The Imperfect Church

Reader Josh is religious and he’s disturbed by what he sees in the Christian Church. He wants to draw attention to the way churches treat those who are not part of the “club”:

As a follower of Jesus Christ, and as someone who is part of the Church, I think that it is incredibly necessary for Christians to come to grips with the truth: Much of what has been done in God’s name, God would not be proud of! In order for perceptions to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by those who call themselves “Christians.”

If you would like to help him with his goal, he’d appreciate hearing stories about interactions you’ve had with Christians and Church.

You know you have plenty of them.

He adds in an email:

I want to stress again that I am not trying to recruit or convert anyone through this site. My expressed purpose is to apologize for the way that the church and Christians have hurt people; and, secondly, to hear peoples’ stories, in an effort to help the church realize how much damage she has done.

If Josh can do something positive with the stories, more power to him.

I’d love to see Christians commenting on the stories posted on his site, too.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    A website to apologize on behalf of mean Christians?

    Really?

    Is this like reparations for slavery, only dumber?

    If you were hurt by a Christian, wouldn’t it be better to hear an apology from the one who offended you, instead of this poor guy?

    But then again, Christianity is all about having someone else held accountable for transgressions of others.

  • SarahH

    I think this is an interesting idea and might help facilitate some healing and discussion, but I have reservations. So many conversations I’ve had with Christians have started out with fervent promises that they just want to hear my story and don’t want to convert me. When I’m done telling my story, they then proceed to tell me how “real” Christianity can help me and how the church and Christians who hurt me weren’t representative of the True Faith.

    I don’t know how helpful it is to quote C.S. Lewis’ false-trichotomy on the first entry (“Is Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or is He Lord?”) as one of the questions asked. For those who are still Christians, I assume the answer will be Lord. For those who are atheists, the answer will look more like these (incidentally, hi reedbraden! The internet is a small world sometimes). I don’t see how it relates to the purpose of the site and it’s exactly what makes me wary of what I described above.

  • Lynn

    Wasn’t there a counterpart to The Friendly Atheist called The Friendly Christian, or something, in which the author tried to do something similar? IIRC, it turned into exactly what SarahH described — a place that appeared welcoming and friendly and all about open discussion, but turned into the usual Christian gangbang once the non-Christians actually showed up.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    SarahH,

    I am simply trying to collect stories. No converting or anything of the like.

    I am sorry that the false-trichotomy of Lewis makes you wary.

    No one has to answer any of the questions. The reason that I even posted questions was to help get people thinking. After hearing your reservations, I think I might go back and make some revisions.

    Also, a big thanks to Hemant for promoting this effort!

  • SarahH

    Josh:

    I’m glad you’re receptive to feedback – that’s definitely a good quality in a blogger who’ll be dealing with sensitive subject-matter.

    I think your goal of facilitating thinking is a good one, and I think there are plenty of atheists and Christians (and non-Christian theists as well) who’ve been hurt by churches and pastors and Christians. Sharing these stories openly might be a very good thing.

    I guess I’m wondering where you think discussion will go once the stories start coming in. Is this site going to function like a support group that’s religion-neutral (in that Christianity doesn’t become a punching-bag but also isn’t offered as a solution to healing emotional wounds)? That’s what I’d like to see, and I’d be glad to share my story in a day or two, once I see how things develop.

  • David D.G.

    Josh, I give you major props for at least recognizing the shortcomings of many of your brethren in following their putative faith, and for trying — within the framework of that faith — to do what you can to fix things to the extent that they might be fixable. That takes great courage and a fine sense of honor, which is more than we see from a lot of fundies.

    Assuming you manage to hold to your promise of non-proselytization, I really wish you luck. But be aware that it can be hard to avoid not only defending your faith against the slurs others make against it (especially when they are inaccurate, at least from your perspective), but to avoid trying to “correct” their view of things and present your faith as you want it to be seen. There’s a razor-fine line between this and actual proselytization (some might say none at all, but I disagree). So good luck in holding to that boundary.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    ATL- Apostate,

    The purpose of the website is not to apologize on behalf of Christians.

