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April 24, 2022

The Church is Broken (and I'm not sure it can be fixed)

The Church is Broken (and I'm not sure it can be fixed)

Since my exit from the church, which was nothing formal or dramatic - just stopped going at some point, I have found my spiritual life is so much more free and loving. I find my ability to interact with people who have different experiences and beliefs so much easier because I'm not constantly feeling the need to assess whether it is legitimate based on my own personal beliefs. You see, when you state, without question, what The Truth is and there is no room for variation because The Truth is wrapped up in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture (or the Pope or Church, if you are of the Roman Catholic persuasion), everything else must be scrutinized and weighed for it's accuracy. Doctrine and beliefs become mathematical equations. They are wrong or right. So, if I know, beyond all doubt, a certain thing, your thing is only really accurate if it lines up with mine perfectly. 2+2 can equal nothing other than 4. If you say your answer is 4.1 or 1,000,000, it doesn't matter. It's wrong. In the spiritual realm, it's the difference in Heaven and Hell or Good and Evil. 

The struggle is very real for people because the church is flawed. It is filled with power plays, patriarchy, and spiritual abuse. Sometimes, sexual abuse. I have found more people damaged by the church in my life than those blessed by it. I want to repeat that. I have spoken to more people who have been hurt, damaged, destroyed, and beaten down by the church than people who have been blessed, found joy and fulfillment, and happiness through the church. 

I just had an online interaction with someone that started with this quote: "The tragedy of today is that the Church is pursuing happiness, not holiness." Another person followed with this: "Churches preaching a watered down form of the gospel to be more inclusive to certain groups. Yep happening a lot." Did you catch that?

Did you catch that?


Inclusiveness was a hallmark of Jesus Christ. It was what defined his ministry.  

My response was this: "The church is supposed to be a refuge for the downtrodden, a hospital for those who need healing. Instead, it is a power hungry, patriarchal enterprise."

Someone took issue with that. They argued with it. They didn't like it. They wrote, "A REAL church preaches that Jesus is the only way to Heaven." (Emphasis theirs). A REAL church. TRUTH. You will note that they completely ignored what I said and, instead, laid their argument on you have to BELIEVE EXACTLY THEIR TRUTH and it's all about cashing your ticket to Heaven. Fuck anyone who isn't part of their group. They aren't here to bring in the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the pure in heart, the peacemakers (yes I'm listing people Jesus said would see the Kingdom of Heaven while never mentioning a doctrinal statement they have to sign).

The church is broken. It's been broken a very long time. I'm not sure it can be rescued at this point and, quite frankly, I'm not sure it should be. Now, I said up above that I have met more people who have been damaged by the church than blessed by it. That comes with it, inherently, the recognition that not all churches are bad and not all people who attend church are bad. But the dogged refusal to recognize the harm the church has done - the refusal to recognize your antisemitism, your racism, your misogyny - means, by your own belief system, you have not come into repentance and sought forgiveness for misdeeds and sins. I know this because your actions speak louder than your words (and quite frankly, your words are pretty horrible, too). 

There are people I'm finding, many of who refer to themselves as exvangelicals, who are truly seeking a righteous way to live. They are seeking ways to love others fully and without restraint. They believe in god. They believe in righteousness. Yet, they stand against the patriarchy and power over people the church exerts. And you know what, the church hates them. These could be the ones to actually fix the church because they are sincere in their beliefs and their faith. Instead, they are the outcasts - the spiritual diaspora. These people are the ones seeking to live as followers of Christ, but you won't see it pasted all over their Twitter profiles - you'll see it in their words and deeds. 

The church, as we know it and as it has existed for centuries, is broken. It has been broken and it will remain broken. But Christians are still out there, loving others, doing what is right, and not judging others for their own spiritual paths. They are, instead, joining hands with Buddhists and Hindus, those who practice Judaism, the atheist, the agnostic. They are working to pick up those who have fallen and love the unlovable. They are reaching out to those who are hurting and giving them comfort. They are doing those things because they understand the real teachings of Jesus Christ. He didn't come to establish the church. He didn't come to wipe out other religions. What he did do was set an example on how we should treat others and I don't think those who call themselves The Church are interested in that path. They'd rather get credit for attendance on Sunday, dropping a few coins in the offering plate, and judging those who don't agree with them as unworthy of the kingdom.

As a former fundamentalist and evangelical, I know certain behaviors are in my spiritual DNA. They are things I try to shake, but oh, it's so hard! As I write not to be judgmental, I judge the church. I know that. I tell myself I'm standing against the evil that has gotten a stranglehold on formal Christianity, but I, too, am stating I have something I'm measuring them against, which means that although I'm not quite sure what The Truth is, I can tell you it's not what they teach. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe. I'm willing to take that criticism if it will strengthen someone harmed by the church or cause someone trapped in fundamentalism to maybe think about whether they are harming others. It's a huge paradox.

So, I guess my hope is that I can learn to condemn harmful behavior without condemning the person committing it. I guess their whole "God hates the sin and loves the sinner" approach is one way to make yourself feel better about being a shit to people. I don't adopt that belief, but I do believe we are all called to defend those they harm and, in doing so, calling out injustice, hate, and evil. So, here I am - a hypocrite, a recovering fundamentalist, an exvangelical, a member of the Christian diaspora, a person who shed the false foundation of The Truth as taught by the church I was raised to believe was righteous who has many questions on how to live among the wolves without getting bitten. I know their language. I can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. In fact, it's funny how I was ready to debate someone the other night and lay out a scriptural argument to him on how he was misinterpreting scripture while, at the same time, realizing I don't really believe the argument I was going to make that strongly. I just wanted to show him, on his home turf, how he was wrong.

Ah, the plight of the recovering fundamentalist. I live it every day. God grant me the serenity...

So, yes, the church is broken. I believe that. But I also believe those of us who have chosen to leave it to itself need to find a way to really leave. I often talk to people who have been divorced (as I have as well) and I see them continuing to fight with their ex. Isn't one of the benefits of divorce that you aren't trapped in that relationship fighting anymore? Maybe those of us who are now on the outside need to recognize we got out. We have been rescued. We are no longer in that abusive relationship. And let it go. It's not like we are going to fix it.

Stand with those who are hurt. Seek to comfort those who need it. Love everyone. Call out abuse and rescue people from the abuser. Focus on how we can be peacemakers. But let's face it, we aren't going to fix the church. It's just not going to happen. Let's stop trying. They don't want our help anyway.