People far and wide are losing patience with the Christian church. And so they are leaving her. In droves. And I don’t blame them. Not one bit. It has become a tired religion. And it’s a tiring religion. It kicks your ass, makes you feel like a loathsome spider, and then sends you packing the moment you step out of line.
That’s been my experience anyway.
Now, to be clear, in spite of this harsh criticism, I will gladly admit that there are many wonderful Christians out there. I’m friends with a lot of them. I even consider myself one. But, if I may be so bold, the religion we’ve built has become a monster, so full of law and wrath and judgement that I doubt either Jesus or Paul would recognize it. And if they did, I’m guessing they’d both weep bitterly with what we’ve done to the hopeful message of grace and peace.
Because, you see, all we seem to get these days is condemnation. All we hear about God is how pissed off he is. He’s gonna get you for this, he’s gonna get you for that. We rarely (if ever?) hear about how much God loves us. We rarely (if ever?) tell non-believers that Jesus loves them so much that he emptied himself for them while they were yet sinners. No. It’s always embedded in some economy of exchange. It’s always qualified—either explicitly or otherwise—with something like, “And if you don’t love him back, you’re dead meat!”
But that’s not love.
That’s not grace.
That’s not the Gospel.
And that’s why I’m losing patience with this thing we call Christianity. It’s got too much law. It’s got too many holiness codes. It’s too zealous. It’s too “us vs. them,” so much so that other Christians are all too often a “them.” Need I remind folks how many thousands of denominations there currently are? What a joke!
In spite of this, I still love Jesus. I still love the idea of Christianity. Not a Christianity built upon the altar of sacrifice, not one built upon a divine being that is more like Zeus than Jesus, not a Christianity who beats the drums of war, or who denounces gay folks simply for being gay; but a Christianity that is known by one thing and one thing only—love.Without love we are but a clanging gong. The Apostle Paul said that. Sadly, though, it’s exactly what we’ve become. We clamor on and on about our supposed correct doctrines, our supposed biblical truths, our supposed orthodoxy, all the while failing to love others as ourselves. And then we have the nerve to condemn those who walk away from us and our message.
Guess what though? The times are changing. The Gospel of peace is breaking out. In spite of all the religious nonsense we’ve laden the good news with, the reality of what has already been done for the entire world is being grasped by one person at a time. The good news of grace is liberating one soul at a time.
But many within Christendom cannot accept it. Maybe some will even be the last ones to accept it. It’s sad, but it may be true. We just need our hell. We need our wrath. We need our sacrificial and highly limited atonement. We need our hierarchy. We need our ability to dole out judgment. In other words, we need the status quo.
I get it though. I get why we opt for these things. It’s far easier to hold fast to the things we’ve grown accustomed to than to step out into the desert of doubt. It’s far easier to stick to what we know than to trust the process of growing up.
One way or another, however, we have to grow up. Either that, or we die like some root-bound plant desperate to stretch out its legs. So, I guess my question is this: Will we grow? Will we take the risk of planting our roots deep into God’s green earth? We owe ourselves—and the world—this much, don’t we?
I believe so.
So I’ll do my best to continue to grow. And, in spite of my seasons of cynicism, I’m optimistic the church will do the same. I’ve seen glimmers of hope so I’ll continue to push on. My patience may be wearing thin, but that’s okay. I’m sure others will continue to come along for the journey and help keep me going. I hope so, anyway.
Until next time.