Real Life

Solving Spiritual Debates

Over plates of mediocre spaghetti, I hear a familiar discussion start. A fellow Christian (usually male, shaking his head sadly) puts his fork down and bellows, “The body of Christ is so FRACTURED!”

The rest of the table pauses. I munch on a corner of garlic bread.

“How can we have UNITY in the church,” the man continues, “if we’re all SEPARATE!?”

Missing the rhetorical nature of the question, the rest of the table jumps in.

Those present begin to form a plan for perfect unity. Their thesis: convert every Christian to their denomination.

If someone can get Christians to see eye-to-eye on everything, the in-fighting will stop.

One rebuttal damages this seemingly foolproof plan: How can ALL Christians belong to ONE denomination? Some Christians believe gay is okay; others don’t. Some ordain women; others won’t. Some value reason and personal experience; others use the Bible (and ONLY the Bible) as their source of authority.

How much time should we devote to solving spiritual debates?

I can’t answer some the bigger questions surrounding gender and sexuality. I don’t have definitive answers about Biblical interpretation.

There are issues, though, I feel comfortable having an opinion on.

We don’t need to waste more time on issues more than halfway solved.

Answers for Spiritual Debates

Rosaries: Yay or nay?

Picture it: an entire congregation walking around town wearing long coats
with rosaries hanging from the pockets.
Vigilantes in film do this ALL the time.
I’ll be honest: we need the street cred.
Rosaries, even the cheap plastic ones, look PRETTY cool.
And, in addition, rosaries increase focus
when used in prayer. Bonus!

Prayer: Standing up or sitting down?

Clergy and lay leaders: if you plan on praying for less than five minutes, invite your congregation to stand.
Anything longer than that WILL lead to fainting spells.
I speak from experience.
Knees lock. People fall. The world goes black.
It happens.

The Lord’s Prayer: “Debts/Debtors” or “Trespasses/Trespassers”?

I used the term “trespasses” up until I graduated from college.
Then, after moving home,
I found a church I loved that said “debts.”
I switched. For love.
For whatever reason, I can’t switch back.
Be kind to those with similar experiences – let people pray the Lord’s Prayer in whatever language they choose.

Sermons: Long or short?

Short. We’re talking Christmas Eve homily.
People have football to watch and pizza to eat.
Move it along, pastor. Less is more.

Clapping: yay or nay?

White people: ENOUGH.
No more camp claps and stomp routines.
No more clapping on every beat.
Hold off from clapping until you can control yourself
during “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”
When you return, the correct clap pattern is
“1, CLAP, 3, CLAP, 1, CLAP, 3, CLAP.”
Those who double-clap to “He Has Made Me Glad”
will be shot.

Worship leaders: Shoes or no shoes?

There are fungi and needles out there.

Singing “How He Loves”: “Sloppy wet kiss” or “unforeseen kiss”?

I’d like to summarize the two positions without taking a stance.
Those opposed to “sloppy wet kiss” find themselves
distracted by the phrasing.
It grossed out David Crowder so much, HE CHANGED THE LYRICS.
Those against “unforeseen kiss” (and its tamer companion,
“wedding day kiss”) feel this phrasing replaces the passion
and enthusiasm of the original lyric with
vague, neutered language.
Together, we can come up with something better,
something that exemplifies the overwhelming love of God
without the downside of too much tongue.
I have faith.

Cake: Devil’s Food or Angel’s Food?

Personally, I find it a LITTLE INSULTING that we named the VASTLY INFERIOR CAKE after God’s holy angels.
Is “Devil’s Food” an unfortunate name? Sure.
Tell you what: we can switch it to “Sloppy Wet Kiss Cake.”
That’ll make everyone happy.

“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

The statue of limitations for this question ran out in 2007.

Starbucks: Red cups or Christmas cups?

I have a better solution: tip your barista.
We can discuss cups once we start treating underpaid employees with kindness.

Worship: Hymns or contemporary songs?

I have two requests:
1. For whatever we sing, please provide music
for the people to follow along with.
2. Remove “Revelation Song” and Chris Tomlin’s
“Forever” from the worship repertoire.
Please. I’m begging you.

Communion: Bread or wafers?

My favorite part of communion is watching the pastor unwrap a loaf of sweet Hawaiian bread.
I associate wafers with my grandparents; they eat wafers as a post-exercise snack.
Also, I once watched a lay leader rip middle portions out of a loaf
of Hawaiian bread so everyone taking communion got
the best part of the bread.
What’s the best part of a wafer? The STAMP?

Communion: Wine or juice?

I vote juice, after a traumatizing experience at a Lutheran church
that “forgot” to differentiate between the wine and the juice.
I recently, though, learned the argument that serving
wine represents the “best” that life has to offer.
Yet communion wine is notoriously gross.
Can we spring for better wine every now and again?
Say a sweet riesling or a quality cab?
I  know it doesn’t HAVE to be red wine
after the Lutherans’ trickery, so
don’t even try that tack with me.

Church clothes: Formal or casual?

A magazine I read as a kid criticized teenagers
for wearing Donald Duck T-shirts to church.
(Was that a common occurrence in the early 2000s?)
“Does that DUCK shirt create a posture of worship?” they asked.
I attend a church with a lot of homeless parishioners.
For some, a Donald Duck shirt is their only shirt.
Anyone willing to show up should be welcomed.
Placing requirements on attendees limits who can participate when Jesus died for ALL.

Ladies: Pants or skirts?

Not to confuse the issue, but it’s hard enough for most women to find pants that fit.
A mandatory switch to skirts requires congregational support.
Some questions for a skirt-seeking congregation:
Do you commit to providing suitable undergarments for these women?
Do you commit to finding knee-length skirts for all women that fit both their bodies and their aesthetic preferences?
Do you accept that, because all women are different, a knee-length skirt on one may become a mini-skirt on another?
Do you commit to stepping in in the case of financial hardship, as quality skirts are rarely less than $35 from a quality retailer?
If a church really wants to go down this path, have at it.

Communion: “Fencing the table” or open table?

=I’ve heard the argument that allowing non-Christians to take communion puts them in spiritual danger.
My mom argues that taking part in a ritual without context numbs you to its importance.
More literal believers think God will come after you if you take communion without faith.
I am not in either camp.
The communion I experience is transformative. Taking part in it every week sensitizes me to God’s presence.
I’ve seen what barring non-Christians does to their faith. Someone I love feels Christians believe he’s “not good enough” for communion.
NONE OF US are good enough for communion. The POINT of communion is not that we are worthy, but that God meets us where we are.
One of my most powerful experiences this year happened on Pride Sunday. I watched couples take communion for the first time in years.
The act made them weep and I wept with them.
We experience God in ritual.
We encounter him when we’re allowed to approach the altar.
I want that for everyone.

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