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.
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.