The church of the misfits By the Rev. Eric Elnes, Ph.D. Senior Pastor, Scottsdale, Ariz., Congregational UCC Scottsdale Tribune "Clergy Corner," Sept. 13, 2003 Bright lights pulsed frantically. Techno-industrial music pounded my body as if the band was reaching out with invisible boxing gloves. The audience sported black leather, gravity-defying hairstyles, and enough body-piercing to set off metal detectors miles away. I had stumbled into this New York City club quite by accident, never having heard of the band on the marquee: VNV Nation. I found the crowd cued up on 42nd Street so fascinating I overcame my apprehension and paid the $37.50 cover, descending below the street. What awaited me was an unexpected lesson in theology. Song after song, the swaying audience chanted virtually every word, but I could only make out occasional lines. What came through surprised me. I expected to hear calls for aggression and hatred, based on people's appearance. (I'd never want to meet any of them in a dark alley.) Instead, I found mourning and lament over dashed hopes: Our domain, this kingdom come now godless lands whose ways are lost. Without the strength to carry on. All values lost all virtue none. I heard confusion and confession: I will not deny that nothing can defend from the helplessness that's cutting deep inside, and I cannot prevent the thought that nothing's real. Seems I've waited years for this day to end. And they asked tormenting questions: So why do I love when I still feel pain? When does it end, when is my work done? Continuing to watch and listen, it suddenly occurred to me that even though most of the audience wouldn't be caught dead in a Christian church, they were actively connecting with deep elements of Christian faith. They were relating with, articulating—even embodying—the shadow side of the Cross: that no-man's-land between death and resurrection most Christians scurry past on their way to Easter. I wished the crowd could experience the triumphal side of the Cross. But I also wished churches would more willingly embrace wisdom gleaned from its tragic side. Remembering September 11 this weekend, it seems especially appropriate. I have a fantasy that you will one day know my church as the "Church of the Misfits." Misfits because we are totally unconcerned with external appearances, and focused instead on finding Jesus wherever he may be found—including a VNV Nation concert in New York City.
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