Why I Became A Talking Pig

CLINTON, NEW JERSEY – Thanks for the well thought out rebuttals to my recent post, Another Little Christian Mystery.

There you have it – the optimists or visionaries versus the pessimists or realists. I’m afraid I waffle somewhere in the middle, according to my mood. My daughter Kirstie and queen of my heart Patrushka (this is like being back home debating at the family dinner table) plus our Arizona correspondent the.chronicler present the reality that there are major, well-funded Christian humanitarian organizations who are out there hitting it – doing what Jesus told us to do. The Canadian dynamic duo Paula and Spoke affirm why I wrote this piece in the first place – when I go to church (and I must have worshiped in a dozen churches in my travels the last couple years) I see nada going on. No shred of awareness of the path set out for us towards the wretched of this earth beyond praying for a neighbor’s sick aunt – not that I recommend no compassion on sick aunts.

Feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked – these words of Jesus aren’t that hard to understand. He wasn’t just making conversation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, here’s a reminder link to the Sheep and Goats story, from Matthew 25.

As for the rest, whether you parade around your church wearing white surplices and swinging incense and holding the cross up with trumpets playing, or whether you get slain in the spirit for the umpteenth groovy time, and rat-a-tat-tat in the tongues of angels till the cows come home, or whether you clap your hands to the praise music precisely on the offbeat and smile that big smile to show you really have the Spirit, or whether you recite the liturgy exactly the same as it has been recited since Martin Luther’s time – Jesus doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

Did I actually say that?

Hmmm, what about the part – I hear you already – what about the part where Jesus says you should take the speck out of your own eye before you start meddling in other people’s eyes? Or the part where he says don’t go around judging people because in the exact way you judge them, God will judge you!

Grump grump. Put in my place again. By my own family who aren’t even here.

Okay, here’s another tack. I read somewhere that one third of the human population professes to follow Jesus.

That’s a lot of people, folks. Don’t you think that if we all just got down to it we could clean up this mess in a generation or two? (Ignoring the sorry human heart always putting itself first for a moment.) We could hold a big summit meeting. “Okay, you guys take care of completing the Great Commission. You guys work on feeding the hungry. We’ll take healing the sick. You old pigs can blog about it.” And then all two billion of us get to work.

Instead we snipe at each other’s worship styles and pray for old Aunt Judy (a good thing) and then go eat waffles at Ed’s Pancake House. Exactly as Paula and Spoke say. Or else we wait for the next time someone gets married or baptized because that’s the only time we ever meet as a group of Christians (the European model).

I just feel there’s this mighty gap between what is and what should be. The gap affronts me. I can’t ignore it. I finally got so uncomfortable with that gap that I decided to become a talking pig. But, as you can see, it hasn’t totally worked out.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Became A Talking Pig

  1. I’m starting to see some clarity in this issue, this optimist/pessimist debate here. No firm answer, mind you, just a little clear water running through the muddy morass of the human soul. It comes down, it seems, to one persistent issue that has plagued us as humans since the time of Cain and Abel. It has to do with relationship.It’s not about big or little, program or no program. It’s about relationship. Pig, you are correct. Jesus doesn’t give a rat’s ass about ritual. I always figured if Jesus was at Temple for, say, Pesach, he’d, be worshipping his father as totally as possible, but hanging with the brothers and cousins he hasn’t seen since last year. They’d be enjoying being together. They’d not have to squabble over justice and mercy as opposed to tithing their mint or cumin. No, they’d rejoice in their relationship with God and rejoice equally as intensely in their relationships with each other.The religiousness of people is not a measure of their spiritual health. If anything, it can be a measure of their spiritual illness. As long as our concern is over who is doing what for whom rather than what am I doing for you for real, we end up in this mess. Looking at a huge picture becomes like one of those “Where’s Waldo?” kind of things. Not that nothing’s happening important there, but that the subtleties are lost, that there are these little human relationships going on, good and bad, while the subject of the picture is buried somewhere in the midst of a whole lot of action.As much as I want to be the optimist, and I really do want to be an optimist, the reality of existence is that far too many people are more concerned with themselves, no matter what they profess. Cain didn’t kill Abel for throwing loaded dice in a crap shoot. He killed him because his joyous giving and worship of God made Cain look bad. We have to be our brother’s brother or sister before we can keep them very well. We want to fix them or make them like us more than we want to accept them where they’re at. I know that’s a stretch, but if we are Christians, we are called to be perfect, as our father in heaven is perfect. He accepts us wherever we are, but we just seem to want to fix stuff all the time.

