Preface: this post is going to be disgruntled, lengthy, and decidedly religious. Feel free to skip. (I didn’t want to turn this blog into a religious/political/hotspot sort of place, but Tuesdays are my day to spit everything out. Consider this your formal warning.)
The truth today? I’m disappointed. In the church. Not a specific church, or a specific denomination, or even in my church, necessarily. I’m disappointed in The Church as described in the New Testament, the one that was a community that loved and challenged in truth and sincerity. Because it’s gone AWOL and I want it back.
A brief background: I grew up in your typical American church, whatever that means to you. It was an independent Berean, with a passion for missions and a belief that the church was meant to be a place to build up the believer and provide community for those of like faith. They believed in the church being active in the community and around the world, and refused to be snobbish about its care for, accountability to, and communion with, other churches in the area, regardless of the denomination. I loved it.
My parents influenced my faith considerably, but all of what I believe now has come because I’ve had to make the decision, at some point, to quit believing what I did just because my family did. I had to make each and every tenant of my faith my own. What I believe now lines up pretty closely with the Nicene Creed, and while there are plenty of things that I am still struggling to understand, there’s a lot more that I won’t give an inch of ground on.
So. Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to gripe about the church today. What on earth has happened? What is the church supposed to be, anyway? Just a house where we get together and drink coffee and sing hymns and hear a familiar passage being read? Throw in an altar call at the end and we’ll be okay.
Since when is the church not allowed to talk about money, or fiscal responsibility, or what the Bible teaches about what God has given and what is due to Him? Why can’t they stop caricaturing the rich or judging the jobless or stereotyping the poor?
Since when is the church unable to decide its stance on creation or evolution or intelligent design or dinosaurs or anything remotely scientific? Don’t you dare dismiss the entirety of Genesis 1 as nonessential to your faith. But don’t accept any origin-of-the-earth theory on blind faith, either. Make up your mind! Study it! Know it! Teach it!
Since when is the church completely tongue-tied when it comes to homosexuality or the issues surrounding LGBT(s)? Some preach fire-and-brimstone against same-sex marriage, others condone in the name of love, most separate it from the rest of their faith, and a vast majority have no clue what to do when an upstanding young man in their congregation comes out as gay. Seriously, people. You need to find out what you believe about being born gay (or not). Just please, please don’t deny the fact that it’s happening, and don’t turn your back on it when it does.
Since when is the church giving a non-committal head-nod to God-is-love-and-there-is-no-hell? You can’t just shrug this off! You are either in or out. There is no third option. Either Hell exists or it does not. The same goes for Satan, and demons, and heavenly warfare. Make. Up. Your. Mind.
Since when is the church not allowed to acknowledge the presence of pain in a believer’s life? Why does it hover around the Job(s) of the congregation, offering judgement in the same hand as it extends prayer? Since when is anybody’s life bleached free of problems? Don’t ignore or condemn the existence of pain in a Christian’s life. Nobody should be denied the ability to hurt, to have depression, to get divorced, to succumb to cancer, to doubt…to be the messed up people that we are.
It’s hard for me to see past the clerical collar and trimmed robe. They’ve become the trappings of an image-obsessed church who has wrapped itself up in altar calls and white tablecloths in order to avoid dealing with the real issues of today.
But…we tend to identify the pastors or elders or deacons or priests or preachers as “the church”, as if they are single-handedly responsible for the decline of the institution into vagueness and timidity. But that’s not true. The church is undecided because we are undecided. I attend a church—I am the church. The person sitting next to me in the folding chair, in the pew, in the stadium seating…they are the church. Every participant in the church, regardless of membership status or official staff title, is the church.
I’ve spent a lot of space ranting against the deliberate indecision of the church, but the truth is, in doing so, I’m actually criticizing myself and my fellow churchgoers. I can’t claim to be perfect and rock-solid in every doctrine or moral belief, but I’m trying. I’m trying to figure out what it means to live like a Christian. But that’s harder to do when the community of believers around me is uninterested, unchallenged, and downright ignorant as to current affairs and state of belief. You want to know one of the reasons why young people walk away from the church? Because when it comes time for them to find out what they really believe, they discover that their peers and leaders don’t even know that for themselves.
C.S. Lewis spoke of the church as “rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.” (The Screwtape Letters). But lately it seems as if we the church are stumbling in the dark, divided and uncertain. If the people in the church, the body of Christ, are unwilling to stand up, I’m not sure how much longer that banner will be up there. Nobody’s bothering to do anything about it. Please note: I’m not asking the church to start shouting from the pulpit or trying to proselytize everyone in sight or hang signs out on the streets declaring imminent Hell. I’m just asking for a backbone. I’m asking for awareness and understanding that real life is out there and your faith is not separate from it. Right now it’s just one more shrug of the shoulders, one more sliding out of the pew and leaving the doctrine behind, one more back that is turned away from the flesh-and-blood problems of the real world…Don’t deny it. Don’t dismiss it. Make up your mind, and then live like it.