Given recent events in my life and the shift in readership of this blog, I have found the need to lay a different sort of foundation for my thoughts and this forum. It has occurred to me that I have kept many of my thoughts buried for many reasons, not the least of which was fear of being alone in my position and fear of being rejected by those in my faith community.
However, circumstances be as they may, I have come to a place where I must either make the leap or pack up and head home. And I have not been one to pack it in. What follows is largely a private journey that I have been on for more than the last decade. It began as my faith and worldview began to be deconstructed in the course of college classes, oddly enough at a private Christian university. My journey had led me to places where I have had the honor of rubbing shoulders with schizophrenics, prostitutes, and criminals as well as “Christians,” atheists, and the spiritually apathetic. In the course of the last several years I have come to the firm belief that we all have much more that unites us than separates us.
In the course of seeing life for myself, I have come to a very controversial and potentially alienating conclusion: the church is dying. For a time I did not want anything to do with it, but never have recanted my faith. What follows are some of my candid thoughts about the state of the church, its (our) sins and my hope for its redemption.
A Sad State of Affairs
The church in America has gone to the doGs. Things have become so mangled and twisted that many can no longer even spell the object of our worship. As books on atheism mount the best seller lists for spirituality, Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now seems to be the best that the church has been able to produce, though it seems to be more at home in the self-help section. Many churches are neglecting or forsaking what they hold as the inspired Word of God. If they have not put it in a box they irreverently pull phrases out of context and use it to support their latest agenda. Once sacred halls of worship now offer nothing more than the latest in popular psychology and other quick fixes. In the words of Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, “There is not enough theology in mainstream churches to make people mad anymore.”
This is not an admonishment of popular psychology, but as a philosophy it does not authority from God, which is essential in the context of the pulpit of a church. The trouble is that by calling themselves a church they perpetrate a lie when they claim that these answers come from Scripture. Instead of speaking from the authority of the Bible, they instead push more popular agendas in effort to get more butts in the seats, as if that is the true test for success as a pastor.
Other large groups of Christians mutilate the Bible, pulling verses from every which way and use them to support their own hate-ridden agendas. Whether it is racism in the 1960s, slavery in the 1800s, or hatred of gays and atheists in the 21st century, groups of “Christians” have easily felt no remorse for taking words from their holy book and slaying people both philosophically and literally. Somehow they have forgotten Jesus’ expressed love for other races, those who were sexually promiscuous, and those who exerted authority to take advantage of others (though it may have been expressed in different ways).
My Reluctance and My Hope
No doubt much of this is not new to you. No doubt that many of you have left a church or left Christianity for these or similar atrocities. For a while I felt very much the same and for years I took my desire to help people more fulfilled lives and put it into developing my discipline of counseling. All the while I never left the faith, although there were times I was not the least bit excited about attending religious services. I gradually began to feel that I was the only one who was concerned about such things, and began to allow my mind to glaze over again and accept that, as Prof Pangloss says to Candide, we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”
The spark that ejected me from that delusion was not from the church, but from outside. I began to have conversations with gays and atheists, many of whom had felt the ravaged sting of the viper that I suddenly realized I was crawling back into bed with. I realized that while that did not define who I was and what I believed it was something that I have associated myself with.
Christianity, in its present form, is not a gift of God. Religion of today is a system of belief that over the centuries has been corrupted by wealth, power, and blood. People who claim Christianity across the centuries are responsible for the Crusades, for the Spanish Inquisition, and for silent observation of the Holocaust. People who claim Christianity have used the Bible to support the buying and selling of human beings, the dehumanization of men and women according to the color of their skin, and the murder of people who preform abortions and who profess attraction to members of the same sex.
It was never intended to be that way. Christianity was an original design of a man named Jesus who lived in the region of Palestine that was called Nazareth. He was a historic person who challenged his people’s wildest expectations for a Savior and whose legacy is alive today. The details of his life are locked in ancient writing and his testimony endures in the lives of those who have been changed by that message. He modeled the expression love and acceptance of those who society had forgotten, and he modeled what it means to criticize those within one’s own faith community and challenge them to return to the truth.
Jesus Christ is the reason I am a Christian, not Christianity.
Shun therefore the evil ways of Christians, but cleave to the way that is Christian. . . . Take heed therefore of picking up a quarrel with Jesus Christ, and with His ways, because of the evil doings of some of His followers. Judas sold Him; Peter denied Him: and many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him; but neither Himself nor His ways were the worse for that. — John Bunyan (1628 – 1688)