COVID-19 wiped out the desire for a beach body for many of us in 2020.
Our priorities, centered around physical and economic survival, did not lead us to focus on personal appearance as athletic apparel and sweatpants replaced dry-cleaned clothing.
We all became couch potatoes and bedside believers as the world focused on our bodies from the neck up. Masks on, this got a lot of us thinking.
Inside our homes and turned inward, we reflected more deeply on what our busybodies were covering up. Seemingly always playing catch up, we all had no choice but to slow down and catch up with ourselves.
The words of the late Katie Geneva Cannon became clearer and begin to echo in our ears. “Do the work your soul must have.” We may not have known this quote, but we all had the same feeling.
The meaning of our lives, our personal and professional relationships and the work that our bodies perform day in and day out took on new meaning. We asked ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?” and “What am I doing here?”
With a deadly virus infecting, sickening and killing loved ones, these questions are not unusual. Persons were already asking them of the church in North America, which is thought to be on its deathbed with the continued graying of its congregations.
Books were being written about it: How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity by Richard Jacobson and Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion Without Ranting by Lillian Daniels.
Persons were already questioning their faith and what exactly the church was doing in Jesus’ name, evident by the late Rachel Held Evans’ wildly popular book, Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions.
“Does this North American church, does this body of believers work for me? What am I doing here? What do I really believe?”
These questions and others like them were pushed to the forefront of our minds as many persons took to the front lines to protest police brutality last summer.
The North American church’s ineptitude around social issues was on full display.
This led to more questions and the realization for perhaps the first time for some believers that the North American church had some work to do. Bodywork.
Christ’s hands and feet, most known for pointing fingers and shuffling feet, needs to walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15-16). I learned that word while reading the King James Version.
This is not to be confused with addressing cyclical arguments or going in circles. Eugene Peterson said that discipleship is “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Consequently, if we are following Jesus, then we should be stepping on his feet as he enters conflict, difficult conversations and places of need – instead of breaking and entering the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Walter Brueggemann writes in The Prophetic Imagination of this kind of religion that would lead people there and to do this. “… God and (God’s) temple have become part of the royal landscape, in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king. …It assures ready sanction to every notion of the king because there can be no transcendent resistance or protest. … It gives the king a monopoly so that no marginal person may approach this God except on the king’s terms.”
But this idea is not new and requires no imagination at all.
The North American church needs to listen to its prophets. Because this bodywork cannot be shoddy work.
It must be authentic, informed, intentional and justice-centered. It also shouldn’t take weeks or cost us an arm and a leg to fix.
This kind of Christianity that holds its tongue and drags its feet does not work for me.
While sitting on my couch, I began a list of work orders that need to be filled. The church will have to:
- Answer for the members it drove away, told to stay away and those who wanted to join but were told to get away.
- Account for the youth ministry budgets it cut, for the generations it stifled, the gifts and talents it sacrificed for bigger buildings, now empty monuments to a generation in search of greatness.
- Explain why it lowered its standards for ministry to match the mediocrity of patriarchy.
- Repent for the mouths it covered and the sexual predation, harassment and abuse it covered up with an offering plate.
- Repair the damage it has caused to Christ’s body, his work and witness due to the sociopolitical construct of race and its progeny.
No pointing fingers. This is bodywork.