    The purpose is to hear the stories of those who have been hurt by those that call themselves Christians.

    The apology that is included on the website is an apology from me. It is an apology for the way that I have behaved at times. It is an apology for not always being the person, let alone follower of Christ, that I know I should be.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    SarahH,

    What you would like to see is my intent. I want this to be a place where Christians can come and hear the stories of the damage that has been caused and where others (whether they are atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) can come and share their stories. In some ways it would be very much like a support group.

    I’m not trying to make excuses, but it seems that many Christians just don’t quite understand some of the ways that they hurt others.

    My wife and I (and I am a pastor) had plenty of people tell us, when we thought we had a miscarriage, that it was God’s will. Those canned answers, although well-intentioned can do a lot of harm and cause a lot of pain.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    David,

    Thanks for sharing your heart and for the encouragement. Admittedly, what I will post will be from a Christian perspective (as much as I try, I cannot help that). However, my goal is to refrain from proselytizing.

    If I see that things begin to take that route, with those that post, we’ll have to lay some ground-rules and edit posts.

    I want this to be as safe a place as humanly possible.

  • Aj

    Why would an atheist want to support someone who wants to tell others the mind of God? A god we don’t don’t believe in, so don’t believe they know the mind of. I don’t think that, many would think it’s appropriate to support someone who seems to think they can speak for an imaginary supernatural authority figure. Someone who uses “Christian” as a synonym for “good person”.

    Many atheists reject the quite frankly absurd notions of blood sacrifice, inherited sin, and accountability divorced from culpability. What good is someone not to blame apologizing for someone who is to blame? For the people who are to blame to apologize, that might mean something.

    If you want to ask atheists what mean things Christians have done to them, ask them. There’s no need to apologize or bring your theology into it.

  • Karen

    Do you ever wonder why people who are supposedly led by the holy spirit have to spend just as much of their time apologizing (maybe more?) as the rest of us poor slobs who don’t have magical guidance from heaven?

    Shouldn’t we be able to “know them by their fruits”? The holy spirit doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of good, at least not in differentiating Christians from the rest of the population.

    This realization was one of the puzzling things that led me on the road to examining my beliefs in skeptical fashion.

  • mikespeir

    I don’t expect Christians to be perfect, but that’s mostly because I don’t believe anything supernatural is going on in the Church.

  • Larry Huffman

    I disagree with his assessment: I do not think that the god of the bible, were he real, would be appalled at what has been done in his name. An objective and honest read of the bible will show you that god mastermined plenty of appalling things and commanded his followers to do even more appalling things.

    An interesting side project would be to take all of these stories he collects, and provide scriptural backing for the bad treatment. It is there. Christians were very able to support their inquisitory murders with the bible…and still could today, the bible was not changed. Slavery…totally supported by the bible. Treatment of women…hehe…the bible puts women in their place…which seems to be pregnant or hidden away for most of the time…certainly not teaching, or thinking or being anything close to equal to men.

    Christians like Josh think all of the bad is contrary to what the bible teaches…and he is 180 degrees wrong. The bible DOES support all of this appalling behavior…it is merely the humanist side of the followers that allows them to ignore what they once did not.

    Lets look at this in one simple context: According to the god of the bible, if your child decides not to believe anymore, they are to be taken to the city gate and stoned to death. When that is how god views it…how can anything said to a non-believer be appalling to god? If a non-believer is to be stoned to death, then christians can easily justify anything they say or do, essentially. And have.

    You see…the bible is a bad book and it has led people to do some pretty terrible things in the name of the god that calls himself love, but then gave us the bible (contradictory in the highest). I know…there are good things in there…yes, the Golden rule is good, but taught by the Buddha some 500 years ealier. We do not need the bible for the golden rule. But the book does have the above commandment that says it is ok for a parent to kill their own child. Any book, in my opinion, that commands parents to kill their unbelieving children…well that is a bad book, no matter how many tidbits of good are in it. And, Josh…that is the same book compelling people to do these terrible things in gods name. You think you are sticking up for god…in reality it is they who are following more in the spirit of what the book says, and you wishing it to be something nicer.

