And I also know that art shows and socks will not change a deeply entrenched culture of inequity. And that’s what we need right now if we are serious about making earth “as it is in heaven.”
I was in a meeting last week with a group of Church People and a local community organizer whom I’ll call R.
We were discussing what our city needs in light of the violence in our neighborhoods, the uneven opportunities for public education, the lack of COVID-19 testing available in predominantly African American neighborhoods, etc.
The conversation was about inequity. “How can the Church make a positive difference?” we asked. And I loved the community organizer’s response:
“We don’t need anymore art shows.”
Again, I’m fan of art shows. I’ve known congregations who have invited the neighbors to display their masterpieces in the hopes of 1) appreciating local artists and 2) offering a way for those artists to make some money by selling their paintings. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Sure. It’s simple to pull off a local art show on a random Saturday. It requires minimal commitment and effort. It’s an opportunity to “reach out into the neighborhood” and subsequently congratulate ourselves. It’s even Quarantine Legal if we are outside wearing masks and standing six feet apart.
Again – yay art. This very blog is named for starving artists who see how the world can be different.
And who doesn’t need sturdy socks – especially if you live on the streets? A congregation sets out a box and people donate a pair or two and then – done. Somebody takes the socks to a local shelter and we feel a great about it. Easy.
The community organizer made us all laugh when he suggested that we forget about the art shows and sock collections. If we want to offer a simple, painless project then – by all means – exhibit some paintings for sale and donate socks.
But the Church is called to make sacrifices, not offer simple gestures. R. said that what we really need – at least in our particular city – was for congregations to:
- Offer violence interruption programs.
- Teach social entrepreneurship.
- Help change the culture of our local police department.
(I can hear you now, Church People.)
You are suggesting that we get political.
We don’t have any business doing those things.
Church is supposed to be about Bible studies and hymn sings, not “social justice.”
I don’t know what Bible you are reading, but mine says that Jesus was killed for political reasons, that Jesus calls us to get involved in the lives of the poor and imprisoned, and that Jesus charges all disciples to feed the poor and heal the sick – among other things.
We spend lots of energy on projects like Bake Sales and Candy Sales, Preschools and Vacation Bible Schools, Book Studies and Bible Studies. And all of these programs are good. Nothing wrong with them.
But if we are serious about discipleship (i.e. following Jesus) it won’t be enough. The One who changed the world expects us to change the world too – in his name. God has blessed us with these pandemic, protest-filled days to remind us that following Jesus involves sacrifice. Sometimes we need a painful jolt to wake us up – especially if our daily lives are comfortable.
Yay for art shows and sock collections.
But what have we done lately – in faith – to change the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ?
Image of a church art show. I’ve covered up the church sign because my point isn’t to embarrass that particular congregation.