Thinking Out Loud

August 2, 2011

Churches Aren’t Always Great Equalizers

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:09 am

When the Apostle Paul said, “There is neither slave nor free,” did that mean that the slaves and the free men actually mixed with each other in the early church, or simply that both were welcome to attend?

Everything in me wants to believe that they mixed in together.  I so desperately need that to be true.  But the capital-C Church today doesn’t always reflect that.  Some local churches are located so far away from the city core that their membership reflects an affluent upper class or upper-middle class group of suburbanites who are largely professionals or equivalent.  While it was once true that 11:00 AM Sunday represented “the most segregated hour in America,” today, if black and white mix in church it’s usually because they are linked in terms of socio-economic status. 

But what about small(er) town, middle-America?  Minus the America part, I live in a small(er) town and have recently come to realize that in terms of certain people in certain churches, my wife and I represent a lower class.  Our two cars — yes, two; that should count for something, right? — are sadly 2000 and 2004 vintage.  Our clothing is mostly from the rack that is named after some designer named Clarence, though they seem to often spell his name with an extra ‘e.’  We’re still using the couch and coffee table my parents bought us a quarter century ago, and I’m typing this on a table that my wife’s parents gave us which is too low to put your legs under, so every single blog post you’ve ever read here was written with me sitting side-saddle to the keyboard and screen.

And somehow, even though we do laundry on a regular basis, the upper class members of our local church community get wind of this — maybe it’s the holes in our clothing left by the staples where we removed the Salvation Army Thrift Shop price tags — and respond by not returning phone calls or emails.  Because we’re not worth it.  Because we have nothing to offer.  Because we don’t fit into their social circle even though our relative poverty was more by choice than chance.

And this isn’t a new development.  But as in all such circumstances you smile and hope that perhaps things will change.  And then, suddenly it just gets to you.  You might even go so far as to question the reality of the faith that such people profess. 

I gave a ride today to a guy who is experiencing rejection of a different kind.  His family doesn’t want anything more to do with him, even though, relatively speaking, he’s come a long way in the past three years.  And today it just got to him.  Really got to him.  Rejection is hard to take.

But in the church — capital C or lower case c — these things should not be.  Our oneness in Christ should transcend barriers of ethnicity, class, gender; however cliques do form and they tend to form on the basis on the economic status.

Still, not returning personal phone calls or emails is just plain rude.  Especially when you know that it’s the etiquette equivalent of waving off a troublesome house fly. 

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