  • Zach

    From my understanding, the Imperfect Church’s comments are said in humility and in hopes of forgiveness: all beliefs aside, should Josh at least not be shown respect (as David DG and others prior so kindly did)? I think part of being the Friendly Atheist is showing respect to those of different beliefs, eh? -the last two posts have not appeared all that friendly, and I would not call myself a religious man at all.

    As for my opinions regarding Karen’s statements, have you ever hurt someone’s feelings and apologized? (If not, you must be rather heartless) Now tell me, have you ever had to apologize to that person again?

    Again, I’m not at all a religious person, but I do see the importance, as I believe Mr. Mehta does, of showing respect to those of other beliefs and coming with an OPEN heart and mind.

  • http://imperfectchurch.ning.com Josh

    Aj,

    While I respect your opinion, I just have a few quick questions and two responses regarding what you wrote…

    First, when did I ever suggest that I tell others the mind of God?

    Second, when did I use the term “Christian” as a synonym for “good person”?

    Third, how did I bring my theology into things?

    In addition, when I apologized, I apologize for the times when I have acted as less than I should. I apologize for those instances in which I have reacted someone else’s viewpoint in anger and frustration, rather than genuinely trying to listen and dialogue with them.

    Moreover, I think I have been pretty clear in my intent. I want to know what bad things Christians have done to people. I want to hear about the various experiences that people have had.

    Thank you for your willingness to provide critique regarding what I am trying to do. Admittedly, I am not perfect at it, and I will need the help of people who both support what I do as well as those who do not. It is only with an honest critique that things can improve.

  • http://imperfectchurch.ning.com Josh

    Karen,

    I appreciate what you have to say. In response I would only suggest that “guidance from heaven,” as you call it, is only good and profitable if it is applied.

    Just as someone could give me incredibly good stock tips, which could do me a lot of good; so too could I fail to listen to that advice and end up making a mess of my portfolio. The same holds true with “guidance from heaven.”

    I can also appreciate your need to evaluate your own beliefs. For faith or any form of belief to be valid it must be weighed, tested, and evaluated. I too have tested and evaluated my beliefs, and I try to honestly do so on an ongoing basis.

  • http://imperfectchurch.ning.com Josh

    Zach,

    Thank you for attempting to highlight my heartfelt desire. I appreciate the respect that you have shown as well as the effort you have given to be in open, respectful dialogue with someone whose worldview is different than yours.

  • Aj

    Josh,

    First, when did I ever suggest that I tell others the mind of God?

    Third, how did I bring my theology into things?

    …God would not be proud of!

    If you claim to know what God wouldn’t be proud of you claim to know its mind.

    This may be a surprise, but we don’t believe in God, or care whether its proud or not. I assume your views on the matter come from theology.

    Second, when did I use the term “Christian” as a synonym for “good person”?

    …and hurt by those who call themselves “Christians.”

    You could claim that this actually doesn’t say anything about Christians, you would be lying, the quotes make the meaning clear. “Christians” indicates you don’t think they are Christians because they behave in a bad way. I have heard this sentiment too many times.

    In addition, when I apologized, I apologize for the times when I have acted as less than I should. I apologize for those instances in which I have reacted someone else’s viewpoint in anger and frustration, rather than genuinely trying to listen and dialogue with them.

    That’s nice, although you probably should apologize to the people you have harmed. It’s no good apologizing for things you haven’t done, or for things you have done but to people you didn’t do them to. I don’t hold Christians collectively responsible for what other Christians do.

    Moreover, I think I have been pretty clear in my intent. I want to know what bad things Christians have done to people. I want to hear about the various experiences that people have had.

    Yes, it’s clear, what I meant was it’s not succinct, it has unnecessary content concerning things atheists don’t buy into.

    Thank you for your willingness to provide critique regarding what I am trying to do.

    If there’s something atheists have in large quantities it’s willingness to provide critique.

  • Polly

    @Karen,
    Did you see the post on Daylight Atheism devoted to that same point you mentioned?

