One of the dangers in opening up a discussion like this–when you start asking questions about things like religious systems and institutional church–it can create the impression that you are simply anti-whatever-it-is you are questioning. In reality, I’m more for true relationship with Jesus than I am against something else. But when you’ve been engrained in the religious system as long as I have, you have to spend some time de-constructing what is in place before you can re-construct something better. We usually don’t have any motivation to change something unless we can see what needs changing. So for awhile, it might seem that I’m just “raging against the machine”, but track with me for awhile, and things will get better. 🙂
Truth is, for a long time I had the sense that something was amuck in the institutional church systems I was living in/under; I just couldn’t put my finger on it, much less know what to do differently. When someone got hurt in church/ministry; when pastor’s kids rebelled and went crazy; when church leaders fell into sin or got divorced…there was usually some trite answer we could come up with to medicate ourselves with, to temporarily stop the gnawing sensation that something is not right here.
I’ve found that Christians generally respond one of three ways to these kinds of mishaps and tragedies in the church, and none of them is very healthy:
- We put on our rose-colored glasses and go into a sort of denial. (“Oh, well, bad stuff happens sometimes. Praise the Lord, anyway. Fight the good fight.” Add your own trite expression here.)
- We philosophize about the spiritual battle that rages around us, essentially blaming it on the devil. (“The enemy will do anything he can to destroy leadership and the church. It’s the casualties of war; it’s the way things are. All we can do is pray.”)
- We let it go deep into us and enrage and embitter us against the church itself, and possibly against God. (“How could God let this happen?” Or, “How can they call themselves Christians?”)
I have responded in all three of these ways at different times in my Christian walk. I’ve glossed over things that didn’t affect me personally; I’ve been the philosopher; and at times I’ve gotten hurt and even questioned my own faith. Usually, our explanations have some truth to them (there is a devil, and he does attack people in ministry, for example). But a growing number of people–myself included–are gradually coming to the conclusion that something is wrong at a root level. For some reason, this system isn’t working like it should. More on this later… In the meantime, what do you think?