There is some debate but the worlds largest organism, according to some brief, preliminary research on Google, is either the 200 ton blue whale, a fungus in the Blue Mountains of Oregon covering over 2,000 acres of land, or what is known as “Pando,” a single quaking aspen that covers 106 acres of land and weighs an estimated 6,000 metric tons. Pando is located by Fish Lake in South-Central Utah, and, if you believe in Old Earth Creationism, could contain shoots from a clone over 80,000 years old. Some may be asking the question, “What exactly constitutes an organism? Because trees can’t possibly count!” That’s what I first said, however, according to one definition, an organism is a set of genetically identical cells that are in communication with one another and have a common purpose or can at least organize themselves to do something, i.e., a group of tress or fungus could therefore be considered an organism because of identical cell structure and purpose.
This struck me as curious because in the orthodox Christian faith tradition we who call ourselves members belong to another organism, the Church, capital C, a network of believers gathered together with a common ideology, purpose, and, well not cell structure, but one could say a “redefined, similar interior being.” A whole made up of interdependent parts, perhaps not in very good communication with one another and perhaps at times arguing about just what exactly our common purpose is, but a family and an organism nonetheless.
Most of the time, this bugs the crap out of me. It means I am in “family” and “a part of” people and organizations that most of the time I want nothing to do with. It means that under the Church, we are all equal. None of our specific views or ideologies or beliefs are necessarily better than any other once we get out of the realm of basic Christian belief (by this I mean, basic confession of faith such as sin, grace, redemption, Jesus, etc.). There are those who might disagree, which just goes to illustrate my point further—we are very easily divided. And yet ideally, and perhaps even theologically, we are still united together in our common faith. Some of us might believe war is wrong and others that it’s necessary. Some of us might believe homosexuality is a sin and others may have come to a different conclusion through scripture. Some of us might believe in speaking in tongues and others, not so much. But we are still of the same organism.
How does this work? I’m not exactly sure. I’m sure I could whip up a fairly accurate theological supposition, and yet it seems there is still some mystery involved. Like the other day, when I found myself in church, white coffee cup in hand, eyes crusted from lack of sleep, thinking, “Is all of this even real? Is it? Is church really more than just a club or organization we seek out for belonging?”
I had a friend named Lauren in college. She was a strong Christian, a leader, and a respected woman. After college we lost touch for a year or so and when I saw her again a year later she confessed to me that she was no longer a Christian and felt like most of her faith in college was done solely out of a desire to be a part of community. I understood.
Sometimes I find myself sitting in church, feeling nothing, and can’t help but think that surely this isn’t God’s way of saving the world. Surely there must be some other plan, something more exciting in store. And yet faith and scripture tell us otherwise. It can be hard to believe in faith and scripture above one’s own feelings. If I were going off feelings alone I’d probably never go to church. This week especially (post-World Vision frenzy) it’s hard to look at either the Church or the world and not think we’re all doomed. I look at the world and I see despair. I want to look at the church and God for redemption but lately I find my belief in both wavering.
A song that’s always haunted me is, “Secret of the Easy Yoke” by Pedro the Lion. The first stanza goes like this:
I could hear the church bells ringing
they pealed aloud your praise
the member’s faces were smiling
with their hands outstretched to shake
it’s true they did not move me
my heart was hard and tired
their perfect fire annoyed me
I could not find you anywhere
could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
I still have never seen you, and somedays
I don’t love you at all
It’s pretty rough stuff. It’s basically how I feel every Sunday. Each day at church spins me out because I feel like I should have more faith, more resolve, more feeling. And yet I guess that’s why they call it faith. Because it does not hinge on what you feel for the day. I’m not talking about blind submission to religion; I’m talking about belief in something that is good and bigger than yourself. This is faith. It’s what I try to believe in. And why I need a community of believers around me, i.e., the “Church” to help me regain vision when the fog and blindness descend. It’s not much but I guess it’s why I haven’t left yet, even though I feel like I should have by now.