    “the existence of hypocrites within the church does not prove that Christianity’s claims about the existence of God are false. There is no logical connection between those two propositions. But all these hypocrites, I think, do undermine a different supernatural claim: the alleged ability of Christian belief to transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way.”

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Aj,

    First, let me say “thank you” for your response.

    Second, please allow me to respond to what you have said.

    You would be right to assume that much of what I have said springs from my theology. Likewise, your critique and response to what I have had to say conveys your theology. So, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. Both your theology and mine are intertwined and connected to how we see and interpret the world.

    Regarding my use of the word “Christian”- I would not engage in this project if I did not truly believe that Christians were to blame. There is no denying the fact that Christians were responsible for the crusades (which was a horrible atrocities). It would, likewise, be ridiculous for me to deny that Christians have refused to boldly take a stand against the atrocities of slavery, inequitable treatment of women, etc. which we knew to be inconsistent with Judeo-Christians values.

    In reference to my apology. Aj, I have made every attempt to ask forgiveness of those that I have wronged. Moreover, what had been posted was my public apology for what I had done. Apparently, my apology has resulted in confusion, rather than being viewed in the manner with which I intended it. To that end, it has since been removed.

    With your critique and those of others in hand, I have attempted to edit the website to make the expressed purpose of this website much more succinct and friendly to those who might be confused by my intent.

    Aj, I am truly thankful for your critique and the way in which it has helped me to see things through someone’s eyes.

  • Jeff Satterley

    The purpose is to hear the stories of those who have been hurt by those that call themselves Christians.

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

    In case you’re not aware, the True Christian(TM) tag has already been parodied extensively by the Landover Baptist Church.

    You can’t claim that just because a person acts detestably that he or she is not Christian. They get their justification quite easily from the Bible, and I have no reason to doubt that most act that way (or at least feel justified in doing so) because they believe the tenets of Christianity.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Jeff,

    I am in no way claiming that because a person acts detestably that they are not a Christian. In fact, it is because they are Christian and have caused hurt and pain that I think that the stories I am collecting are important.

    The goal is to help Christians understand that they have caused hurt and pain to others by their thoughtless words and deeds.

    I am not sure that I understand what you meant by the “True Christian” tag comment. I am not trying to parody anything. This is a sincere project aimed at giving people who have been hurt a voice, and giving those who have caused the harm the opportunity to listen to stories that they may not have otherwise heard.

  • Aj

    Josh,

    Likewise, your critique and response to what I have had to say conveys your theology.

    For most atheists, atheism is a lack of belief. There is nothing to study, we don’t have a theology. A theology is the study of God, it would be like suggesting we have a fairyology because we lack a belief in fairies.

    Regarding my use of the word “Christian”- I would not engage in this project if I did not truly believe that Christians were to blame.

    Then why suggest that they only “call them selves “Christian””? This is common in religion, e.g. they’re not true Christians.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Aj,

    As always, I appreciate what you have to say.

    Theology is indeed the study of God. That study can either lead us to believe or disbelieve in God. By choosing not to believe in God, I would suggest, you are still positing a belief about God.

    As to your question about my use of the phrase “call themselves Christian,” I would suggest that I have used it to distinguish those who refer to themselves as Christians vs. those who are self-proclaimed Buddhists, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Wicken, etc.

    It seems that it would be important to distinguish those who see themselves as Christians from those who are labelled as Christians by other people.

    As a pastor, I regularly have to do funerals. Many times the family refers to their loved ones as a Christian because they lived a good life. Yet, there are instances where the person who died explicitly professed that they did not believe in God. They were adamant, like you, that they lack belief in God.

    It seems that a person’s actions, to some degree, should be understood in relation to how the person understands themself. For example, you would not want what I have to say be viewed as words spoken by an atheist. Neither would it be appropriate for me to view your words and as written by a Christian. Because you “call yourself an atheist,” I understand what you have to say within the framework of that self-identification. So too, do you understand what I have to say through the lens of self-identification that I have provided.

