When church people want to spend an entire meeting talking about pointing the bricks outside the sanctuary or arguing about whose fault it is when there isn’t enough money or insisting on getting their own way “because we’ve always done it that way” they are killing us.  Specifically, they are killing the church they claim to love.  Churches that focus on Attendance, Building, and Cash at meetings are dying churches.  (How many times do we need to say this?)
  • Pat“The only way you can beat my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you. I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.”   Honestly, all of us are a mess – even (especially) those of us who seem to have it all together. Being in community is hard and Jesus has taught us some crazy ideas like “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek.”  Sometimes beating someone else’s “crazy” with Jesus’ “crazy” is the only way to help people get un-stuck.

We live in a crazy world where innocent children playing soccer on the beach get annihilated by bombs and the reporter who witnesses it and reports on it gets removed by his television bosses.  We live in a world where innocent people trying to cure AIDS are obliterated in the sky – their plane shot down by a surface to air missile.  We live in a world where parents would rather send their children into an unknown future hiking to the United States with strangers than keep them to face certain violence in their own neighborhoods.  We live in a world that fights over whether or not to turn these children away.

The world will break our hearts. That’s guaranteed. We can’t explain it.  But it’s possible – if we are the community God calls us to be – that Sunday can still feed us.  And we can come out on the other side thankful and feeling fortunate.  Can we be that church?

Image from Silver Linings Playbook – one of the finest films ever made.

One response to “A Silver Linings Playbook for the Church

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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