CountyCarrie

Losing my Religion.

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Last Christmas I told Daniel that I wanted to visit churches and see how all the different denominations express their faith. I went into this project wide eyed and excited. In an effort to see God moving and to see how other people show their love and devotion to God we embarked on our church tour. It was editorial, a review of the one experience that we had at each church. The good, the bad, and hopefully the love of God’s people. Basically a yelp! review of the churches we visited along with a brief sum up of the denominational background. The year is over and what I’ve seen has me discouraged and has left me with more questions than when I started.

Right off the bat from friends and strangers alike, I was met with responses that were critical of our project. I was “unfriended” and people who I had walked along side for years suddenly we’re looking and talking down to me. I love these people who I used to call friends. I was amazed by some people’s distain for our blogs about church. Funny thing was though as soon it was a denomination they didn’t like as much, they chimed in about denominations and how non denominational (or insert any denomination here) is the way to go. Obviously I was not prepared for the reactions we received.

I don’t know about you but every time we go to church we get in our car afterward and talk about the relevance, biblical accuracy, what it means to our life and whether or not it was manipulating the congregation (like talking about tithing by applying guilt can sometimes be). Writing the blog and sharing it was a way to talk about what we as Christians are doing and consider if it is right or wrong and how maybe we can do things better. It was a way to look at a church’s first impression and hear from someone who isn’t saying “oh you should come to my church because we are doing things different”.

If we shine a light into something we often find a little bit of dirt that we can clean out. For me the light came on when I was unjustly accused of something at church many years ago. Those false accusations made me retreat inward and evaluate my life. My looking inward shed light on my own lack of love toward people who didn’t believe the same as me. I realized that I was judgmental toward people who didn’t subscribe to the same denomination as I did. That awful situation caused me to love bigger, give more, and to be more proactive rather than reactive. As much as it hurt, it helped by exposing my affinity to thinking that religion and churches solve problems. They don’t, people who love solve problems. Now I’ve lost my religious pious and have more love to share but I’m petrified of being hurt by Christians again.

Sadly, what I’ve seen over the last year is concerning. Like the well intentioned pastor who is sometimes under the grip of a powerful board, deacons, or district office that wields them. Or the power trip pastor who, rather than being a human who makes mistakes, hides behind the cloth and when corrected, invokes the scripture that people should “not touch his anointed” (Psalm 105:15) Which basically means that no one can question a pastor because you would be questioning God’s anointed.

That’s biblical, right? False! Here’s why. That scripture is taken out of context (context is everything people!). God is speaking about the Jews who were wandering through the desert. He was not speaking about pastors who are implementing their biased agenda and contorting snippets of scripture to fit. Nor pastors who are concerned with bigger buildings rather than feeding and helping the widows and orphans because their ego sees church attendance as a solution rather than building a community, or pastors who are concerned that their largest tither is leaving the church (yes, I’ve actually heard church leadership discussing that subject).

Our goal was to visit 12 churches for the year and after 7 we stopped. It was mentally exhausting hearing the rumors of what people were saying about me behind my back to my friends because of this blog series. What I surmised is that Christians are loving when it’s their brand of religion but when it’s not it’s balls to the walls anger.

I know somehow, some good must come out of the Church, even if our institutional version of it is a flawed system. However I’ve been so battered by “his” people that it’s hard to want to have that association of Christian attached to my name. I am, in fact, a Christ follower but I shy away from the blanket covering “Christian” because I’ve seen things so differently this year. Instead of  having a label of something good, I want to actually do something good. I want to give money away every single day, I want to feed people, I want to share my crazy story of redemption and love without strings attached. I want to show love to my friends who are men, woman, gay, straight, Black, Indian, Russian, Italian, Catholic, Lutheran, and Atheist. I can’t do that when I’m clouded by religious people who contort scripture. God said we would know his people by their love for one another. I am bursting with love for every single church I visited even though some were terrible experiences. I want to love all of humanity even the ones not under the umbrella of a Christian church. I can’t seem to do that while touring churches because if I write an editorial news piece about our one time visit I’m deemed hateful and judgmental. If the people proclaiming those things about me took a moment to take their beer goggles of Christianity off perhaps they would see the love I can’t wait to share.