  • Aj

    Josh,

    Theology is indeed the study of God. That study can either lead us to believe or disbelieve in God. By choosing not to believe in God, I would suggest, you are still positing a belief about God.

    I don’t know what you mean by “choosing not to believe” I don’t think we choose to believe in anything. Clearly this is not the case for many atheists if you speak to them. A lack of belief is not positing any belief, it is not a belief. An absence of belief in gods is not a claim about anything. It might be convenient for the religious to think otherwise, but that’s just another delusion.

    As to your question about my use of the phrase “call themselves Christian,” I would suggest that I have used it to distinguish those who refer to themselves as Christians vs. those who are self-proclaimed Buddhists, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Wicken, etc.

    The problem is that you did not write “call themselves Christians”. You put Christians in quotes that will be recognised by everybody as to indicate you’re only quoting them, you don’t accept their idea. Your denial of this is absurd. It’s not worth my time to reply further to someone who is dishonest about trivial things. Either rescind or come up with a reasonable explanation.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Aj,

    I did not realize that most atheist are not positing a belief. I only know three atheists personally and they have always explained their atheism as a choice not to believe.

    As to the latter comment, I am somewhat puzzled by your point. I acknowledge that I put the term “Christians” in quotation marks. My initial phrase was: hurt by those who call themselves “Christians.” I was not the one who put the entire phrase in quotation marks to begin with. You did that in a response that you wrote to me. The point of me putting the term “Christians” in quotation marks, as I mentioned, was to distinguish those who profess the Christian faith from those who don’t. My goal and aim is to hear how Christians and the Christian Church have hurt people, not how Mormons, Wickens, Muslims, etc. have hurt people.

    I am not quite sure how that equates to dishonesty. Maybe I am missing the obvious, I am not quite sure. However, I am puzzled over some of the other comments that you have made. What idea you feel I am not accepting? Moreover, I am unclear as to what I am denying, that you feel is so absurd. Could you help me to understand what you are saying a little more fully?

  • Aj

    Josh,

    The point of me putting the term “Christians” in quotation marks, as I mentioned, was to distinguish those who profess the Christian faith from those who don’t.

    Explain to me the convention of using quotation marks to distinguish between those that profess something and those that don’t in another context. To put it in a much simpler fashion, why would you need to put Christians in quotation marks to distinguish them from Mormons, Wickens, or Muslims? What was the purpose of the the quotation marks, if they weren’t there would people have read “Christians” as “Muslims”? Your response isn’t making any sense.

    Note that when I use quotation marks I am using them to quote you or a phrase I’m refering to, to separate those from the expression of my own ideas.

    Maybe I am missing the obvious, I am not quite sure. However, I am puzzled over some of the other comments that you have made. What idea you feel I am not accepting?

    When you put something in quotes it is commonly to distance oneself from the ideas within. If I were, and I have, to write “they call themselves “atheists”” I would be expressing a belief that they were not in fact atheists.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Aj,

    If I were to drop the quotation marks what, if anything, would change?

    I guess that is what I am confused about.

  • Polly

    Listen, I like being friendly, but I can’t see any other goal for this than as a proselytizing tool.

    In order for perceptions to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by those who call themselves “Christians.”

    a)”Perceptions” says it all. Much like focus groups in marketing, you learn your market better so that you can overcome sales obstacles and anticipate objections. Actually, this would be good if you could respond to or concede the intellectual defects of the doctrines and the Bible. It would at least save a lot of time.

    b)You convince us that not all xians are assholes (which I already know very well)

    c)You get to claim that you’re open-minded and have done the research. But, many claim that they have atheist friends, but still never seem to “get it.” Just like guys I know who hide behind the fact that they’ve got “lots of black friends” but are nonetheless racists. (this is only an analogy.)

    In the end, I’m just not on board with helping to spread religion.

  • Polly

    Explaining further – It tooke me a while to figure out what bugged me about this.

    Because, ostensibly, it seems to be a noble, if misguided, endeavour. Then it hit me. The only reason to heed the perceptions of Xianity or The Church(TM) by outsiders is to win souls.

