When people remind you “this is the Lord’s house” in church, it is usually said in hushed tones or through clenched teeth because you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing like talking, chewing gum or showing too much ankle (what’s up, Patriarchy?).
This is simply untrue. The church is not God’s house.
God created a universe and filled it with an unfathomable amount of detail and diversity. There are over 100 different species of ducks. Brown ducks, yellow ducks, green and brown ducks, maroon black white and blue ducks. The God who created this type of beauty and variety is better at interior design than anything you have going on in your church. That God understands (and probably is the cause of) color theory and would probably never use so much purple and gold. I can tell because God seems suspiciously missing from a lot of churches. If that’s God’s house, they don’t like going there. (Christianity. Trinity. God’s pronouns would be ‘we, they, us, and love’)
I don’t blame God for not going to their house. We show up every Sunday, uninvited, to “worship” but that worship usually looks like a meeting. We show up early, there’s music to make us feel good, announcements about church business, we collect some money, talk about how we’re collectively going to improve life for ourselves and others who believe like we do then we leave. Sometimes, we’re considerate and will at least vacuum and turn off the lights but usually, we just leave the place smelling like White Diamonds and Drakkar Noir. If the church is God’s house, we are terrible guests.
In many Christian theologies, God is omnipresent. God is everywhere. The psalmist says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8) When we are on our way to church, God is there. When we leave and go home, God is there. When we’re in the office, liquor store, club or bank, God is there. I can chew gum and jump on social media in all of those places but in church, I can’t? That’s one way to make God’s house the worst place on Earth. Now, God is barely there and so are most people.
The church is God’s house is a lie we tell ourselves. At one point, the intentions were probably noble. Like the temple in ancient Israel, the church represented a place where people collectively went to center their thoughts on God. However, in the modern era, if the church is the place where we place God as the center of attention, we give our attention to other things when we are not at church. It allows us to think of God for a moment and behave differently in other moments.
In church, we discuss helping the homeless. Outside of church, we will quickly toss our coins in their cup and keep moving because we can’t stomach the smell. In church, we love everyone. Outside of church, we support policies that ensure we are able to love ourselves while oppressing others. In church, we marry because of love. Outside of church, we are unable to recognize and empathize with other people’s love. In church, we feel safe among people like us. Outside of church, we are fearful of being associated with the people with whom we are called to form connections.
The church is not God’s house. It is the Christian Clubhouse…and that’s ok. There are clubhouses all over. Lodges, comic and game shops, cigar bars, even the U.S. Capitol is a clubhouse. Just state the club rules and let the people decide if this is the club for them. Let’s stop blaming God for our made up, nonsensical rules. I’m sure the God that made those knees wouldn’t mind the knees being out in the house. Stop lying on God in order to police the type of things said, worn, or done.
God doesn’t need a house. God only needs us to get out of it.