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.