    The irony is that some churches actually believe that the more the World likes you the worse you’re doing, spiritually. The Gospel was always meant to be offensive. That’s why JC is portrayed as occasionally driving away would-be followers with harsh words – not just religious leaders but lay people, also.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Polly,

    Some Christians may use this as a proselytizing tool. Yet, it could also be argued that by asking people to post views contrary to the Christian viewpoint, that I am in fact opening the door for doubt to slip in.

    As to my use of the word “perceptions”- having read what you had to say, I now recognize that it may not be the most appropriate word to use. On that note, as well, I would be more than happy to discuss with you what you think are “the intellectual defects of the doctrines and the Bible.” Please feel free to email me at ImperfectEkklesia@gmail.com to begin such a discussion.

    I am also glad to hear that you have a balanced view of Christians.

    Regarding your comments in c): Your statement highlights an important point- we can all put on masks and fail to “get it.” Racists can, Christians can, and so too can atheists.

    That is why dialogue, it seems, is so important.

  • Aj

    Josh,

    If I were to drop the quotation marks what, if anything, would change?

    a) If you didn’t think that the quotations changed anything you wouldn’t have used them. You used the quotation marks for a reason, in this context, I have never seen another reason for using them other than the one I have already outlined more times than I should need to.

    b) In your second statement regarding this you stated that it was to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians. I know of no usage of quotation marks where this is the case, and fail to see how not using quotation marks would lead to anyone thinking that your use of “Christians” would signify non-Christians. This is utterly bizarre.

    c) For the third and final time, quotations marks are used to distance the expression of ideas of others with our own. For example, if I wanted to make the distinction between those who I think are Christians and those that only call themselves Christians (who are not) then you would use quotation marks.

    I am getting the impression that “respect” and “appreciate” mean something different to you, than they do to me.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Aj,

    After reading what you have written, I have made the decision to remove quotation marks. If you were to venture over to http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com, you will now find that the quotation marks have been removed.

    I do not want anyone, including you, to think that I am trying to pass the buck and somehow blame anyone other than Christians, let alone somehow excuse the harm that has been done.

    Thanks for your help and input.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Additionally, to avoid confusion, I have decided to remove the phrase “those who call themselves.” Things now read:

    The purpose of this website is to engage people of all different backgrounds in an ongoing discussion. Many people have been hurt by the Church or by a Christian. Yet, for whatever reason, Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain.

    In order for that to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by Christians.

  • SarahH

    Josh:

    You edited version looks much better, and I’ll be watching to see how the site works out. Thanks for being so patient with criticism and answering all the posts here. Whether or not it will work out, I think your idea came from a good place and has the potential to be a good thing.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Thanks SarahH!

  • absent sway

    “In order for that to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by Christians.”

    I don’t think that suffering at the hands of Christians is so foreign to Christians; they heap it on each other, sometimes with good intentions and sometimes with selfish ones. Maybe they should start with listening to the wounds they cause each other. I think it is the nature of a community that is vigilant about traditional received moral standards (many of which are obscure and/or interpreted in a variety of conflicting ways) to be noticing and judging things in others (and in themselves) constantly. It goes with the territory and I’ve been there, so I’ll cut everyone some slack. That said, onward:

    I have seen church splits, abuse of authority, anti-intellectualism, hateful gossip, and the smoothing over of these things with spiritual words. I have many wonderful Christian friends and acquaintances, not to mention my family, but have experienced as much if not more grace from unbelievers, and this was a real challenge to the life-changing claims of the Bible. I’m still not sure where I stand, spiritually speaking, but I know I will not subject myself or my loved ones again to an environment similar to the fundamentalist and evangelical ones I experienced. Fool me once…

  • Karen

    I would only suggest that “guidance from heaven,” as you call it, is only good and profitable if it is applied.

    Just as someone could give me incredibly good stock tips, which could do me a lot of good; so too could I fail to listen to that advice and end up making a mess of my portfolio. The same holds true with “guidance from heaven.”

    I understand, and of course this is the common answer on the topic.

