Beliefnet
Reprinted from "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller, with permission of Thomas Nelson publishers.

I go to a church now that I love. I never thought I would say that about a church. I never thought I could love a church. But I love this one. It is called Imago Dei, which means "Image of God" in Latin. Latin is exotic and cool.

In the churches I used to go to, I felt like I didn't fit in. I always felt like the adopted kid, as if there was "room at the table for me." Do you know what I mean? I was accepted but not understood. There was room at the table for me, but I wasn't in the family.

It doesn't do any good to bash churches, so I am not making blanket statements against the church as a whole. I have only been involved in a few churches, but I had the same tension with each of them; that's the only reason I bring it up.

***

Here are the things I didn't like about the churches I went to. First: I felt like people were trying to sell me Jesus. I was a salesman for a while, and we were taught that you are supposed to point out all the benefits of a product when you are selling it. That is how I felt about some of the preachers I heard speak. They were always pointing out the benefits of Christian faith. That rubbed me wrong. It's not that there aren't benefits, there are, but did they have to talk about spirituality like it's a vacuum cleaner. I never felt like Jesus was a product. I wanted Him to be a person. Not only that, but they were always pointing out how great the specific church was. The bulletin read like a brochure for Amway. They were always saying how life-changing some conference was going to be. Life-changing? What does that mean? It sounded very suspicious. I wish they would just tell it to me straight rather than trying to sell me on everything. I felt like I got bombarded with commercials all week and then went to church and got even more.

"I just felt like, in order to be a part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus." Read more >>

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  • And yet another thing about the churches I went to: They seemed to be parrots for the Republican Party. Do we have to tow the party line on every single issue? Are the Republicans that perfect? I just felt like, in order to be a part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus. And I didn't. I didn't think that Jesus really agreed with a lot of the policies of the Republican Party or for that matter the Democratic Party. I felt like Jesus was a religious figure, not a political figure. I heard my pastor say once, when there were only a few of us standing around, that he hated Bill Clinton. I can understand not liking Clinton's policies, but I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it. I couldn't deal with that. That is one of the main reasons I walked away. I felt like, by going to this particular church, I was a pawn for the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ.

    Only one more thing that bugged me, then I will shut up about it. War metaphor. The churches I attended would embrace war metaphor. They would talk about how we are in a battle, and I agreed with them, only they wouldn't clarify that we were battling poverty and hate and injustice and pride and the powers of darkness. They left us thinking that our war was against liberals and homosexuals. Their teaching would have me believe I was the good person in the world and the liberals were the bad people in the world. Jesus taught that we are all bad and He is good, and He wants to rescue us because there is a war going on and we are hostages in that war. The truth is we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important than ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus.



    So one of the things I had to do after God provided a church for me was to let go of any bad attitude I had against the other churches I'd gone to. In the end, I was just different, you know. It wasn't that they were bad, they just didn't do it for me. I read through the book of Ephesians four times one night in Eugene Peterson's The Message, and it seemed to me that Paul did not want Christians to fight with one another. He seemed to care great deal about this, so, in my mind, I had to tell my heart I love the people at the churches I used to go to, the people who were different from me. This was entirely freeing because when I told my heart to do this, my heart did it, and now I think very fondly of those wacko Republican fundamentalists, and I know that they love me, too, and I know that we will eat together, we will break bread together in heaven, and we will love each other so purely it will hurt because we are a family in Christ.

    So here is a step-by-step formula for how you, too, can go to church without getting angry:

  • Pray that God will show you a church filled with people who share your interests and values.
  • Go to the church God shows you.
  • Don't hold grudges against any other churches. God loves those churches almost as much as He loves yours.

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