Why I Think The Church Sucks
Nov. 6, 2013
Please forgive me the incendiary title.
A lot of my Christian friends ask me why I am so critical of the church. Their opinion is that since the church is the Bride of Christ, and WE (i.e. people) are the Church, that we are called to build it up and to love the church. But the church doesn't get my automatic praise just because I'm part of it. Sometimes I love the church, but most times I find myself saying, "I'm sick of her shit." I'll tell you why.
Most of it has to do with the fact that I am very critical of myself. I am also very critical (and suspicious, and judgmental, and etc., I’m not that nice of a person) of other people. My bullshit detector has been working overtime for years. Because I am so critical and judgmental of myself, it only stands to reason that I would be critical of the Church. In a manner of speaking, I am the church. I understand that the church is us, we are the church. Therefore, the mistakes the church makes are my mistakes, on some level. So why wouldn’t I be critical of myself, and by extension the Church? That’s my job, that’s my jurisdiction, that’s what I’m responsible for.
Another reason why I am sort of church-hostile-adjacent has a lot to do with a book I read recently. The book is called UnChristian, and I am certain you’ve heard of it. And if you haven’t, maybe you should. It is basically a report card conducted by a statistics group who researched the target age group of 16-29 year olds. The three top perspectives that non-christians have on Christians was that they were :
1. Anti-gay 2. Too political 3. Hypocritical.
That isn’t something I made up because I want everyone else to feel uncomfortable. Those are actual statistics of what American millenials think.
Further to that, I have heard many first-hand accounts, from friends and acquaintances and people that I’ve met, of how the church has hurt them. On the whole, I feel that the Church isn’t very good at representing Christ, of being Christ-like, of including everyone, of loving everyone. You don't have to read the writing on the wall to know we just ain't there yet.
I also read the news. That is another reason why I think we aren't doing that great. And yes, I do take into account that the things we are awesome at don't get published.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t churches that aren't completely up shit creek without a paddle. All of the Churches I’ve ever gone to (Awaken, Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church) have mostly exemplified inclusivity and love well. I’ve approved Awaken’s actions 85% of the time, Church of Christ 65% of the time, and the Lutheran Church 90% of the time. A pretty good report card, on the whole. Since I’ve had a good experience with church life, personally, why do I go around rolling my eyes and scoffing?
Because my good experience don't negate the negative experiences. Just because the churches I’ve gone to haven't been spiritually abusive, that doesn’t mean that I can paint all of the North Western hemisphere with the same brush. The church is spiritually abusive. The church has done terrible, hideous, awful things, and continues to do terrible, hideous, awful things. That’s not something that’s debated by the scientific community. It’s a fact.
A lot of times when I point this out, I get people saying, “EVERY religion/belief system/people group does terrible, hideous, awful things, because we’re PEOPLE and people are FLAWED and make MISTAKES.” Well, I’m not stupid, so yes, I am aware that all people make mistakes. But we’re not talking about THEIR behaviour. We’re talking about OUR behaviour.
The Church has broken my trust. Trust, for me, does not come easily, and when it is broken, that’s a big thing. If someone breaks my trust and does one or two things to earn back my trust, that doesn't mean the level of trust is going to be the same as it was before. No. It has to be a long period of behaviour that is consistent.
I don’t know about you, but so far I haven’t seen that.
This, of course, isn’t to say that the church doesn’t do life-giving, wound-healing things. Of course we do. Of course. But it’s not enough. Those are things we’re just…supposed to be doing. This is expected, par-for-the-course behaviour. I am not in the business of handing out rewards for something that we already said we would do. Don’t look for sympathy here. Don’t look for a pat on the back here. Because you won’t get one.
In my mind, I’ve put the Church on probation. When someone is in jail and they do something that is in accordance with the law, they don’t get a pat on the back either. I don’t think encouragement is called for. I think keeping our head down and doing the hard work of reconciliation is.
I’m not asking anyone to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But I am asking us to please shut the polite fuck up about how great we’re doing. Because a) we’re not, and b) even if we were, boasting and congratulating is not supposed to be in our repertoire. Humility is. We’ve got a long way to go before we get there. I don’t see why it’s bad or why people think I’m so negative when I try to be realistic about how the Church has a LOT of brutal shortcomings. Are we so insecure that we can only hear the good things and not be honest about the bad things? Are we so narcissistic that we need to be constantly congratulated? (I say, as I write a blog, which is just about the most narcissistic thing you can possibly do).
On the other hand, I am not saying we should go around bashing the Church so that we’ll want to improve. Being needlessly negative doesn’t help anyone. But neither does putting a “good face” on things when we know the inside is cracked and broken. And of course we should know that, because one of the founding tenants of Christianity is that we are all cracked and broken. That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why Christianity exists.