I lost today.
I know that may come as a surprise to anyone who believes that the pastor of a church always gets their way, that they win every argument. But we don’t. At least I don’t!
I didn’t win today—and it wasn’t because I am not right! I lost because our culture of fear won again.
And I understand why. Everyday we are reminded again and again by the media that our world is so dangerous. Just yesterday we watched as a reporter and her cameraman were gunned down on live TV. We live in Charleston, a town still reeling after the massacre of individuals gunned down as they ended a prayer meeting. The names of mass shootings now just reel off our tongues—Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora…
We can go on and on. This morning the Washington Post reported that the US is averaging a mass shooting everyday so far in 2015.
The word is that we are supposed to be very afraid!
And so this morning I lost an argument. Beginning next Monday morning, as our preschool begins their year, the doors to our church will be locked. After the children are dropped off, the doors will be locked and you will have to ring a doorbell to get in.
I knew going in that I would lose. The teachers, the parents, the director, even my colleague want it to happen. It will make everyone feel more secure.
But will it make us more secure?
Will it make us more secure on Daniel Island, SC, where according to a conversation with an officer at the police station, there has never been a murder on our island, where only once or twice a year there is an act of violence that results in the need for medical care?
Will it make our children more secure when they leave the confines of our building to go outside to the fenced playground?
Will our glass doors really stop someone who is intent on violence?
The answer of course, is no, but it gives us the illusion of safety. But that is all it is! Just an illusion!
There has been a demand that we lock our doors, but I have failed to hear a demand with voices of votes that we enact rational gun control. We won’t do that because it is political!
But this goes deeper than just politics. It is not about gun control (though it is) and it isn’t about security (though it is.) This is about what we are teaching our children and who we are.
The influential psychologist Erik Ericson said that the first question all people have to answer is whether or not the world is safe. By locking the doors behind them, we are implicitly teaching our children that the world is not a safe place. Through our actions we are telling them that they are in danger, to be suspect, to be afraid—very very afraid.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when they grow up to not trust, to be wary of relationships, to not take risks. Why should they? We have taught them early on that the world is not safe.
Which really leads me to the deepest feelings this has aroused in me. It is theological! As we read the first chapter of the Bible we hear over and over and over again, “And God saw that it was good.” If you read the Bible, the most familiar phrase you will see is “Fear not.” It seems that we are choosing to ignore the Bible!
Last Sunday we didn’t get the front door to the sanctuary completely unlocked, and there was a member standing outside, waiting to get in. As I opened the door I quoted that verse from Psalms, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord!” But then added, “But the door was locked!”
This goes to the core of who we are. The sign outside says Providence Baptist CHURCH. At our core, this is not an office; this is not a school. This is a church. And yes, bad things happen in churches! (I am in Charleston. I still cry when I walk past Mother Emanuel.) But I am also aware that we are called to be holy, a different place. Our mission statement says, “We strive to be a loving inclusive Christian community…”
But what does that really mean when the doors are locked? Can you really be inclusive behind locked doors? Would we rather be inclusive, Christian or safe? Where do we really place our faith?
Like I said, I lost today. Monday morning when you come to our church between 9:00-12:00 you will have to ring a doorbell and wait for someone to let you in.
While you wait, think about what this means—for you; for our children; for us; for our faith.
Is this really what we believe? Is this what we want to teach our children? Is this how we choose to live?
Just a rant from someone who lost today!