Theological Thursday – Why I Detest The Church AND Why I Go To Church

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I find many of the traditions of the church beautiful… but that’s not what it’s all about.

I really don’t like The Church.

As I wrote this, I realized I could probably write a book on this topic, but I’m trying to learn to write short and sweet.  So here it is, in 1,000 words or less…

The reasons I detest The Church (in no particular order):

  • The Church is full of judgmental people who place a moral value on appearance, clothing, income and other superficial aspects of a person.
  • The Church is led by power-hungry men (far more often than women, though they are there too) who are only interested in their own financial gain and personal pleasure.
  • The Church is oppressive to women.
  • The Church is abusive to minorities.
  • The Church impedes the progress of science.
  • The Church is too political.
  • The Church is full of in-fighting and contradiction.
  • The Church is all about death and blood sacrifice and guilt.
  • The Church is legalistic and controlling, forcing rules on people that have no Biblical basis.

We’ve all seen it.  We’ve seen the folks screaming, “God hates fags.”  We’ve seen people on the street corners proclaiming women who have had abortions to be murderers.  We’ve seen young people telling their stories of abuse at the hands of church leaders.  We’ve seen the greed and the excess and the ignorance that abounds.

Many of us have experienced it first hand.

I have.

The worst years of my life – years so bad they left me praying for God to let me die – were the years I spent at a “Christian” college, surrounded by “Christians” 24/7.

My experience at that Hell-on-Earth had two life-changing results:

1)      I read the Bible for myself, cover to cover, several times over.  I read it in different translations and, when I could clumsily stutter through, in the original languages.  I studied the background and the culture and the history involved.  I read the books that got left out.  I learned which parts were originally written in poetic form, which parts were oral tradition before they were written down, which parts were added hundreds of years after the death of Christ – and it all made perfect, beautiful, harmonious sense to me.  I believed it.  Lock, stock and barrel, I believed.  I still do.

2)      I left The Church.  I had seen the beautiful message of hope in the Bible and it was not in any way apparent in the lives of the “Christians” I saw every day.  I never stopped believing in God, but I had lost all faith in The Church.

Years later, something changed.

I got pregnant.

Being pregnant makes you look at everything differently.  Looking back at my childhood I was unable to imagine it without church.  It was a huge part of our lives.  It was good. When my parents struggled financially the church helped.  When I went to church camp in the summers I was loved and cared for by the people there. When I graduated high school they celebrated with me.

The people in the church I grew up with were not perfect.  They were normal, flawed human beings, but they loved each other.  They cared for their neighbors.  They did their very best to follow the teachings of Jesus.

I wanted that for my family.  So I found a little congregation with a tiny (rather ugly) church building way out in the desert.  I was nervous and defensive that first Sunday.  I didn’t want to be made to feel small again, as I had been in college.

As it turned out, I had nothing to fear.

This group was, on the surface, nothing like the church I’d grown up in.  But at heart they, too, were good.  They too, were flawed but striving for something better.  They too, were doing their best to live by, and share, their faith in God.

And I had a revelation.  There is The Church, and then there are churches.  The Church is the big, political machine that is all of those things I listed at the beginning.  It is an ugly man-made institution that has done far more harm than good in the world.

Churches, on the other hand, can be anything.  There are churches that have rock bands.  There are churches that are all about feeding the hungry.  There are churches that are all about science.   There are churches that believe that Jesus was an alien and continues to live on a spaceship somewhere “out there.”  You simply can’t judge one church by another.

I had found a church that believed in the Bible, just like I did.  They believed that Jesus taught a message of love, just like I did.  So I started going to church again.  Why?

  • It’s uplifting to worship together.  It restores my weary spirit.
  • It’s easier to serve the community when there is some kind of organization behind you (ie. The church food bank or church-run addiction recovery programs)
  • The one thing I ever agreed with Hillary Clinton about is that “it takes a village to raise a child.”  I want my children to be raised within the “village” of the church – where people love each other and serve their neighbors.
  • Church was a place where I was encouraged to continue reading and studying and growing.

You see, I had left The Church because “those Christians” were horrible judgmental people who painted everyone with the same brush.  But hadn’t I done the same thing?  I was judging everyone who called themselves “Christian” on the actions of one misguided group of idiots.  (Sorry about the name-calling.  I’m still working on the whole “forgive and forget” thing.)  Because of those people, and too many others like them, I am afraid that when people hear I’m a “Christian” they will think I’m an idiot too.

As it turns out, there are millions and millions of people who believe in Jesus and his message of Good News and also hold the same values as I do on issues of social justice, education and the good virtues of the human brain.

People say, “I don’t need to go to a church building to worship God.”  That’s true.  You don’t. The Bible encourages us to remain a part of the body of believers (Hebrews 10:25, Colossians 1:19, Acts 2:38, Galatians 3:27, and more) for our own good and for the good of others.  Nowhere are church attendance and the receiving of God’s love and forgiveness linked.  But, in my own experience, going to church (the right church) is uplifting and encouraging and motivating.  It also helps keep me accountable.  If I act like a huge jerk all week and then go to church on Sunday I become aware of what a jerk I’ve been and I’m able to work toward improving myself.  I don’t expect the people in the church (not even the pastor or the bishop) to be perfect.  They’re just people.  They can be jerks just like I can.  But I do expect them to consistently strive to show the love of Christ through their actions.