3 thoughts on “Losing my Religion.

  1. Bob Nolan

    Hi Carrie,

    I find it very interesting that you undertook this venture – having forgotten one supreme Biblical principle: Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

    You see, when I look at this scripture – and plenty of others – I am reminded that there’s a reason that all these different denominations and faiths exist: they couldn’t agree with someone else.

    Take your pick, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, etc……each faith/denomination/religion was created because of a difference of opinion about what God established. I am not, for the sake of this comment, stating which one is right, but you must understand that the Genesis of each ‘religion’ or ‘denomination’ is/was a result of a disagreement over doctrine.

    Now that we have established that – I hope it sheds some light for you on why some might be indifferent or worse yet negative toward your project. What you will do when you go down that road is highlight those places where people disagreed. Whether it is denomination-ally driven, personality driven or even practice driven – the core is disagreement – and comparison brings back remembrance and for some doubt.

    I must say that I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon your blog. I have been reading with great interest and even commenting – remember ‘Betty’? – and at the end of the day, I really think that what you are searching for is the perfect church.

    The problem is – it doesn’t exist. The fact that the church is made up of sinners merely saved by grace means that it won’t be perfect.

    Yes, each church has its failings. Each church practices ‘church’ a different way. What really matters is the doctrine of the church – and how it is teached, preached and lived by not only the Pastor – but the membership at large.

    I know the answer to all the questions that you posed in your writings – but I am afraid that when I point that out to you – you won’t like it. The Word is sharper than a two-edged sword – it not only cuts our enemies when they are wrong – but it cuts us when we are wrong.

    And that is what is missing out of ‘church’ today. Yes, we are to love one another – but that doesn’t mean we quit preaching the word and ignore the convicting power of the Holy Spirit on us and others, does it?

    You know – ‘Betty’ from your other post is the prime example. The average member of churches today only wants the feel good fuzzy part of the Gospel. The minute the Word steps on their toes – why how dare that preacher?!?!?!?

    Hence the problem that you have found with your travels and going to different churches. Rather than do as the scriptures command (preach, teach, baptize, provide fellowship, disciple, send and repeat) we have allowed all manner of feel-good activities and ‘outreach’ (how is handing out bottled water at a marathon an outreach anyway?*) to take the place of the real work of the church.

    The real work of the church isn’t to feed, give away money, or for that matter even outreach and/or showing love! Christians are to do those things – not in the name of the church , and not even through the church – they are to directly do those things.

    My dear – I can’t erase your past. I can’t write the wrongs that have so turned you away from church. Yes, the system is flawed (just look at how many letters Paul had to write to straighten out the very churches he started!) but it is God’s ordained place where believers gather – and are scripturally commanded to do so.

    The usual situation with folks leaving churches (and this is anecdotal, but totally true in my many years of experience) is that someone was gossiping about someone else – and that person heard – and instead of confronting the folks involved the person simply internalized the problem to the extent that even after-the-fact confrontation is impossible because they stewed on it so long that Satan is making forgiveness impossible which leads to the person leaving the church for greener pastures (which don’t exist).

    God gave us a path for when we have ought with a brother – and we seldom use it – and it’s to our detriment. If we always followed it – I think we’d have a lot less movement of people from church to church – and alot less splinter denominations and churches as a whole.

    You need to go back to church. You need to pick one that teaches the Word – without slant, consideration of the audience and free from personal preferences. And you need to stick with it – until God calls you home.

    Those churches exist – but if I told you which ones, you wouldn’t believe me.

    1. Daniel Herndon

      Bob,

      What are all these answers that you know? You seem quick to express your disagreement but you’re not providing any intellectual substance. It’s good to know that you have all the answers but they’re useless if they’re hidden in your mind.

      1. Bob Nolan

        Daniel,

        Please note that my post was designed to get Carrie to think – if I provide all the answers – then there’s no thinking.

        One must study, one must pursue God and His Word – only then will there be answers.

        If there’s a specific answer that you are seeking – let me know and I’ll be happy to share.

        Love in Christ,
        Bob

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