Okay, okay – I don’t actually think the church “sucks.” I just said that to get everyone’s attention. Because I’m an attention whore. It’s my spiritual gift. Although a nicer way to put it might be sticking with my original nickname of “the Dominator” (thank you Mr. Jones) but I still think that makes me sound like a sexual deviant. ANYWAY.
A lot of my Christian friends ask me why I am so critical of the church. Their opinion is that since the church is the Bride of Christ, and WE (i.e. people) are the Church, that we are called to build it up and to love the church. But I don’t build the church up verbally, and I don’t love it. I’ll tell you why.
I’ll be honest. Most of it has to do with the fact that I am very critical of myself. I am also very critical (and suspicious, and jugmental, and etc., I’m not that nice of a person) of other people. One time Shane Seward wrote a song called “If you could meet my demands” and it quickly became the tagline for my actual life. Because I am so critical and judgmental of myself, it only stands to reason that I would be critical of the Church. In a manner of speaking, I am the church. I understand that the church is us, we are the church. Therefore, the mistakes the church makes are my mistakes, on some level. So why wouldn’t I be critical of myself, and by extension the Church? That’s my job, that’s my jurisdiction, that’s what I’m responsible for. I’m responsible for bettering myself, and a part of “myself” equals the Church.
Another reason why I am sort of church-hostile has a lot to do with a book I read recently. The book is called UnChristian, and I am certain you’ve heard of it. And if you haven’t, maybe you should read. It is basically a report card conducted by a statistics group who researched the target age group of 16-29 year olds, and the three top perspectives that non-christians came up with of people who were Christian, was that they were 1. Anti-gay 2. Too political 3. Hypocritical. That isn’t something I made up because I want everyone else to feel uncomfortable. Those are actual statistics of what American young people think.
Further to that, I have heard many first-hand accounts, from friends and acquaintances and people that I’ve met, of how the church has hurt them. On the whole, I feel that the Church isn’t very good at representing Christ, of being Christ-like, of including everyone, of loving everyone. I just don’t think we’re there yet.
Even further to that, I read the news. That is another reason why I think we aren’t doing that great. And yes, I do take into account that the things we are awesome at don’t get published.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t churches who don’t do this well. All of the Churches I’ve ever gone to (Awaken, Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church) have mostly exemplified all of these things well. I’ve approved Awaken’s actions 100% of the time, Church of Christ 80% of the time, and the Lutheran Church 90% of the time. A pretty good report card, on the whole. Since I’ve had a good experience with church life, personally, why do I go around rolling my eyes and scoffing?
Just because I’ve had a good experience, and just because the churches I’ve gone to have done things mostly right, that doesn’t mean that I can paint all of the North Western hemisphere with the same brush. The church has done terrible, hideous, awful things, and continues to do terrible, hideous, awful things. That’s not something that’s debated by the scientific community. It’s a fact.
A lot of times when I point this out, I get people saying, “EVERY religion/belief system/people group does terrible, hideous, awful things, because we’re PEOPLE and people are FLAWED and make MISTAKES.” Well, I’m not stupid, so yes, I am aware that people make mistakes. That’s a bit like saying, “Hey, have you noticed the ocean is wet?” When I hear that, it’s a bit like a child who is getting lectured on their behaviour going, “But So-And-So did THIS and it was JUST AS BAD!” Well, excuse me, but who the fuck cares? We’re not talking about THEIR behaviour. We’re talking about YOUR behaviour.
The track record of the Church and our general behaviour at present (and I’m not talking locally, I’m talking globally) has broken my trust. Trust, for me, does not come easily, and when it is broken, that’s a big thing. If someone breaks my trust and does one or two things to earn back my trust, I don’t say, “Wow, look at the cool thing you did! Of COURSE I trust you again!’ No. It has to be a long period of behaviour that is consistent before I start to recommend you to other people. The same thing with the Church. I would have to see a long period of consistent behaviour with EVERYONE before I would start recommending her to other people. I don’t know about you, but so far I haven’t seen that.
This, of course, isn’t to say that the church doesn’t do awesome, life-giving, wound-healing things. Of course we do. Of course. But it’s not enough. These are things we’re just…supposed to be doing. This is expected, par-for-the-course behaviour. I am not in the business of giving out rewards for something that you are already said you would do. Don’t look for sympathy here. Don’t look for a pat on the back here. Because you won’t get one. It’s like, in my mind, I’ve put the Church on probation. When someone is in jail and they do something that is in accordance with the law, they don’t get a pat on the back either. I don’t think encouragement is called for. I think keeping our head down and putting our noses to the grindstone is.
The Church can be great again. I’m not asking anyone to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But I am asking us to please shut the polite fuck up about how great we’re doing. Because a) we’re not and b) even if we were, boasting and congratulating is not supposed to be in our repertoire. Humility is. We’ve got a long way to go before we get there. I don’t see why it’s bad or why people think I’m so negative when I try to be realistic about how the Church has a LOT of brutal shortcomings. Are we so insecure that we can only hear the good things and not be honest about the bad things? Are we so narcissistic that we need to be constantly congratulated? (I say, as I write a blog, which is just about the most narcissistic thing you can possibly do).
On the other hand, I am not saying we should go around bashing the Church so that we’ll want to improve, because it’s better than being constantly berated. Being needlessly negative doesn’t help anyone. But neither does putting a “good face” on things when we know the inside is cracked and broken. And of course we should know that, because one of the founding tenants of Christianity is that we are all cracked and broken. That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why Christianity exists.