December 7th is remembered in the United States as “a date which will live in infamy,” because roughly 2,400 persons died in that day’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
On August 6th, 1945, when an Armageddon weapon was dropped on Hiroshima, the total number of deaths was at least 25 times that number. But Americans don’t remember it as “a date which will live in infamy.”
Just as Christians often do not see the Church the way R. S. Thomas sometimes sees it:
. . . the chapel crouches,
a stone monster,
waiting to spring, . . .
Some of today’s Christians see mosques as stone monsters crouching, waiting to spring. But they forget that their churches have been, and in many cases still are, stone monsters crouching, waiting to spring on God’s vast cornucopia of human beings.
Churches spring on historians, scientists, and literary scholars who raise questions about the Bible. They spring on people who decline to be processed by their salvation-machines. They spring on homosexual lovers who want to marry; on heterosexual lovers who do not want to marry. They spring on people of different skin colors who try to enter their sanctuaries.
The behaviors that caused Jesus to spring are, however, the very ones that many churches celebrate or at least tolerate.
Jesus tended to crouch and spring on the rich. But there were no Jesus-like protesters when the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, announced that it was going to spend $90 million to build a new sanctuary and make other improvements to church property.
I think RS would see that humongously expensive edifice as an example of over-furnishing the Christian faith:
We have over-furnished
our faith. Our churches
are as limousines in the procession
Jesus cared for the last, the least, the lost. Many today who identify themselves as his followers complain about being forced to pay high taxes to care for those very persons.
Jesus said that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). The taking continues, the perishing continues. And there are persons who identify themselves as followers of Jesus who insist on their right to pack heat in the house of the Prince of Peace.
RS provides a picture of the message that churches should proclaim and embody:
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
Poems of R. S. Thomas quoted in this post:
“. . . the chapel crouches” – “A Land,” Welsh Airs (1987), 43.
“We have over-furnished” – “Not the empty tomb,” Counterpoint (1990), 37.
“It’s a long way off but inside it” – “The Kingdom,” H’m (1972). 34.