So I thought I should address the idea of the perfect church. I’m putting it in the same category as the soul mate/one true love.
First my thoughts about soul mates and a one true love. The ‘one true love’ idea supposes a lot of things. It implies real love can only be found with one partner and no other for an entire lifetime. Someone who lost his mom to cancer told me he did not believe in the 1:1 love business because his dad had found happiness in a second marriage. There is no way to reconcile that apart from losing the myth of soul mates- unless of course you pick the first or second wife to label as ‘wrong for him’. And there are those who are clearly content with never choosing a single permanent partner. I used to work with a woman who put her career first in her life not because she was hiding from lack of a relationship. She enjoyed dates, but clearly loved her work and it was sort of her monogamy. So even though I do have a wonderful marriage that I wish to keep, I have rejected the notion that it is the only one I could ever have.
The next piece of the puzzle is the idea of perfection. If you believe in a soul mate, it follows they are the perfect one for you. Perfection is nice as an idea, but once you actually call a thing perfect you give it extremely high expectations. A cake that is perfect must be the best tasting with the most fantastic design, and as you eat it you forget about every other cake you ever had. So if you set out make the perfect cake you almost always disappoint. How could a spouse ever live up to the idea of perfection? I think the desire to have a soul mate leads some people to look for perfection and reject those who don’t seem to align exactly. Of course your partner in life can’t be perfect all the time, they are human! Which brings me to churches…
Churches are also a human construct. I know everyone thinks God lives at their church (maybe only at their church) but if I was God I’d hang out at the imperfect churches more. Kinda like how Jesus hung around sinners because they needed him more. And expecting perfection from a church isn’t realistic or helpful. It just means you will be disappointed. A church that believes itself to be perfect is on dangerous ground. If you think you have no improvements to make, you become arrogant and miss seeing problems that develop. You aren’t looking for them- after all, you’re perfect right? One of the themes I keep coming back to in this project is that of churches owning their identity and the negatives that are a part of that. It’s too easy to imagine that church, which is of God, can be only good. But people make a church up, and those can be wrong sometimes.
A really great thing about my project is that I am getting to experience such a wide range of views and messages. It feels like this actually works better than sticking with a single church ever did. I am constantly stimulated to re-think my theology and spirituality against new interpretations I hear both good and bad. Now that I understand a church cannot be the ‘one perfect church’ for me, I don’t have to pick just one. Community is nice, and so is getting to know people. But I don’t have to feel disloyal in any way if I attend a church for a short time then leave. Or if I attend three or four churches simultaneously. Or none at all. Jesus said “follow me”, but he didn’t say
“pick just one church ok?” Jesus traveled around and tried to change things he saw as negatives. Maybe it’s ok for us to do the same thing. And even if you prefer a monogamous church relationship, it should be a realistic one that acknowledges perfection as an ideal rather than an expectation.