There are so many attempts to package the church. I can no longer keep up with them all. I never should have even tried. The thing itself got missed – the importance of mere presence.
Two things happen when we package the church. First, the one to whom we are trying to “sell” the church knows that the transaction has become commercial. He understands that we are treating him as consumer. In other words, right at the point when he needs something outside of himself, bigger, higher, transcendant, heavier, hard to swallow in one gulp, we make it “God in five easy steps.” The effort is appreciated, but he knows intuitively that religion loses something in that deal, something that he needed and which the church has now freely given away. We have told him that if he will come to church we will change our ways and even shadow some of our beliefs. If the truth be known, he doesn’t want us to do that. He wants us to follow through with what we believe, do what we ought, then he will decide.
Second, we take away from him the power of conversion. We will not ask him to wear a yarmulke, wear a cross or in many churches even be baptized. We will just ask him to come. There are no signs of conversion, except perhaps states of mind, which are notoriously illusive and not at all convincing on certain days and in certain phases.
I am always intrigued when some luminary converts to Christianity, but not to the hip evangelical version but to Roman Catholicism and ends up sitting in a sparsely attended church with a remote liturgy, men only priests and moral stances that outrage a good part of our culture. Maybe that’s the best way one can think of themselves as converted. It is to be yoked to a church that takes me beyond my cultural preferences and styles and stands over against me, doesn’t bend, merely is.
Mary Karr of “Liar’s Club” fame has converted to Christ and to Roman Catholicism. Here is her story.