Monday, August 17, 2020

Looking at a landscape without a steeple. . .

No, no one has yet suggested that steeples on churches be removed as offensive or inappropriate.  But this is not about architecture.  This is about what the loss of the Church from the public square would mean.  For this is not simply the removal of a building or statues or even the silencing of a voice.  This is about the disappearance of charitable work that benefits mostly those outside the faith and even those who live in opposition to much of what the Church preaches and teaches.  For mercy work has no doctrinal litmus test and the compassionate ministries of the Church extend simply to those in need.

In recent times we have seen the churches hit the news for a number of things, from the payroll loans, offered to alleviate economic issues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse to silence in the face of BLM moves against racism. No one is suggesting that this is a conspiracy but it is certainly the pattern and shape of things to come.  It began with health agencies and abortion and led to adoption agencies and the refusal to allow preference to non-GLBTQ placements and has led to a growing voice of those who insist that religious rights do not extend to the sacred tenets of reproductive choice.

There are those, and the number is growing, who believe that the freedom of religion is a private right, one which allows people to believe what they want and worship as they please in private but does not allow what they believe or how they worship to be public.  Last time I read it, the right was framed as Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  But, of course, the courts seem not to be bound either by what is in the sacred texts of our liberty or what is not so the future remains uncertain.

One thing that cannot be denied is that churches employ loads of people across America, pay their part of payroll taxes on their employment earnings, and provide loads of benefits (like health insurance) while at the same time employing most of those folks in some form of service to those who are not even members of those churches.  Perhaps there are many who wish the steeples to disappear from the American landscape (the bells have already in some places where sounds are regulated) but along with those steeples goes the employment of many people and the services provided to those in greatest need.  These will surely disappear as well as the churches are weakened and distracted by the fight simply to survive.  That, along with the charge of fostering white supremacy because of the figures in stained glass or the look of the corpus of Christ on the cross, means that for a nation supposedly Christian or at least with a Christian history, few people understand Christianity at all.

Part of me wishes that they would find out how essential churches are to the fabric of America but in order to make that happen churches would have to disappear entirely.  So I guess we are destined to suffer both the torment of those who wish we would disappear and the disappointment of those who have no idea what churches are or what they do.  Not a good place to be, unfortunately.

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