When I was visiting the BroFam the other week, TheBro and I went to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
We were, as were so many, disappointed. Still, one detail in the movie, to tell you about which will not constitute a spoiler, kind of stuck with me as a “thinking point” as soon as it appeared: At one point, the Avengers retreat to what they call a “safe house.” They need to regroup. They are battle-weary and conflict-ridden and they need a place to be, well, safe, and work these things out.
While they were retreating, I thought, “I want to host a safe house.”
Then I thought, “Except that in the shows, the safe houses are always compromised, so maybe that’s asking for trouble.” My Paul and I watch a lot of movies and television shows with people fighting for causes (whether worthy or believable or not) where their lives are at risk. At least once in the storyline of probably the majority of these shows, some character or group of characters flees to a safe house … and then their cover is blown and bad things happen but still, ever since I heard of it, I’ve been drawn to the concept.
I realise this is pretty similar to the way-station idea I blogged about before, but I think there’s a subtle difference. A way-station is maybe a broader term that could encompass safe houses, but it seems to me to imply a place to take a load off your feet as you go along life’s journey. A safe house–well, that’s for people who are going through the wars. And there are a lot of people I know who are, on some metaphorical level, going through the wars. And surely even more people I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to turn anyone away who thought I could be genuinely spiritually helpful to them, but, as safe houses in the movies generally serve one branch of a mission or one side of a battle, there is one segment of the population I’m particularly keen to serve.
The group of people about which I am increasingly fascinated–and learning–is what one notable blogger calls “The Dones.” These are (at least some of) the people the recent Pew Research Study was about. Contrary to popular belief, the Dones aren’t relinquishing their Christian faith. They also aren’t “nominal” Christians (Christians in name only) or people who never got involved in their church ministries, or even, really, people who got mad at the church and walked out. They have been burned by the church before, but that’s not why they’re leaving. They just feel, apparently, that the church as traditionally envisioned is not allowing them to follow the callings God has put on their lives, and so they’re moving out so they can follow God better.
I am not Done with the traditional church model, but if recent research I heard about on a podcast is to be believed, I fit pretty squarely–descriptively at least–into the demographic that makes up this movement. What’s more, I suddenly have a significant number of friends who, like me, are starting to ask the questions and are teetering right on the edge. So, The Readership, I think I know what I want my Nebulous Nonprofit to be about now. I want it to be a “safe house” (in an ideal world, it will one day become a physical place for people to come and retreat, but I think it can be a virtual one, too, at least for a while) for people who have–or had–a Christian faith that is under fire. I want it to be a refuge for people whose faith isn’t working the way they thought it was supposed to and they need a place to be safely honest about that, and to figure out what needs to happen to their faith for them to go on. I want to host a haven for those having a difficult time with their church or who might be discovering that maybe church isn’t what they thought, and they want to figure out what it is instead.
I don’t really think we need more churches, and I wouldn’t make this a condition of The Safe House, but I hope the upshot of all this maybe virtual but also communal soul-care would be to equip each other to go back into the fray, not for the purpose of “fraying,” but because life is a battle sometimes, whether we like it or not, and maybe, strengthened together, we can each move back into a local manifestation of church, better able to sustain each other regardless of what we find there, and better able to support and defend that crazy institution which has been called both Christ’s Bride and His own Body.