Many don't understand my difficulty with the church. My struggle with the church is often perceived as hatred for the it. Many wonder why, if I experience such a profound discontent, why I stay. My critique of the church is deemed as a disdain and a dismissal of it altogether. I had lunch with a photographer friend of mine yesterday who asked me questions along the same line, trying to understand where I was coming from. Here's an analogy I gave that I hope might help:
What if there was a Maritime Photographers Association that every photographer had to be a member of in order to publish his or her photographs? Let's carry it further. What if you couldn't even buy a camera without a license to do so, and that the only way you could take photographs publicly was if you had the proper documentation? You could only display your photographs after they had passed a panel review of adjudicators who alone could give the authorization for them to be displayed. In fact, the Association took it upon itself to regulate what was considered acceptable to the public and to even dictate to the public what it should appreciate as admissible photography. You love photography, but there's something oppressive about being a photographer in this milieu. You experiment with unauthorized photographic exhibitions on telephone poles and walls of buildings and in clandestine events, but it is all considered seditious. Some interpret this as a disdain for photography because your actions seem to be a self-defeating struggle against The Photographers. The repercussions are serious. But you persist because there is a small band of artists who feel the same way you do and subversively continue to work within the system while at the same time sabotaging it because they feel that photography should be liberated from the Association's categories. As I write this I'm reminded of a movie (I can't remember the title and don't have time to search for it) about a photographer in Eastern Europe who's job is to take photos of ceramic tiles for a company. His life is lonely, boring and depressing. His full-of-life cousin comes to visit. Long story short, on a drive to take his cousin somewhere, they come across a beautiful scene of cattle grazing on a hillside with the sun setting in the background. His cousin says, "What a beautiful photograph that would take!" The photographer stops the car, considers it for a moment, then says, "Fuck it!" and starts driving again, much to his cousin's amazement. This gifted photographer had regulated his own creativity to fit the constraints of his employer. (Just a note: after I gave this analogy, my friend said that there is such a Photographers Union and laughed at just how accurately I described its dynamics.)This is how I feel within the church. I'm in it but not of it. And I am a pastor of a small community of people that, for the most part I think, are on the same page. This is why I continue. Somehow, I feel it is my duty to be a subversive among subversives, to liberate people from the constraints of systems and ideologies that oppress, restrict, regulate and bind us.