Saturday, January 9, 2010


There's been a lot of dialogue in my life regarding church lately.

I had lunch with an old friend of mine whom I had not seen for almost five years. The last time I saw him he was one of those gung-ho for God, conservative, I'll-pray-for-you, hate-the-sin type of people. Over a hot dog (eaten with no irony) and Italian beef with mozzarella at Portillo's we discussed our past few years, plans for the future, and what had changed.

He wanted to be a youth pastor. Now? He wants to teach college English.

And over the course of our conversation, he mentioned his "apostasy"--his turning from the church. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of that decision in his life.

I was shocked, in all actuality. Other than that, I was sort of glad to hear it, although at the same time, sad. This was so much a part of his identity when I knew him before. And on his path to get a Biblical Studies degree, he somehow realized that he didn't want to be a part of the church anymore. But he still wants the degree. It sounds familiar. I was there when I went to Judson.

In studying the Bible honestly, without any kind of "mystical distance," as he put it, you sort of realize that it's not really a great book. It's really hard to see it as something written by a loving God--or at least, it's hard to reconcile much of what is in there with the image of a loving God. Granted, he's God, and he's most definitely above human understanding. But the more closely you look at the Bible, the more the rotten parts of the fruit start to appear.

Killing in God's name. And I realize this is an OT kind of thing, but still...
Gender inequality and gender equality side by side in the two creation stories.
Framing devices written thousands of years after the meat of a book becoming something that the church focuses on when teaching.
It goes on and on.

And I'm not trying to bash on the Bible by any means. I'm just being honest with what I've found to be problematic in my own life. I used to think the apostle Paul was great, but upon studying his words at length, I sort of think he ruined Christianity. And that's where my philosophy of "God's people are not God" is really helpful.

Instead of dismissing the whole church for being based on a book I really have some issues with, I realize that fallible man helped write that book. And they aren't God, no matter how "divinely inspired" people might think they are.

Jesus. There's something I can latch on to. The guy embodied love. He tried to teach a new way of doing things that was revolutionary for its time. He wasn't playing church. He wasn't coming to maintain the status quo. He came to love.

I know a lot of my readers might get a bad taste in their mouths at the mention of church, Jesus, and that elusive love, and I won't begrudge you that. You have every right to believe what you would like to believe without anyone telling you you are wrong. I don't feel threatened by another set of beliefs, and I feel no need to argue about it, to convince anyone of anything. I'm just being honest. And in all honesty, the church gets it wrong on so many levels. Christians are responsible for more hatred than I care to think about.

But instead of closing myself off from that, instead of dismissing it and saying, "Well, I can't be a part of the church," or "I can't be a Christian," I claim my faith. I'd rather be the one among the masses who is different, the one who loves instead of hates, the one who is trying to change the name from something that inspires a bad taste in your mouth to one that conjures up an image of radical change, difference, love.

And maybe I fail pretty much constantly. But I'm trying.

So yeah...that's my little opinion about church...



Kathy said...

Amen Brother!! (Pun-intended but still true.)

A human kind of human said...

I cannot help but agree with you. Church, as we know it today, is nothing like the first churches, which by the way did not refer to buildings or denominations at all. The first churches were just groups of believers coming together, sharing love (agape) and talking about was close to their hearts, Jesus, and what he did and taught. Unfortunately, then they started getting "organised" and oh dear, that was when the wheels started coming off. I love the way you put it though: "I claim my faith", and I am glad you feel that way.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

:-) Thanks for the comments. It's nice to hear that I'm not alone out here on my cold, windy soapbox. :-P