We Reformed Christians are ostensibly not big fans of religious icons or elaborate fretwork for fear we will worship the art rather than The Artist. Nevertheless, I for one, am prone to wander in terms of my focus during prayer and worship. Sometimes it helps to stare into a candle.
That’s not what this blog post is about exactly.
What the early Reformers were concerned about in terms of worshiping statues and stained glass is the least of our problems in the 21st Century Church. We are more deeply distracted by other things.
Mark Leibovich wrote here in The NY Times about The Politics of Distraction which is not merely about how we in the U.S. follow the shiniest of shiny objects when discussing politics. Yes, we focus on Trump’s latest outrageousness or the dumbest thing Sarah Palin said last week. Many of us go a little deeper and debate Kim Davis’ arrest or the difference between immigrants and refugees. But there are deeper issues that mark who we are as citizens and human beings that mean more than the legality “anchor babies” and the requirement that everybody “speak American.”
I observe The Theology of Distraction everyday. In the saddest cases, a congregation’s theology amounts to conversations about Whose Building This Is or Who Owns the Coffee Maker. In other congregations, the elders spend most of their time fretting over whether or not to charge The Boy Scouts for Eagle Ceremonies or allow the youth group to paint the church kitchen.
Seriously. I sit in some church meetings and listen to people debate such things. And I get it. It’s easier to spend 20 minutes discussing whether to let a neighborhood Mom’s Group rent the fellowship hall than spending a good hour prayerfully considering what we might do in Suburban Chicago to serve those impacted by gun violence, heroin addiction, or homeless LGBTQ kids. But our theology – if we take our faith seriously – is not about chasing ecclesiastical shiny objects. It’s about the deeper issues that mark who we are as followers of Jesus and human beings created in the image of God.
Jesus didn’t die for paint colors and attendance tallies. But Jesus did die for refugees and broken people and addicts and the violated and you and me. If we care – undistracted – for the people, whomever they are, then our theology will be okay. Our politics will be okay. We will be okay.
On this day as many of our schools and churches kick off a new program year, it’s good to redirect our attention to What Really Matters. Usually what truly matters is not particularly shiny.
*From the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson (1757)