Saturday, November 14, 2009

Church is Where the Wild Things Are

I just got back from seeing "Where the Wild Things Are". I'm not usually this reactionary (in blog posts anyway), but I've just got to say this: all church people should see this movie. Here's why:

The church is supposed to be tight. Not tight in the hip hop kind of way (i.e., "cool"). Not tight in the literal sense (i.e., "in very close proximity"). Tight in the sense of emotional closeness. The trendy phrase for this right now in church growth circles is "living in community". I guess that's not too bad a description. It'll do for now.

In the film, a boy visits a far off land with monsters. Really, they're just people with different personalities who look like monsters. They make him king. They have different dispositions and opinions. They wound each other (one rips the arm off of another in anger). They sleep in a pile. They build things together, and have fights about what should or should not be built. They leave. They come back. Some are not accepting of new monsters (owls, actually). So, they're pretty much like every church I've ever experienced.

One complains all the time. One is quiet. One is accommodating. They live in community, but it's rough. Toward the end of the film, one of the monsters says, "being a family is hard". They put up with each other's flaws. They are stuck in behavior patterns that they seemingly are doomed to repeat over and over again.

The ripping off of an arm was what really struck me as something common in church behavior. Not literally, of course. But, the kind of senseless hurting that sometimes happens when people live in community hit me hard. My wife and I have heard back biting comments about us from church people all too often. I've got to tell you that I don't think that we're that bad. We're certainly not as bad or inept as some church people have made us out to be. And yet, we still live in community with those people. Well, some of them. Some of them were at other churches we've worked at.

The movie ends with reconciliation of a kind. The king (the boy) leaves to go back to his human family. The aggressor of the film groans, as does the boy, both bemoaning their actions, the situation, and, in a way, the human condition. The aggressor, the monster, it is inferred, feels bad. Maybe he even learns something, like not to rip the arms off of others, like controlling his anger is a good thing.

Being a family, being a church family, is hard. I guess I can deal with the disagreements and fighting and event the snide comments if, when the dust settles, something is learned, something is resolved. What I've seen more of, unfortunately, is people being polarized, and nothing coming to resolution. Maybe if we could see ourselves in these monsters, maybe it would.