Dear Church.


Dear American Church and American Christians–

We will care about you as soon as you’ve proven to us that you care about us– not just our butts in the seats at your church or getting us converted. Prove to us that you care about us as people with joy and hurt and we’ll care about you.

Sincerely, the Next Generation.

___

If you’ve read my former post, Church Inc., you’ll know that I hold a pretty dim view of church these days.

Over the course of 2011, I came to a lot of realizations about how Christians in America behave in a lot of interesting ways– especially one.

Christians don’t behave anything like Jesus Christ, whose name they sully with their pride and self-satisfaction.

Christians go to church, sing in harmony, dress right, look right, have the right jobs. They spout little bits of ‘wisdom’ on their twitters and facebooks and blogs. Their families are these pretty little pictures of the American dream.

As I browsed the Internet for blogs, talked with strangers, and read books about Christianity, I realized something horrifying.

Never in your life will you find a group of people more judgemental and hypocritical than the typical group of individuals you will meet in your typical church.

First of all, let me tell you about some of the things that inspired my conclusions. Dan over at Single Dad Laughing wrote a great post about this called “I’m Christian unless you’re Gay.” That was one of the catalysts that helped my actualize what I think about Church.

Second, and as the primary catalyst, I just read unChristian, a book based entirely on research by the Barna group.

I think these are both really important things for everyone who calls themselves a Jesus follower to read. (Come on, people. Don’t be content with skin-deep spirituality.)

Finally, I follow a blog called Stuff Christian Culture likes. On this blog’s facebook, the author frequently points out other bloggers who use Jesus’ name ridiculously.

One such blog (which I won’t link to due to its vile content) the author found it necessary to push for a boycott of the movie coming out next winter based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s book The Hobbit (or there and back again.)

I was bemused. I began to scroll down the blog, trying to understand if it was satire or not.

This blog literally sickened me. Each post was blatant, brimstone and flame condemnation of one or another group of people. Each post focused on how people were defined by their sins. Each post was written with the confidence of someone who believes what they’re saying was God-given. Each post contained no trace of grace.

“For God so LOVED the world that He sent His Only son, that whoever believes in Him will not Perish, but have Eternal Life.”

God loves the world.

Jesus came with a message of peace.

God gave us Grace.

Jesus followers! Why aren’t we crying out in protest against the blogs and the people like the Westboro baptist church who are blaspheming Jesus’ message? Sullying his name?

Because it’s scary.

Yes, sin is wrong. No, we shouldn’t just accept it blindly.

But Sin is a symptom of a hurting heart. Why can’t we look past the sin, no matter how unattractive it is to us, and see the person there?

Why can’t we love?

I’ll tell you why.

Love hurts.

Jesus was tortured to death for His unfathomable love.

Jesus also quit His job to minister to people. He traveled the land, made religious leaders try to kill him with his revolutionary message, washed his followers feet, forgave an adultress and hung out with 12 guys and a prostitute. Jesus was not anything like American Christianity. Jesus loves unconditionally.

Jesus was tortured to death– not just for you, who haven’t committed any “big” sins– Jesus died for the hobo on the corner. He died for the drag queens, for the CEOs, for the middle class people just trying to make a living.

We can’t expect it to be easy, and let’s face it– we’re a society of taking the path of least resistance.

Love hurts.

Church is a fun place to gather with like-minded people. People who hate homosexuals but look the other way at people who divorce and have multiple spouses. People who dress modestly but flirt like everyone else. People who smile and hug you but gossip viciously behind your back.

Dear Church–

I will be associated with you when your attendees start to look like Jesus.

I will not be a “member,” and I won’t have my picture in your little directory.

I might not even attend regularly.

But, Church, I have something to tell you– you have become so skewed by our culture that I found deeper spiritualty through a coffee shop than you.

Church, I haven’t attended regularly in months, and  I’ve never felt closer to God. And Church, without you, I have a closer, more trustworthy community of Jesus Chasers than I’ve ever had.

I find you, Church, to be a hindrance to my relationship with the Creator.

___

Dear American Church,

I don’t need you to have Jesus.

Sincerely, Bethany.

 

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  1. While I don’t see it quite as clear-cut as you do (because I’m sullied by the experience of years) I definitely agree with you!

    • I admit I’ve oversimplified some for the sake of being concise. I am glad you agree with me though. Robin, I appreciate you!

    • Rachel
    • January 10th, 2012

    Extremely well put.

    • bill mahnke
    • January 10th, 2012

    Hi Bethany

    I like what you brought up. A bunch of Christ followers agree with you as well. Now it could be time to write a personal article titled
    “Dear Christ”.

