By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Breaking Windows Breaking Windows in the House of God By Brian Elr

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By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Breaking Windows Breaking Windows in the House of God By Brian Elroy McKinley *Falling, jagged pieces of colored glass cut my soul as the piercing crash played violence against my eardrums. Tiny pieces of shattered window, like diamonds, bounced and danced on the floor. Time seemed to slow as I withdrew my club, the damp sweat of my skin cooled by the rush of air, my eyes squinting from the bright sky. Finally I could see beyond these walls.* I grew up in a fairly fundamentalist church, though at the time I did not realize it as such. We spent lots of time reading from the Bible, something I haven't always found in other churches, and we were encouraged to study it for ourselves. We earned scholarships for camp by memorizing select verses or by turning in completed notes from the Sunday morning sermons. We had girls' Bible studies on Mondays and guys' Bible studies on Thursdays. We didn't have sermons but rather studies led by the pastor, who used a giant over head projector as he taught. When, in all this learning, certain discrepancies or problems arose, the church leaders would spend considerable amount of time trying to explain why the problems were in our individual interpretations. An example of this was the church's approach to the book of Revelation. Instead of teaching that there are many different interpretations of the book that have no effect on the basic message of the gospels, the church taught that only one of those interpretations was correct and used that interpretation as a means of proselytizing. The interpretation was taught as doctrine along side the deity of Christ, His death on the cross and His resurrection. When faced with a lack of Biblical evidence to support their claim directly, church leaders used the theology of inference: "If God is of this sort of nature, then we can believe that He functions best under this interpretation." And believe we did. Another example was the church's stance on lifestyles. Instead of a morality based on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, it promoted a morality based on the Ten Commandments, a rather diluted interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, plus a hefty dose of decrees attributed not to the Bible but to a "culture" of Christianity inherited from traditional puritanical American culture. While "Give to him who asks of you" was relegated only to a means of gaining an audience for your witnessing, smoking and drinking and hanging out with others who did was a sure sign of your failure to be a good Christian. Rock music was the tool of Satan. Divorcees were lepers, and hanging out with Catholics was suspect because of the Catholic Church was the "Whore of Babylon." Being raised in this church, and having made a personal choice to believe in Christ there, I was hesitant to challenge myself, let alone the leaders, on the church's infallibility. *The breeze from the shattered window was invigorating. For so many years I had breathed only the stale air from the other people's lungs, air trapped inside this framework, inside these windows. As my eyes adjusted, I could see the beauty of the outside world, but also its vastness, its unknowable infinity. The light from the sky was more colorful, more illuminating but also more painful to my eyes. The cool wind and hot sun were both soothing and uncomfortable. But it was real, and I wanted more of it. Grasping my club I moved to the next window and let go with a swing violent and freeing.* When I moved away from my home and church, I had trouble finding a place to worship that agreed with my upbringing. Unable to locate a perfect match, I settled on a church where the people took seriously their call to faith, even though they would go out and have a beer after an evening Bible study. I wasn't shocked at the drinking -- my family would drink wine and beer at home -- it was that they did it with each other, in public. In this church they gave sermons and services that followed a set liturgical calendar. They talked a lot about following Christ through the church's set system. They talked about the need to meet together. They talked about Christ as the Head and Church as the Body, but seldom did they speak of what that meant for daily living. The hurting remained the hurting. The poor remained the poor. The lonely remained the lonely, and the church remained infallible. After most of my friends from that church moved away, I moved on to another church, in search of a more fulfilling place to find growth in my faith. This new church talked about serving Christ by helping the poor. They talked about sharing emotions in order to stop the hurting. They talked about the morality of giving yourself away, while the morality righteousness, of restraint and personal obedience to truth were all but lost in the hurry to make people socially conscious. They talked about Christ the liberator, not from sin, but from oppression. They talked about Christ the example, not of perfection, but of sharing and caring. They painted a picture of a God less interested in your sin and more interested in your giving, but often that was interpreted as the giving of money. Those who gave the most were held in high esteem. They were courted and given power in the structure of the church. Instead of a change of heart, they looked for a change of behavior -- a change toward service to the church's ideals. Nonconformist were slowly ostracized, and those who questioned the church on its need for a broader understanding were censured. *Again the sound of shattering window rang between my ears as the glass shimmered on its way to the floor. I could feel the glass cut me s it fell past my hands, my head and my heart. The clothes I had so proudly worn within these walls were now shredded and dangling. Shards of stained glass rested in my hair and at my feet, but the expanded view of the world outside took my focus off the pain. I could see mountains and valleys. I could see clouds and sunshine. I could smell moisture from the dew and feel even more of the rushing wind upon my face. I could not begin to completely comprehend it. But I knew there was more life out there than in this structure, so with club in hand, I aimed for the next window.