This is Part 2 of Why I don’t go to church much.
Problem: Individuality / Homogenisation
We have a problem in our modern Western churches- and the problem is we’re all the same (generalisation intended to piss you off).
Men– I’m addressing you especially when I ask do you ever get the feeling you’re going to church for some reason other than because you want to? Women- do you ever feel like your man isn’t really engaging at church? The problem of individuality affects men, in this context, more than women because of the way men are built. I’m not saying it exclusively affects men, but just that men find it more difficult to attend church than women. There are a lot of reasons for this, which better men than me have expounded upon, but I want to elaborate on just one: individuality.
Homogenisation is boring
No one likes sameness. If everyone was the same, we’d all be very bored. I believe God prefers diversity to sameness, and that He created us in a way that reflects His preference for diversity. We are white, red, black, yellow and brown, tall, short, big and tiny. It doesn’t end there- those are just physical attributes.
Homogenisation is the mixing of two or more otherwise different substances into one, perfectly equal mixture- taking two or more things and combining them into one thing, effectively making them a new, but same substance. The problem is, God didn’t create us that way, He created us all very different. The centuries of church culture, politics and all manner of well and ill-meaning persons have facilitated and participated in this process, and today, we’re worse off because of it.
It’s one of those things that’s hard to pin down. We all know that not everyone in church is exactly the same, but many of us feel that pressure of conformity- the desire to make life easier by finding a way to stop ruffling the feathers or bucking the system. It’s easier that way- everyone gets along. But when everyone thinks (or pretends to think) the same things, none of those things are challenged. And we all know when challenge stops, growth comes to a halt. Some would expound upon that further by saying that when growth stops, regressive momentum builds (all on it’s own). When we stop growing, we don’t just stagnate, we regress, or devolve
I’m purposefully not going to give too many examples of how the sameness movement has affected people in church because I want you to think about that in your own personal experience. If you judge me crazy, then bless you- you’re one of the fortunate few who aren’t bothered by these issues, and as such, are a helpful sort. Think about how your church has become homogenised, and think about what it would be like if diversity was encouraged in your church.
Diversity, The Importance of
Homogenisation is a product if a lack of individuality. The opposite of Homogeneity is Heterogeneity- a mixture of two of more substances which don’t blend together, but are a whole comprised of different substances. This is the natural state of the Human race- how we were created. All different, but living together.
A more common term for this, in a more personable sense, is Diversity. We were created to be a diverse people, yet we have corporately accepted the homogenisation of the church. If you think of the church as a building upheld by several core pillars, one of those pillars would be individuality (not to be confused with Individualism). The Pillar of Individuality is broken and the structure of the church is unstable because of it. It being broken has many effects on the church structure, and you’re all smart enough to think those through, but the main bit I want to highlight has to do with what forgotten strength lies in that pillar.
The forgotten strength of the individual
Individuality has many connotations, and the spiritual movements of the past centuries have condemned the concept of the individual: we’re supposed to work together, live together, love together etc. And those are good things, but we’ve thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water on this one.
Ill-effects of the modern church
Because the church has embraced this community-standard, the opposite has been neglected, and has thereby developed its members into an interdependent web of ideologies, doctrine and personal behaviour. Questioning has been out-of-the-question until lately, because we’ve come to be comfortable knowing we all believe the same thing, we all practise faith in the same way, therefore we must all be the same.
But round pegs only fit into square holes by much unnecessary effort, and when they’re in there, they’re neither comfortable nor useful.
The fact is that we’re NOT all the same, and that we end up having to neglect or forfeit the natural shape God has made us as individuals in order to be a part of a homogenous community. When we neglect or forfeit that shape, it’s like relinquishing the individuality with which we were intentionally made. We’re acting like we know better than God, but we know in our hearts that’s not the case. Unfortunately you’ve got to stick to the crummy dial-up service you’ve got when that’s the only one available in your area. In other words, we’re still going to church because we believe there’s some good in it (and indeed there is), but I think deep-down we know it’s not God’s best- it’s just all that seems to be available in our area.
The freedom that comes from knowing yourself
Many of us know by now that knowing yourself fully can only come by knowing your creator. This is very true. But since we’re in a Christian context, I’ll assume you’re all with me. In this model, there’s little or no encouragement toward self-discovery. I’m not talking about enlightenment or even humanism, but rather I’m talking about that core foundation, that pillar of the church, that pillar of self which is knowing who God has made you.
Our homogenous model does not encourage anyone to stand out, and consequently we have a lot of Christians who have built their doctrine and spiritual identity on the belief of the whole, rather than from a deep and personal relationship with their Creator. But the fact is, God intended us to know Him personally and directly, rather than through practices or beliefs through a community. A lot of problems come from this, and I haven’t got the brain power to go there right now, perhaps in another post. It’s one of those things that looks really nice on the surface, and which most people would never think to flag up. But the loss of individual identity has wreaked havoc on our spiritual foundation, and the Pillar of Individuality is broken.
On a practical level, when you think of running a church – large or small – it must be said that it’s no easy task. The simplest way to group many different people together is to find the lowest common denominator between those people– something everyone can agree on. Only then can everyone be comfortable and subscribe to the methodology of the whole. Unfortunately, this is how Humans work, not the way God works.
God created us to be different, and in the name of a having a controllable system/method of community, we’ve forsaken our individual identities, and consequently, the power therein.
I’ll start looking for answers in Part 3.