At a meeting on Friday, it was shared with me that there are many Christians who struggle with the concept of Pastoral Care & Chaplaincy vs Spiritual Care. Through further conversation, it was stated that in reality, this struggle has created a "cultural divide" within the "church".
I have spent a great deal of time thinking through this over the last several days. I have never really thought of this phenomenom as culturally dividing the church, but more as a philosophical divide. It is a divide between the "right" and the "left" of the church. There are those who feel that no matter what, we must always align ourselves with those who are Christian, must speak about Christ with everyone we come in contact with, and as we are working with those God puts in our care, we must speak to them about God every chance we get. There are others who feel that we need to truly be in this world, however not conform to the world's ethics and philosophies, that our actions truly speak louder than word, and that actions will open the door for words the words of Christ to be spoken.
To be completely honest, I truly struggle with the first. For myself, I find that it is somewhat condesending and creates a societal cultural divide. In my work with the homeless and society's disenfranchised over the past decade or more, over and over again I have seen how people watch the actions of others and questioned those actions. This includes the actions of those who say to them that God will make everything all "better", that they will be a "better" person if they become saved, yet some of those same individuals behave in such a way that clearly shows a life that is truly screwed up and not "all better." There was a church when I was working at the shelter in Toronto who came to me and said they wanted to bus the guys to their church for a special dinner one night, no strings attached. After the event, the guys reported to me that when they arrived at the church they were escorted to the sanctuary, where they were told there would be a service first, and only those present for the service would receive a meal. When the guys shared this with me, they stated they felt like children, and felt that if they did not listen, they would not be considered "good enough". Are we not supposed to be building others up, and displaying through our actions that God accepts and loves everyone unconditionally, not setting up a system of hierarchy!
So I guess you figure out where I stand on this one. God is a God who expects us to be "Christ like". Christ did not turn people away when they came for healing and feeding if they wouldn't listen to him first. Quite the opposite. Most people's eyes were openned as a result of his actions. In our society today, showing Christ's love through our actions is critical. Over the years, I have had many people say "there is something different about you, what is it?" Let's make it perfectly clear that I am in no way perfect, that in actuality in many many ways I am very flawed. That one single statement however has opened the door for discussions, further questions, spiritual, theological and philisophical debates, and alot of searching for answers for myself and for those with whom I have had these discussions. The greatest priviledge God has given to me with this approach is that over and over again, I have had people from other religions who have begun searching for answers through the Bible and Christ's words. There was the 2 Muslim men who asked that I sponsor them as they became baptized in Christian churches. There was the Muslim woman who had stayed at the family shelter who called me for support after her husband died, and who is now attending a church. There was the Hindu staff member who fled an abusive relationship, who reached out for unconditional support and who is now a part of the pastoral care support team for Hindu clients who want to fully understand Christianity as it relates to their middle eastern culture.
In conversations and debates with some from the "right", it has been stated that my approach is "hiding" my Christianity, because I am not actively speaking of it all the time. To the contrary. I feel that by wearing it on my sleeve, my actions speak louder than words. These two totally divergent ways of thinking are a philosophically and culturally different. With everything that is happening in this world, I thank God on a daily basis that we can have these differences and be able to think as individuals, but I also pray that these philosophical and cultural differences do not divide us.