* I tried other churches in the search to find more meaning in my faith. I found churches that questioned my faith. I found churches that questioned my faith if I did not speak in tongues. I found churches that said the only way to grow was through a daily, personal quiet time. I found churches that said infant baptism was sacred. I found others that said it was heresy. I found churches that promoted America as a Christian nation. I found others where it was a sin to say "God" and "country" in a single breath. I found churches that took communion with wine. I found others that said wine was sinful, so they used grape juice. I found others that said grape juice was too close to wine, so they used water. And I found others that used wine, but considered it improper to give the wine to the worshippers, so only the leaders drank it. Each church pointed to the God of the Bible. Each church worshiped Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of mankind. Each church based its existence on the scriptures, but each painted a different picture of what it meant to follow Christ daily. All my church-searching led me to soul searching, and I discovered the time had come to question the infallibility of all the churches I have attended. The easiest thing would have been to forget trying to pursue my faith at all, but I believed there must be a God out there, and I came to believe He must be bigger than any of these churches' theology. It was then I realized that as each church painted its understanding of God, it ceased to be the House of God and became the Museum of God. Instead of looking at the infinite, indescribable God that was all around them, they built a sanctuary, or rather a museum, and lined its halls with paintings of God, paintings of Christ. Each painting may contain some truth about the real God lingering outside their doors, but each holds only a fraction of the total picture of the Creator of the Universe. And where these museums once had windows out of which they could catch a glimpse of the vastness of God's universe, the view from those windows was often too bright, or too difficult to comprehend. Becoming a distraction, they covered the windows with paintings of glass. The church's theologians became curators, deciphering the origin of each treasured painting, and the ministers became tourguides, explaining in detail the meaning of each sacred work. And though each of these churches have different artwork on their walls, each is connected by the halls and tunnels of some shared theology. When I left my first church, I merely wandered the tunnels and hallways until surfacing in another sanctuary, another museum. There I heard of the same God, the same Christ, but through different paintings on different walls. Hallway after hallway, sanctuary after sanctuary, I listened to many tour guides explain what many curators have unearthed about many paintings, but my soul was left wanting and the stuffiness of the museums became unbearable. If there is a God out there, I thought, then I should be able to find Him in daily life, in the real world, not just in someone's rendition of what He is like. If there is a God out there, then He must be in the inexplicable expanse beyond the walls and windows of the sanctuary in which I've allowed myself to live. * Another crash. Another breeze. Another expanded view. As I suspected, what I had only seen in paintings on the walls of my sanctuary was now before me, brighter, bigger, unexplainable and fantastic. Out the broken windows I could see things profound and disturbing. I could see a reality that cannot be confined to pictures. The wind made my eyes water and chilled the blood in my glass-cut wounds. I tightened my grip on the club. As I ran through the building, swinging and breaking windows in "House of God," the glass continued to cut and the view continued to expand. In the end I stood only in rags and stains, my halo broken and dangling, my peity bleeding on the floor. What I saw I could not understand, and the "Christian" appearance I once so proudly wore now paled in the comparison to the piercing brightness. Thought still standing in the church, I would no longer feel secure in its sanctuary, and I would no longer be content to only gaze at the pictures on its walls.* Though I continue to stand within the walls of the church, I carry the club of doubt with me at all times. But when I find I've let someone rebuild the glass paintings over the windows I so painfully smashed, I, following Christ's example when he removed those who bought and sold religion in Jerusalem's house of God, start swinging. --- IM2.29+/FE1.45a+/PB2.12+ * Origin: Xtians are uncomplicated beings: pure and simpleton. (1:109/601)

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