Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Dad—My Denomination: Dealing with Delusion.

My dad loves to hunt and fish. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of hunting and fishing with him. There was the time when dad’s foot got stuck in the mud (he was wearing hip waders). Getting his foot free he tore the cartilage in his knee. There was no way that he was going to quit fishing so he spent the rest of the day sitting on a tree stump with a fishing line in the water. Then there was the time we were elk hunting in almost two feet of snow – it is a bummer to have to pack out an elk, after dark, almost a mile in two feet of snow. He couldn’t believe that I could carry more weight than him—he just kept putting more and more on the pack board. We had a blast!

Just before I came home from my dad’s house he asked me to come back in the summer so we could take his boat up to the lake and go fishing. It would be a great time. Here’s the problem—there is no way my dad could go fishing in that boat. His wife (Wanita) would never let him. He is not able to walk from the parking lot down to a dock. He can barely bend over to pick something up from on the floor. He could never climb down into the boat. Once in the boat he would not be able to move from one end of the boat to the other. His heart wants to go fishing in that boat but there is no way that his body can go fishing in that boat.

Mutual fund disclaimers say that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. For my dad, fond memories of the past do not guarantee being able to do those things today (or this summer). I call it “dealing with delusion.”

I come face to face with delusion six days each week. Every time I work out at the YMCA I am reminded that I cannot relive my past. I have been working really hard on my cardio and weight training for the past six weeks. The other day I got in the pool to swim a few laps – I am a wimp! It just about killed me to swim 200 yards freestyle. I use to be a lifeguard and could swim a half mile without even getting winded. Dealing with delusion!

I believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) needs to deal with delusion. Long-time Presbyterians can recall with fondness the good-old-days of their church and denomination--the pews were filled; the sounds of a pipe organ filled the sanctuary. The Presbyterian Church was a powerful political voice. We were of the “mainline.” That is the past!

Presbyterian membership is shrinking. We are now referred to as the “former mainline” churches or the “sideline” churches. Political powers don’t give a rip about what the Presbyterian Church thinks. Most congregations are getting older. There are financial struggles throughout the denomination. People in the pews don’t care about the national church. Our national governing body consistently makes decisions that upset the vast majority of congregants. It is time for us to deal with delusion in the PCUSA!

The Presbyterian Church is never going to be like it was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Our theology must be biblical and Orthodox – that must not change, lest the PCUSA totally split apart. Yet, we need to envision a church for the 21st century (before the 21st century ends!).

Those who are delusional are clinging to the past. Will our churches and our denomination allow them to win the day?


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