    • That’s a great idea, Bill. I think I will! (I doubt I’ll publish it, though, haha.)

  2. While I see your point and understand your frustration, I must respectfully disagree with your views of the Church. I’m not saying that the church doesn’t have problems or isn’t backwards or hypocritical in many ways, but what group isn’t? Isn’t forgiveness for our sins, or lack of love, exactly what Christ came to deliver? The Church isn’t just some organization or building, but is the community of followers themselves, or the Body of Christ as the bible calls it. It is the very people that are following Christ because they know they need him and need his forgiveness. Where you are correct is that we as followers are to love and sit down with the non believer, but we are to call out or fellow Christians when they stray from the path of God into sin and lovelessness. If there were not problems in the Church, then what need would the Church have for Jesus anyway?

    I felt the need to post this because it wasn’t all that long ago that I felt the same way you do. I’ve known so many people who chose to turn from the Church because of it’s flaws and it saddens me to see this. I am so deeply frustrated by the hypocrisy of the American Church, but I had to accept that this problem is actually the teachings of a very vocal minority that parades around in it’s self-righteousness and is not actually Christianity. What makes it worse is that much of this country, especially the ‘next generation,’ has begun to see this attitude, this judgmental hypocrisy as actual Christianity and has become closed to Christ by it before making any attempt to look a little deeper.

    I feel like I’m starting to get redundant here. I guess what I’m asking is for you not to give up on the Church. We were all built for a community and if we give up on each other, we lose that chance for such community. Maybe it is your calling to stand up to your fellow Christians and call them out for their hypocrisy. Let them know they are not being loving. Challenge them to step out of their comfortable lives and live a life of self sacrifice for God. I promise you, they won’t want to hear it, but it is exactly what they need. And you might just be the one who was meant to tell them. Honestly, the Church needs more people like you, who won’t stand for this sort of skin-deep faith.

    Jesse

    • Thank you so much for your response, Jesse. It means a lot to me that people are actually reading and thinking.
      I admit I have nearly given up on the Church model. I think it’s important to be in a community of Jesus followers, which is in essence being in the church, but the way our churches are modeled is endlessly frustrating to me.
      Honestly, I feel more a part of the Body of Christ when I’m having a conversation about God with a regular in the coffee shop than I ever do in a church building. To me, the way our churches meet is a big part of the problem. Let’s face it– if a homeless guy who reeked of booze came to your church, would anyone make an effort to talk to him? How many people would just gossip about it later?

      Again, thank you for commenting. You are very encouraging to me.

      I’m reading the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning right now. I highly recommend it– I think you would appreciate it.
      – Bethany

    • Lorelei
    • January 12th, 2012

    I agree with some of the points you made, but disagree with others. I know that the church is full of people that use Christianity as a “badge” that somehow exempts them from being at fault.

    Despite this though, the church is also filled with people that are broken. People that are hurting. People that need a Savior.

    The outside world if full of just as many hypocrites as the world inside today’s church.

    But to counter that, there are just as many God-fearing Christians outside the church as well.

    My point is that it is not the idea of “church” itself, it is the fact that we have been accustomed to viewing the church as a “haven.” A place where we are safe from the outside world. This is wrong.
    The church is not a building. It is not a place. The church is the body of believers.

    You are the church. i am the church. The homeless man on the street, praying for food to save his family–is the church.
    1st Corinthians 12:27a says “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

    Whether we go to church or not, we are all followers of Christ. To label people who go to a building on Sunday morning to praise their Savior as “churchgoers” and therefore caught in a trap of noncommittal self-righteousness is far from what God lays out in his word.

    In John 14:6a Jesus states– “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except though me”
    So the point is, the word “church” is a broad statement. and by criticizing those who attend church, you are also criticizing those who attend bible studies, small groups, and other forms of christian fellowship.
    So no, attending “church” is not a necessary piece to knowing God, but labeling it as wrong it not a solid statement.

    God loves us, no matter where we ‘go.’

    -Lorelei

    • I guess I could have made it clearer that I’m talking about the institution of Church, not the community of Church. I am a full and active member of the Body of Christ– does my disagreement with the church institution have anything to do with that? No.
      I disagree with you– the church institution is not full of broken and hurting people. I know dozens of broken people who tried to attend a church, and were quietly pushed away. I don’t know anyone who was broken who went to church and received healing. Also, most people who need a Savior aren’t going to attend a church to find Him.
      Yes, God loves us no matter where we “go.”
      But He also loved us before we loved him, so no matter what we do we cannot earn His favor.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response, dear. It means a lot to me that you took the time to read and think about it, even though we still don’t agree.
      – Bethany

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