The Old Lady and the Prayer Shawl
Church matters because it is the only way we can understand this crazy thing called faith.
Note: The following is adapted from a sermon I wrote back in 2014.
Why does church matter? Why is it that we come to this building every Sunday morning and spend a few hours there? Why do people not only give their money but also give their time to this community? What makes the church so special? Do we need church?
This question about the church is something that has been on my mind for the last few months, but it has kicked into overdrive in the last few weeks following a rash of shootings where the victim was basically at the wrong place at the wrong time. The most well-known is the shooting of Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old African American who went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings and ended up shot twice by an 84-year-old white man.
It’s easy to look at events like this and immediately say what many of my friends say: “The problem is guns. We need more laws restricting guns.” I’m not against laws that might make sure certain people don’t have guns or can have guns taken away if they are proven to be a threat, but guns are a symptom of a bigger problem and that’s the loss of community.
There are a lot of reasons for that loss of community, but the result is a society that doesn’t trust one another and a loss of trust leads to despair. One of the hallmarks of this age is this sense of despair in society and it has consequences. Angus Deaton and Anne Case, two economists who are husband and wife came up with a phrase to describe what has been going on, especially among working-class Americans: depths of despair. In their 2015 paper, they noted that working-class white men and women “without four-year college degrees were dying of suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related liver disease — what Case and Deaton termed “deaths of despair” — at unprecedented rates. In 2017 alone, there were 158,000 deaths of despair in the US.”
We’ve lost trust in our society and entered in a time of despair. Institutions like the church, but also civic organizations were places that in some cases formed people to become better people. Michigan State University professor Brianna Wolfe quotes Alexis de…