I swing back and forth between understanding and even occasionally approving apologetic language and thinking that it is reflective of a defensive posture toward the rest of the world. I cannot rest easy with the idea that part of the Church's call is to make the claims of faith not just intelligible to contemporary discourse, but compatible with it. Yet, there is also a part of me that understands the pull, intellectually, ethically, even pastorally, of the desire to make of religious discourse something not just sympathetic but recognizable.
In this article (h/t ER), the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, director of publishing, identity and communication for the United Church of Christ, considers the life and language of the Church as it faces the bigotry of so many within its walls toward sexual minorities. Yet, even as he expresses understanding and sympathy toward those folks in the LGBT community who are both hostile toward and afraid of the Church, he also expresses a faithful recognition that the Christian life, the presence of Christ in loving community, is something that can be experienced together in those moments of life where living is most intense. Here, right here, is the breaking in of the Kingdom of peace and love, where the old dichotomy between immanence and transcendence, sacred and profane breakdown. In those moments where we share joy and laughter, passion and commitment, sorrow and even rage together with others, there is the Spirit of Christ, there is the Kingdom he proclaimed as fulfilled in him breaking through.
At the end of the day, it is this declaration of faith - that right here, in the messiness and ambiguity of our everyday existence, the presence of God is real, taking even our most mundane experiences, our most human foibles and limitations, and making of them something holy - that even transcends the apologetic/non-apologetic dichotomy. While I recognize the desire to explain this, I think declaring it, getting the rest of the world to see that, as St. Paul wrote, Christ came so that we might have life and that more abundantly, is the real meaning of what it is to be Church. If we can model this way of living - not worrying about tomorrow, but living for today, in the Spirit of love that unites us to the Son of the Father - as what "eternal life" is all about, the dross and chaff will fall away.
This neither precludes nor negates larger attempts to make the world a place where all human beings can live free, fully human lives. Rather, the faith that sees the beauty and power of interpersonal loving community is forced to share this with the world. Making the world understand that it is God's, and that God asks of us to be together in love and gentleness - this is the mission of the Church. This is who we are called to be, what we are baptized to do.
If more folks lived this out, and made the point that this is what it's all about, we might not need to worry so much about making God intelligible to the rest of the world. If more folks refused to silence those voices that demand better of us followers of Jesus, but listened to their anguished cries for real love and service, we might actually have fewer such voices. If more people just lived this out, instead of demanding that others submit to their all too human authority, we would no longer need worry about whether or not God's Church will live another year, because we would be the living presence of Christ that is the Church.