Bridezilla: Formed from blending of the words bride and Godzilla (Japanese movie monster). Used to describe a woman whose behavior becomes outrageously bad in the course of planning for her wedding.1
Growing up, I vividly recall being fascinated with monster movies. Classic movies such as King Kong, The Thing, Jaws and Alien captivated my imagination while keeping me on the edge of my seat while viewing and wide eyed in my bed at night afterwards. At a very young age, I remember being particularly enthralled with Godzilla, the Japanese created reptilian creature dubbed the King of the Monsters, whose destructive signature weapon; its atomic breath, rains down carnage and chaos causing those in the beast’s path to flee for the lives and well-being.
The sad reality is that this horrific picture of people running from the destructiveness of a hideous beast is a picture which, more than I’d like to admit, dovetails with the current religious climate in Canada in which people are leaving the church and the Christian faith in droves.
It’s been well documented in recent years that the fastest growing segment of our population are those claiming to have no religious affiliation.
According to the Pew Research Center, over a generation, the religiously unaffiliated in Canada has risen dramatically from 4% in 1971 to 24% in 2011.2 It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the reality that the cultural and religious landscape in Canada has shifted dramatically.
While certainly not true of all those represented by these numbers, the Nones and Dones, a common narrative I hear when befriending and engaging in dialogue with the unchurched/de-churched in my community is that the impetus for many distancing themselves from the church is the emotional wounds they either personally endured or witnessed among others within the church.
When the Bride of Christ looks and acts more like the Bridezilla of Christ, the result, like a Godzilla monster movie, is people fleeing for the sake of their survival and sanity. Certainly, this is not what Jesus had in mind when describing the church as a pure and spotless bride.When the Bride of Christ looks more like Bridezilla the result is people fleeing for the sake of their survival Click To Tweet
My intent in discussing the church’s propensity to resemble an atomic breathing monster, more so than a pure a spotless bride, is not to bash or shame the church. I write, not as a cynic with an axe to grind and stones to throw from the outside, but as someone on the inside who deeply cares for the church and longs for her resemble Jesus, the patient and persistent loving bridegroom longing to heal the church and the world. Nor, do I want to paint with too broad of a brush, implying that the vast majority of communities of faith more often than not resemble a horrible fire breathing Bridezilla, more so than a beautiful bride.
Yet, the statistics and multiplying voices of those who are de-churched need to be heard with grace and humility, as those of us within the church do the ongoing and necessary work of introspection and repentance for the ways in which we have misrepresented Jesus.
What troubles me more than anything else is how the reaction of church in response to shrinking attendance and influence in society has been to sidestep personal and communal soul searching. Resorting instead to scapegoating, shaming and silencing those in our midst who are wrestling with honest questions and doubts. They are often offering critique of the institutional church’s shortcomings in a manner that at times echoes those of the Old Testament prophets.
Church communities that cannot listen to the honest questions and criticisms of the Nones and Dones, are communities which are so insecure that they can’t bear to learn from those whom the Holy Spirit may very well use to prophetically illuminate the churches blind spots. Revealing areas that require some deep soul searching, repentance and reconciliation.
When the church, the Bride of Christ, becomes more captivated by the self-preservation of the institutional church, rather than being consumed by extending the relentless grace and mercy of Jesus, our Bridegroom, we morph into a Bridezilla inflicting terror and destruction with our words and actions. Especially towards those who have the courage to honestly voice their questions, doubts and concerns.
Rather than shifting blame by scapegoating the Nones and the Dones for their alleged ‘lack of faith’, ‘backsliding’ and/or ‘disrupting behaviours,’ perhaps we would be well served by listening. By pulling up chairs at the tables of our churches, homes and coffee shops for the Nones and Dones, to listen to their stories with grace and empathy, and to do the necessary work of repentance for the ways in which the church has prompted the rise of the Nones and the Dones.
As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I’ve been reflecting upon the life of Martin Luther, in particular upon Luther’s famous Ninety-Five Theses which he raised in response to some of the perceived injustices in his day. In a sense, Luther’s honest questions, critiques and call for repentance in his time parallel the concerns of the Nones and the Dones in ours.
Recently, I had the nourishing opportunity to live into this ongoing work of repentance and reconciliation at a two-day event in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. What began as a heartfelt conversation between a prominent Roman Catholic priest and an Evangelical Lutheran minister in my community more than a year ago, recently culminated in a two-day gathering of people from across the province from more than ten denominations to worship, pray, listen and learn together. Repentance and reconciliation were at the forefront of our gathering as we made space at our tables for members of our indigenous community to share their stories, rituals and stories which included the trauma of being torn from their families and placed in residential schools.
We listened to one another and to our indigenous neighbours, we broke bread together and shared in prayers of repentance. Choosing not to ignore or shift blame in how we’ve treated one another and our indigenous brothers and sisters. But instead, to do the necessary ongoing and healing work of introspection and repentance with the ultimate goal of reconciliation in harmony with God’s ultimate desire for all of creation.
During our time together I was given the great honour of being asked to deliver the homily at our evening ecumenical prayer and worship service. There I was sticking out like a sore thumb dressed in my buttoned, collared shirt and khaki pants sitting on the platform alongside Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran bishops dressed in their liturgical robes. That evening I reflected upon a tweet quoting Pope Francis that had caught my attention a few days earlier,
“The more Jesus occupies the center of our lives, the more He allows us to come out of ourselves and brings us closer to others.”
I believe this tweet encompasses the heart of God for His Bride, and by extension the world. Only when Jesus occupies the center of our lives, can we humbly repent of our propensity to repel people as we play the role of Bridezilla, and instead be drawn closer to others. Including the many Nones and Dones who we would be well served to listen to, love and make space for at our tables because after all, monster tales need not end in tragedy.