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The Church of Ben & Jerry's

The Church of Ben & Jerry's

No matter what else is going on in your life, you are safe here now.

I’ve always been a big fan of food websites. Just about every product in the grocery store now has a website printed just below the list of ingredients. Snapple has a fun little site, as does Cap’n Crunch. The General Mills website was surprisingly disappointing, considering that it’s from the company that gives us the monster cereals. Starbucks is educational but needs a game or two. The website for Oreos is pretty cool, but without a doubt the coolest food website has to be that of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They have lots of information and things that jump and float. There’s a game or two and a flavor graveyard where you can vote to resurrect your favorite flavor. (Insert your own Jesus joke here.)

My favorite part of the Ben & Jerry’s website is the icon labeled “papercrafts.”

Click there and you can download a number of fun things to print out on cardstock including a mobile and a toy cow. You can also download and build an entire New England community right on your desk. (I work mostly at home, so it’s unlikely the boss will catch me. Build your own village at your own discretion.)

There’s a barn, an authentic Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, an apartment building and a church. Print these out on cardstock, cut them out and with a glue stick and a degree in engineering, you can have your own Ben & Jerry’s community.

Here’s where it gets fun. The Ben & Jerry’s cow, when fully assembled, is the same height as the gas station. I downloaded and assembled an entire herd of bovines and let them stampede through the town. The church was protected by Superman and a Jesus action figure that had wheels and something called “blessing action.” The bovine rebellion was finally driven away by a collection of Simpsons PEZ dispensers. After the town was rebuilt, all of its miniature residents went to church and had ice cream.

In the Ben & Jerry’s community, it’s OK to be as tall as the church steeple and still be welcomed. In the Ben & Jerry’s community, you can have a cape, heat vision and a spring-loaded gizmo that shoots a plastic dart and still be welcomed. In the Ben and Jerry’s community, there are not one but three Jesuses (Jesi?), who show up and make sure everyone is loved, including the remaining cows who did not run off the edge of the desk and into the garbage can.

Jesus (the real one, not the plastic guy with the blessing action) told us that all may be one. He said that we as a community of believers must strive to be one—one in Him as He is one with God. Yet we, as Christians, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with an ever-shortening list of who can and who can’t “go” when it’s time to “go.” We are a community of one. If one of us is hurting, then we all are hurting. If one of us is pregnant and alone, then we all are pregnant and alone. If one of us has a drug problem, then all of us have a drug problem. We are a community of one.

It’s easy on cardstock. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re as tall as the gas station. You don’t get judged by whether or not you can turn invisible. In the Ben and Jerry’s church you can worship from outside if you are too large to fit through the door with your jet pack on. It’s a lot harder to “get in” in our community. We don’t want the “wrong kind” of people sitting in our pews. We don’t want the people who ask too many questions, don’t sign up for the fund-raisers or refuse to participate in the new members orientation program.

Our job as believers in this community of faith is to create a community where everyone is welcome. No matter what else is going on in your life, you are safe here now. Our job is to create a place of safety where people can be who they are—heat vision or not—and not worry about judgment. If we can create a place where people can be themselves—even just two hours a week—we are fulfilling Christ’s commandment to us. That all may be one.

Steve Case has been working in ministry for more than 16 years and is the author of God Is Here.

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