So there it is.

That is why I really detest The Church.

And those are the reasons I go to church.

If you avoid church because of any of the reasons on the first list, I strongly encourage you to forget about The Church and look for a church where you see the genuine love of Christ.  I promise… there are millions of them.  And I promise that, when you find one, you and everyone you come into contact with will be better for it.

Well, poop.  That was almost 1,300 words.  Well, like I said… I’m flawed.  But I hope this slightly long-winded post was an encouragement to your heart today.

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17 responses »

  1. Everything on the first list turned me off of Christianity in general. I had to come to my own conclusions in my own time. I’m just beginning to tackle the going to church issue. Thank you for another thought provoking post! It gives me a lot to think about.

    • It can be tricky. There is no perfect church and you’ll probably never find one that you agree with 100%, but you can tell when a place is filled with a spirit of Truth and Love.

  2. I love these posts – they really make me think. You captured most of my thoughts on church & organized religion in general. Looking forward to next Thursday.

    (ps if you opened your own hippie church I’d join)

  3. On my blackberry, so I am not commenting through wordpress. I love this post. We reject things that we think are bad and then become just as judgemental as the people that judged us!! This applies to all religions! Thanks!!

  4. Hi Hippie Mama,
    What you experienced was what a lot of people go through. But we must not say we hate the church because Christ commands us to love the brethren, which is the church. Yes, there are tose who warp the truth, and hurt people, but there are just as many who don’t. The goal is to find a congregation where the word of God is faithfully preached, sacraments are observed as Jesus commanded, and God is worshipped. That means there should be a godly pastor and elders. He gave the church pastors/teachers and evangelist for the purpose of building up the church (Ephesians 4:11 ff).

    But also go because that is the way that Jesus, the bread of Life, chooses to feed His sheep, through the preaching of God’s words, prayer, sacraments, etc. We are fed spiritually when this takes place. Those Christians who stay away from the brethren, brothers and sisters in Christ, are not being fed spiritually. This is why being a part of a congregation is vital to our Christian lives. No, the Bible does say directly “go to church” but the number of “one another” passages alone should lead us to finding true fellowship with like-minded believers. I’m glad you have found that and I hope that others who read this will do the same.
    Blessings

    • I agree with you.
      I think the distinction, in my mind, is that there are 2 entirely different entities… there is a big political monster that is more concerned with maintaining power and money and control than anything else. It is called The Church (capital “C”). To me, there is nothing Christlike in that organization. It’s no different than a political party or corporate lobbyist. They falsely use the name of Christ to lord over those less fortunate than themselves. They are in the media WAY too often, giving the rest of us a bad name.
      Then there is the church… the group of people that meets in the building on the corner, or in a home, or in a cathedral downtown, or in a cafe, or wherever in the name of Jesus. These are regular folks, filled with the Spirit, striving to restore themselves and their neighbors into right relationship with God. I have nothing but love for that church…. regardless of the denominational heading it goes under. Those people are my brothers and sisters and we are all part of one body.
      And you’re right about meeting together. Another friend (also a pastor – hmmm… a pattern with pastors? Hahaha. That’s a good thing!) pointed out that I failed to give proper acknowledgement to the importance of all the “parts of the body” being together for their own good and also for maximum effectiveness in service. I guess I thought about that in my head, but didn’t write it down clearly. Perhaps I need an addendum. 🙂
      I appreciate your reading and your kind and gentle words.

      • I wrote a response, but it got eaten… now I can’t remember what I said. BTW, hope you don’t mind, I’m using your reasons for hating the church in my opening sermon illustration. I’m preaching from John 6:22-29, and I’m using that portion to help people realize that while these things are true, Jesus knows those who truly belong to Him. No one, who is a hypocrite, which is what your list describes, fools the Lord, just as the people by the Sea of Galilee didn’t fool Jesus either. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” He saw their true motives and wasn’t fooled.

        If you don’t want me to use it, let me know. 🙂 I don’t want to embarrass you if it does.

      • Go for it. 🙂 I wish I could come hear it. I do take heart in knowing that Jesus knows… and that he seeks the hearts of those people just as much as anyone!

  5. Pingback: White Trash vs. Day of Pink: I’d rather be a kind right-wing Christian than a snobby Liberal B*tch | halfpastnormal

  6. Pingback: Theological Thursday – Meddling Pastors Made Me Write This « lazyhippiemama

  7. A brilliantly written post. I agree with you completely. I went to a larger church when I was younger that fit your descriptions of The Church to a T. Glad I escaped that place!

    • It’s amazing how something, intended to be so beautiful, could become so warped! I feel very blessed to have found a great group of kind, loving souls with no hidden agendas to worship with these days.

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