    My concern is that if such a large portion of Christians are so willing to ignore the guidance of the holy spirit, what use is it? Also, the outcome seems to contradict so many of the New Testament verses that talk about how Jesus’s followers will be so changed and so transcendant (presumably following that heavenly advice!) that perfect strangers will be able to identify and admire them purely by their stellar behavior – and I don’t think the bible was talking about their church going habits or their clothing, but about their kindness, patience, love, peace, etc.

    Polly helpfully quotes EbonMuse’s excellent essay at Daylight Atheism on this topic. (Thanks Polly!)

    I’d recommend that you take a a look at it, especially since you are open and interested in challenging your own beliefs. This is the salient quote, which again Polly was kind enough to bring out:

    “the existence of hypocrites within the church does not prove that Christianity’s claims about the existence of God are false. There is no logical connection between those two propositions. But all these hypocrites, I think, do undermine a different supernatural claim: the alleged ability of Christian belief to transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way.”

    My bottom line is that if the guidance promised by the holy spirit is widely rejected, or ignored, by people who are supposed to be spirit-filled, what good is it? Why would a god who placed such a high priority on providing the holy spirit put it in place with a system where it seems to be widely ignored or ill-used?

    Just doesn’t make sense. And while it seems you are sincere and good-hearted with your apology efforts, as someone who was racked with guilt for 30 years as a fundamentalist Christian, the last thing I would applaud is another place where Christians have to apologize and feel guilty. It’s very tough on one’s self-esteem and confidence to live like that.

  • http://theimperfectchurch.blogspot.com Josh

    Karen,

    Sorry that it has taken so long to respond. I have been busy and have been traveling quite a bit. Thank you for linking the article, I will be sure to stop by and check out the suggested essay.

    Now as to what you wrote. You said:

    My concern is that if such a large portion of Christians are so willing to ignore the guidance of the holy spirit, what use is it? Also, the outcome seems to contradict so many of the New Testament verses that talk about how Jesus’s followers will be so changed and so transcendant (presumably following that heavenly advice!) that perfect strangers will be able to identify and admire them purely by their stellar behavior – and I don’t think the bible was talking about their church going habits or their clothing, but about their kindness, patience, love, peace, etc.

    I completely agree with you that the bible was not talking about church going habits, but rather about a true transformation and change.

    To be honest, I do not think that the biggest problem comes from people who ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit. I think the big problem comes when Christians do not take the time or energy to read their bibles and really understand the nuts and bolts of what they believe. For them Christianity is simply about escaping hell when they die, rather than a truly life-changing relationship such as the one that you described.

    You go on to write:

    My bottom line is that if the guidance promised by the holy spirit is widely rejected, or ignored, by people who are supposed to be spirit-filled, what good is it? Why would a god who placed such a high priority on providing the holy spirit put it in place with a system where it seems to be widely ignored or ill-used?

    While I agree with much of what you have said, I have to ask a question in response. Our bodies are made in such a way that we have sensations that signal pain, letting our bodies know that something is not right. Why, then, do so many people ignore these pain signals and allow are bodies to function in a state of ill-health until things get seriously ill?

    Unfortunately, in my experience as a pastor that is what happens with people and the holy spirit. They tend to ignore the spirit’s leadings and nudgings until they come to a point where they are at rock bottom or their life is an incredible mess.

    As to your last comment:

    And while it seems you are sincere and good-hearted with your apology efforts, as someone who was racked with guilt for 30 years as a fundamentalist Christian, the last thing I would applaud is another place where Christians have to apologize and feel guilty. It’s very tough on one’s self-esteem and confidence to live like that.

    My intent is not to rack people with guilt or even create a forum in which people can apologize per-se. My hope and intention is that religious and irreligious can come together and engage in discussion that leaves both groups enriched. I hope that those without religious underpinnings can come and share their worldview, helping Christians and other religious people truly understand their worldview (although they may not embrace it). Further, I hope that those with religious underpinnings will be willing to listen to what Christians and other religious people have to say in response to what is shared.

    Thank you for your time and your response!


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