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  2. This is not a well thought out rebuttal, but just some things that bother me. You mention “worshiping in a dozen churches”. Worshiping? Or scoring the congregation on their prayer requests and listening to see if the pastor recited the right set of talking points? If any judging is done in worship, it should be self-judgment and humble confession of sin. (This may be similar to casting out the mote in your eye.) Did you volunteer to do anything in any of those churches? Honestly, even though you are a talking pig, you remind me a little of the church members who complain that the Evangelism and Outreach Committees aren’t working hard enough.Blogging (complaining) about what’s wrong with everyone else is pretty easy, you know. I challenge you to find a worthy Christian organization, join it and work faithfully in true service to Jesus. There’s plenty of good, right and meaningful Christian work that you could and should be doing.

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  3. Dare I come to Mr. Pig’s defense? When we travel, we go to church. Some are clearly open, welcoming, filled with the life and activity of the Kingdom. You can sense it and see it: there are clothes closets and food baskets for the homeless and appeals from the pulpit for volunteers to serve at the soup kitchen (and hands go up.) Pictures in the foyer of church teens in some far-off village building a school. Someone gives a brief talk about the trip to help Katrina victims.Others places are like little social clubs and the outsider is not invited in. There are no announcements in the bulletin about any events other than things like “support the teens’ car wash so they can go to the concert” or “don’t forget to sign up for the flower guild.” There are no signs of outreach to anyone, anywhere. Yes, we only experience the particular congregation for an hour, so it might not be fair. But you do get clues as to whether this is truly God’s house or not.

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  4. There is a young couple in our church. Last week they asked for contributions of blankets, sleeping bags, sweaters, etc. for the homeless people in Calgary. (Being homeless is no bloody joke when the temperature doesn’t go above freezing for months at a time.) Yesterday there was a small mountain of coats, blankets, hoodies, and other warm stuff piled under the Christmas tree in the foyer. A few of us gathered it all up (three car-loads full) and took it to a bigger church to sort, a job that took 12 of us an hour to do. The young couple crammed the goods in a van and a car and headed into Calgary to meet a few others who were bringing soup and hot chocolate. They were going to set up in a parking lot and find homeless people. That’s the plan, no big agency behind them setting it up…just hearts who want to do something for Jesus because He has to sleep on the streets and under bridges and it’s -15 F outside and that just isn’t right.

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  5. I’ve tried several times to comment this evening, but Blogger is uncooperative. That’s probably an omen that I should be quiet!Here’s what I think: I should take my own words to heart. As a Christian I should be doing more. I should improve both the Mary and the Martha aspects of my faith.Yet, thank God, many Christians give generously and accomplish a great deal of good each day around the world. The world would certainly be a worse place without the imperfect work of the imperfect Church. The problems of the world will not really be solved until Christ returns.

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  6. I have to agree with dad on this one. While I have experienced many great churches (my job has me moving around alot), I have also experienced several duds. In my current location I have been unable to find a church that practices what they preach, and I’ve given each one I’ve tried a fair trial- gone to many services, talked to the pastor to try and find out about the church and its activities/direction, etc. Like several folks have mentioned, I thought that maybe the Christ directed actions were under the surface, not immediately visible to the casual church-goer. However, unfortunately, out where I live, that’s not the case. Here for example, is the conversation I had with the pastor of a medium to large size congregation that had great sermons, but which had a strange lack of activites ever mentioned or listed in the bulletin:Me: Pastor, I love your sermons, you have a lot of good points, but I haven’t been able to find any mention anywhere of the kind of things your church does. I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of things your church is involved in?Pastor: Well, we just built the new wing on the church. Isn’t it beautiful?Me: Yes, it’s lovely. But I mean, what kind of outreach does your church have?Pastor:Outreach?Me: Yes, what does your church do in the community or what does it sponsor around the world? Where does the collection plate money go?Pastor: We are very proud of having started a summer camp for the children of the congregation, up in the mountains- it’s a great way for our youth to be together for a week in the summer.Me:I see, that’s a good thing. But what about things like soup kitchens, or clothing drives for the less fortunate, or mission outreach? There is a large, underserved, poor hispanic population in the area- anything to help them?Pastor: Umm, well we are supportive of our members doing mission outreach to their neighbors.Me: Tell me about this mission outreach.Pastor: Well, we are encouraging of our members talking to their neighbors about church.Me: Any kind of program the church has to help them with this?Pastor: No.Me: I see. Anything else you can think of that the church is involved in?Pastor: It’s a beautiful wing don’t you think?I’m not exagerating- this really was the conversation I had.

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