“We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.” These were Rick Santorum’s words as he campaigned in Florida recently.
OK…as he sees it, Protestantism is gone from the world of Christianity. His implication, I suppose, is that the Roman Catholic Church is still spot-on when it comes to following Christ and that all others who claim to be Christian are missing the mark.
Maybe I need to take a closer look at the Catholic Church. Maybe I missed all those statements from Jesus where he directed the church to establish a religious hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Maybe I missed those times when Jesus directed the church to build elaborate cathedrals and establish their own country. Maybe I failed to understand Jesus’ directive to suppress the leadership of women and to exclude homosexuals and pro-choice advocates from their fellowship.
But I’ll give Santorum the benefit of a doubt when it comes to Protestantism…it is indeed in shambles. And speaking as a Protestant, our movement probably isn’t very close to the church Jesus envisioned. I’ve yet to meet any Protestants who have sold all their possessions and given their money to the poor in an attempt to follow Jesus. Very few of us Protestants bring good news to the poor, provide healing to those who are ill, or liberate the oppressed. And when was the last time any of us visited someone in jail?
The little church where I worship God probably doesn’t do everything just the way Jesus would prefer…but we’re doing our best. We package meals for those who are struggling with HIV/Aids, and we really don’t care how they contracted the disease. We package food for the local food bank to distribute, regardless of the race or nationality of the recipients. We open our chapel doors and our communion table to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, political opinions, or criminal background. We even love people who don’t smell so good! Maybe we’re too open, too easy to join. Maybe we’re too tolerant…too soft on the issues of the world.
Rick Santorum’s probably right that our church is in shambles. But Jesus didn’t call us to be a smooth running corporate machine…he called us to be a church.
We’re called to love God…and to love neighbors. And strangely enough, it is in the shambles that many of us find our God and our neighbors.