The following was never intended to be a blog post. Truth be told, I wrote it in a moment of heartbreak and I shared it on Facebook. Multiple likes and shares later, I thought maybe it might be worth sharing here.
There are a lot of people asking tough questions. It would be a mistake to assume the people asking these questions are hurt or angry. Many are asking these questions as a part of a genuine faith journey.
It would also be a mistake to assume that these critiques are expressing hatred towards the Church. It is important that we distinguish the tangible, important differences between THE CHURCH (the Body of Christ) and the Institution of church. The institutional church has more to do with the religious - industrial complex and the business of religion.
I understand that while the post brings comfort and encouragement to some who find themselves on the edge of inside of many expressions of christian church, I know it will be abrasive to those who benefit from things being the way they are, and those who are still deeply invested in the religious system. We need to be free to ask questions, to doubt, and to wrestle. This is all part of healthy maturing faith.
So, I wrote:
Seldom a day goes by where I don’t visit with someone who is in the process of spiritual migration, wrestling with a spiritual worldview and asking tough, honest questions.
Many would be surprised to learn that it’s not just those outside the church or those on the fringes of the church but many who would be considered ‘pillars of their church’ - yes, pastors too.
Here are a few of the kinds of things these people are wrestling with:
- scripture is seen as a rule book and a flat, literal reading of scripture is held up as being faithful to God and the scriptures - knowing full well it is nuanced (ignored) when it is convenient. Trying to reconcile this, they wrestle with exactly how scripture is inspired and authoritative.
- devotion to a particular interpretation of the scriptures replaces devotion to the Person of Jesus.
- Being doctrinally right is more important than being relationally right with God and other people.
- taught that only their group has the “real truth” but have met some other wonderful people from different streams who know the truth, too.
- honest disagreement and asking questions are interpreted as being disloyal, a rebel, Jezebel, etc.
- unhealthy, infantile dependency upon pastor/leader, rather than mature, healthy, functional adults.
- you are told your heart is sinful and desperately wicked, and not trustworthy, but leaders expect you to trust theirs.
- those who leave are shunned and socially ostracized.
- loyalty to church/leadership is thought to be equivalent to loyalty to Jesus.
- disconnect between group theology/practice and personal lived experience.
- Good science is rejected and viewed with suspicion if contrary to the groups view of scripture and narratives.
- discouraged from getting an education, because the education system and universities are corrupt, and will ruin your faith.
- manufactured enemies and scapegoats to stoke fear and hatred serving to fortify church cohesion - examples of scapegoats: LGBTQ+, War on Christmas, Muslim’s, refugees, liberals/conservatives, etc.
- in reaction to this manufactured fear, they lash out believing their religious rights are being infringed upon while actively discriminating against the human rights of others.
- members are discouraged from friendships outside the church and at the same time told to bring their unbelieving friends to church.
- are manipulated with spiritually coercive appeals for financial giving, promising blessing and favour, and curses if they don’t.
- taught to see God as temperamental, unpredictable, and vengeful while insisting that this god is a god of love. Having more in common with an alcoholic abusive father than a healthy loving father.
- Because they see their god the way they do, it lends divine legitimacy for them to behave the same way - petty, judgemental, violent and cruel to those who are outside their group.
- women are discouraged from getting an education and pursuing a career under the guise of being “keepers at home.”
- they make women solely responsible for men’s (and boys) self-control. Instead of teaching young men self-control and a healthy view of women and sex.
- they confuse the exhortation to modesty with the length of ones skirt and shirts sleeves missing the point that the modesty referred to was flaunting your wealth.
- they preach an anemic Pro-Life message limited to the unborn while advocating war, capital punishment, life-crushing systemic discrimination, and poverty. Denying the healthcare and education to women that have proven to significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
- while being the most vocal against abortion, are more likely to seek one out when a teen daughter gets pregnant because they know that often their faith communities would not be kind to their unwed, pregnant daughter.
- not allowed to say “no” at appropriate times and inappropriate ways; boundaries are not respected.
- vehemently proclaiming a gospel of love that in practice is not really all that loving at all, and certainly not good news.