Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Questions and Answers

There comes a point in faith where you begin to question, criticize, and rethink the things you have taken for granted for so long. To summarize a year of craziness, fun, learning, doubt, and struggle, this is what it has boiled down to: The Jesus that I have known for the past 5 years will not suffice.

At our church daycamp, we sing a song creatively named "The Box Song." I really used to like this song. It goes something like: "If I had a little white box to put my Jesus in, I'd take him out and *kisskisskiss* and share him with a friend" And then there was a very violent second verse that went "But if I had a little black box to put the Devil in, I'd take him out and SMASH HIS HEAD and put him back again" of course, including smashing hand motions (which was my favorite part). But when I look at that song now, I see more and more how Jesus has broken out of that box that I've put him in, how my understanding of God has expanded to such an extent that he no longer fits within church walls, emotional retreats, or even myself.

Which leads me to revisit an old topic. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and we got to the topic of church. He's a pastor's kid who currently isn't sure if he believes in God. He doesn't go to church anymore and he does stuff that good Christian kids aren't supposed to do. Which led me to a question I've been asking for a long time now, What's wrong with church? Or more specifically, What's wrong with San Francisco Asian American churches? Or even more specifically, What's wrong with my church?

This past Christmas break, I made it a goal to come home for church more. Not because I grow more there, not because I like going home, not because I can pick up a green onion bun at the store down the street, but more as a symbolic statement that yes, I, Nathan Lee, still want to be a part of this community in spite of the problems that I see in it and that I am not leaving this church behind even though I disagree with some of the things they do. And I'm glad I made that commitment. However, a symbolic step will not produce change. What, then, is the next step?

Well, the first step I think is to become a church member. I was getting pissy about this earlier on in the year because I was like, "Oh why do I have to become a member since I've been going to this church for like 5 years, blah blah" and yes, I still feel this way. But if it is the first tangible step to getting into the meetings and actually being heard, then I will sit through the classes and jump through the hoops to get there. Ugh.

But how do you change minds? What is my goal? I know something is wrong, but do I know what the solution is? ... I think it would be naive to think I can change a church. I think it would arrogant to say I want a church to see things the way I see them.

What I believe to be the biggest problem at FCBC and other SF AznAmerican churches is the lack of questioning, the lack of independent thinking, the lack of criticizing. Jesus never called us to blindly accept things, he never told us to remain silent, he never told us to be complacent. The problem with church is that it tries to provide answers to everything, but Christianity was never about answers. Jesus' answers were always questions because questions bring freedom and point to God, as in, we don't have to know everything. Not as a cop-out, but as in, this Christianity thing is a process, and we gotta learn and make mistakes and grow together. Church makes the solution to be "read your bible more" or "come to church more," which are not bad things, but which are wrong. We shouldn't read our bibles more, we should practice our bibles more. We know what's in there, we've been learning it since we were doing fractions and trading Pokemon cards. But the bible means nothing to us until we see it in action and see promises being fulfilled. And we shouldn't come to church more, we should be the church more. We shouldn't talk about how we come, but how we go. The church gotta be on the move, or else it's just useless.

When we begin to learn how to question, we will grow. We gotta find our voice! This is how I hope change will happen. Ok this post was too long. Sincerest apologies. Happy summer!


tim said...

Good post. Keep it coming.

Sarah said...

hmm.. i think that i wrote a post almost exactly like this 3 years ago. so im really really excited that you're on this road, nate- there are some really great resources out there and you definitely arent the first to meditate on this.

one thing that ive realized is that first its super hard to be the one to ask the questions. but after that season is over, its hard to be the one to receive the answers. because there are answers. the gospel is the answer to the biggest question of life, yano?

i recommend people like peter cha, soong chan rah.. really influential asian american christian thinkers that address issues of culture, social justice, race, westernization, etc. :)

k. peace.

Anonymous said...

ok. this comment is a day late, but youre still going to read it and LIKE it!

so, I remember a friend of mine said something along the lines of, "Church is just a social thing." It makes sense for somebody to believe that. I dunno--sometimes, it makes me question why we're motivated to go to church. To hang out and read the bible together? to go, "yay you're a christian. im a christian too. let's be friends?" but end up not exactly practicing what we preach?

When I first read, "What I believe to be the biggest problem at FCBC and other SF AznAmerican churches is the lack of questioning, the lack of independent thinking, the lack of criticizing," i kinda thought that contradicted the whole concept of having "faith like a child." (yunno, that jars of clay song), but then i read the rest of the paragraph and thought otherwise. just curious--how would you define a solid church? the messages sent? filling the atmosphere with questions and criticisms? hmm....

i liked that daycamp song too! but my favorite was the one that went, "it's cheese. it's cheese. it's cheese that makes the mice go round. etc." i believe it was rolling over the billows.

Sarah Lee said...

cool thoughts :) have fun in china!

Brian said...

Your words always hit home. James 1:22 baby. Thanks for your support, and hope you have a great time in China.


lovespam said...

i think it's because we are like that song too much...because at the end of the day, after taking Jesus out of the box and sharing him with a friend...we put him back in the box

keep loving, keep questioning