The Christian Atheist: Church Hurts
First I must apologize for the manner in which these are written. I am writing in the same way I talk. As the thoughts come to my head I write them down. This is more therapeutic for me as it helps me articulate things have been percolating inside me.
With that out of the way I had an interesting experience yesterday. I had a guest speaker preach at my church. My church will be closing down within a month. I have effectively offended so many people that I cannot pay the rent on my building anymore. How did I offend them? I stood up for non-violence, people of other religions, the Lesbian and Gay community, questioned a literal hell of torment, and pushed back on the genocide and the murder of babies of the old testament. I know… really heretical stuff…
Our guest speaker was the pastor of the church who will be taking over the buildings lease for me. He asked if he could speak, and me being the nice guy that I am allowed him to do so. Side note: I always allowed people whom I disagreed with to take my pulpit. People who I felt were very misinformed, very contrary to Jesus, and very offensive to me. I still allowed them to preach because I was confident that the congregation could see the difference between an authentic holistic gospel and a divisive religious one. Bad call on my part!
As he took the pulpit he preached on how nothing is impossible with god. If you just trust him with your situation he will turn it for the better. Your classic word of faith sermon devoid of any humanistic or ethical lessons, just a feel good you can do it message. Your typical American sermon. What surprised me was the amount of “amens” and “thats right” he received from my own congregation who I thought I had taught enough to have them realize the gospel is not about god doing things for me, but about me laying down my life for others after the example of Jesus. There was a deeper meaning than just me being justified for my choice of religion, but its that justification comes through letting go of religion and an us vs them mentality. Its a justification and a righteousness that is achieved through loving ones enemies and realizing that they too are righteous and justified.
Which turns me to my thoughts for today: The message of Jesus will never be accepted by the church. Its the kind of irony that only Shakespeare could write about. Jesus preaches a message against religion and separation that turns into a religion of separation. The more I read the bible through the eyes of historical, cultural, and literary criticism context the more I am amazed by this irony. Here we have Jesus preaching a message of non-violence, that the marginalized are the greatest in the kingdom of god, that violence in the name of god is folly, that the greatest leaders are the servants, that titles don’t mean shit, that Moses was wrong, that we need to move beyond our traditions, and that if anyone can help us its the generation beneath us. What about anything that I just said can we see working in church today?
I have dear friends who would say that we shouldn’t be trashing the church. If we tear down the church with people in it, we hurt those people. Maybe instead of trying to repair the building thats collapsing (like I tried), we tell the people to run out as fast as they can before it collapses upon them. I don’t understand our need to defend an institution that has not helped anyone. The church has historically been on the wrong side of any important issue. Wrong on slavery, wrong on spanking, wrong on science, wrong on homosexuality, wrong on war… I could go on. Why defend an institution where the majority of people exiting it are hurt and battered? What other institution would we defend like this?
I understand my friends hearts. They want the church to hear this amazing truth of the peace of Jesus, how to approach the bible with logic and sanity, and how to think and question for ourselves. My friends have to know that this idea does not fly in the church. Which is why all my friends who teach this message have been pastors at one point, but no longer can be because of their views.
The church is dying. Its becoming irrelevant. I tried to breath life into it. My friends are still trying. Men have been for centuries only to be deserted by the church and called heretics. It’s time that we stop trying to make repairs on a condemned building.
My dad had a car that was a real piece of shit. It never did anything for him but he had a history with it. So he dumped time and money into this piece of shit car. It broke down, left him stranded, and caused him nothing but heart ache. I feel the same is true with the church. We had an experience or a history within the church. We feel an attachment an a loyalty to it. But, its not the institution that did a damn thing for us. It was people within. It was that one dude who cared. We can’t confuse the individuals who cared with the piece of shit car that’s draining our time and money.
This may seem like a harsh criticism. I don’t see any value the churches I have been apart of. The only thing they have done is drained my money, time, and put stress on my family. I have not seen one positive result of church. I take that back. I have met amazing people at church. People who have changed my life. But I also met amazing people at work, parties, and Facebook. I can’t confuse the amazing people with the place I found them at. I’m sure people have met lifetime friends in crack-houses, prisons, and cult seances! Doesn’t give any legitimacy to these social situations.
One more rabbit trail thought before I close. After that pastor spoke at my service I agreed to play music at his service. There was a tangible feeling of unity in his service. There was a love that could be felt in the air. Then one of the teachers got up and spoke about how we as Christians are going to be persecuted because we stand up for Jesus. He then makes the leap that what it implies is we are against gay marriage. And if we are persecuted for being against gay marriage than its for the sake of Jesus. At that moment I realized that the unity felt is false. Its only unity because everyone there has agreed to believe the same things doctrinally. If I stood up and said I disagree with his ideas on being against homosexuality, all the love and acceptance I felt at the beginning of service would disappear.
Why would I make such a claim? Because its what I’ve experience. As soon as my ideas on hell difference from someone else’s, their kindness and compassion would leave. The unity in church (I’m speaking in generalities) is only because there has been a social contract that we all believe the same thing so we can all get along and be kind to each other.
Pardon my French, but fuck that shit.