I’m a Christian. But even with my beliefs, I understand why so many people are getting fed up with organized religion. There are many within the church walls that feel that they are superior to the rest of us. It’s a lot like that in other genre’s too. The only difference is that when one professes to have the Christian faith, that we are supposed to be more forgiving and understanding than many other groups. In short, I’m finding as I age that more and more churches are struggling with the modern world.
There’s a woman I know who does much with and for the church. She doesn’t feel she gets the support she needs and in many ways, she’s right. She leads several different programs, and gets criticized constantly for what many may feel is on her. Yet, the staff gives her virtually no support. She soldiers on. She’s doing what she feels God called her to do. But the main issue is that the church is a business whether we all want to admit it or not. I think that’s one of the main reasons that it’s so important to recognize the volunteers in the church who don’t get recognized and the Staff that gets very little recognition. Our pastor recently sent an email saying “What are we volunteering to?” No offense to him but I think the bigger issue isn’t what we are volunteering to but rather to acknowledge that all of us need to feel appreciated and wanted. We all need to feel like we matter and it doesn’t matter if it’s a church setting, a non profit group, or just something that people want to be a part of. Recognition and acceptance matter. I love watching people put aside differences and work together. Instead of telling others what they should do or how they should be, it’s incredible to see how people can work together to achieve difficult tasks when they don’t try to show who is in charge. Teamwork really does become reality at work.
Many different denominations have struggled with crimes within itself that the church covered up. Don’t believe me? Look at the child molestation charges that have occurred not just in the Catholic Church but other denominations as well. Many of these instances happened while the pastors and staff turned the other cheek. No it isn’t right. It happened. It may still be happening. It should never happen. Sexual assault isn’t a laughing matter. It leaves marks on a person’s soul that never completely dissipate. Preventing these kinds of issues from happening with our kids and fellow man/woman should be a priority. Thankfully, it is getting more exposure and churches and other places are starting to be held accountable. But it isn’t enough.
When I think of being a Christian, I don’t really know what it means anymore. The Bible tells us that we are to follow God’s commandments. There are some days where it’s a serious struggle. What was once taboo subjects like the LGBTQ movement has been embraced by many and scorned by others. Many friends of mine are gay. Do you honestly think I’m going to judge them because of their sexuality? Nope. What they do in their private time is none of my business just as it isn’t their business for what I do in mine. For the record, I’m not gay. But I will defend my friends who are. Love is love. If you are lucky enough to find love, grab hold of it. Some churches really struggle with this.
Someone I care about recently told me how she had been on a committee and that the committee indicated that she wasn’t welcome or to come back. She didn’t do anything except challenge their mindset. Really? The church is begging for volunteers and someone tells her not to come back? That just goes to show that the church is unapologetic. And for the record, not every church has this mindset but there are people who are judgmental in churches. That’s the part I struggle with.
Our pastor recently asked us all what did Jesus mean to us? In truth? I know I was taught that Jesus died for all our sins. In reality, there are many days where I have no idea what he really means to me. I know that in the Bible he says he carries us and that we are to believe in him even in the darkest of hours. It’s a struggle for me because if Jesus is the light, then why are so many people who claim to follow his light sitting in the dark? How can churches and Christians be so judgmental when they struggle with their faith? For a long time, our pastor acted like all he was there for was a paycheck. He’s changed that perception. He’s still struggling at communication but I’ll give him credit. He’s trying to do a better job all the way around. He challenges us to step out of our comfort zone. Most of the time I can do this but there are bullies in church too.
One woman chastised me on Facebook last year because I dared to point out an obvious point. She laid down the law with me and told me that things weren’t going to happen the way I indicated period. Wow. Talk about bullying someone. All I did was point out that if people were posting things on their personal pages, that the information was available online. It didn’t matter what their privacy settings were set to, that if people really wanted the info, they could get it. She rudely informed me that the church was set to public on preferences and that kids pictures were off limits. It didn’t matter that it was a children’s program and that we tell everyone we live stream the service. She was extremely rude in the way she presented herself and I have no use or tolerance for people who try to belittle others. I’ve learned “if you can’t say “anything nice don’t say anything: because it really will come back to bite you. Since then, she has done other things to act out with grown up temper tantrums but that’s another story for another day.
Every religion has folks who believe their way but the thing is that Christianity gets a lot of flack. Some of it is deserved. There are many Christians who are very conservative. That doesn’t mean that they are bad people. It just means that they don’t share the more liberal views as their opposition. Just like there are many liberals in this world who have zero tolerance for Conservatives. We’re all being hypocritical. It’s just no one wants to deal with the truth. The truth is that as this world is changing, the expectation is that churches and other groups be willing to see things the way liberals want to see it. Free love is what is expected. The church has its religious views and takes them very seriously. But in a changing world, the church is expected to be okay with the changes that are happening and are given little regard to values that others held onto for generations. There are always going to be issues in this world that need to be challenged. Churches are no exception. One of the reasons that churches are losing the younger generation is because they are deemed too boring and exclusive to certain groups. Burnout is a very real issue that churches don’t address. They beg for volunteers and no one wants to volunteer because of criticism. One of the biggest problems is that churches often look at what they don’t offer rather than what they do. Sometimes it takes a breath of fresh air with new people to orchestrate change. And instead of slamming folks with new ideas, it wouldn’t hurt to hear what is being voiced. Find a way to get the opinions of the youth. They aren’t just the tomorrows of the world, they are the here and now. They matter and should be made to feel that they matter.
One of the things I have heard all my life is that “there needs to be some funerals before real change can happen.” It’s a crass statement but there is a lot of truth in it. When people refuse to change it becomes difficult to work with them. Make no mistake. People make up a church. The church itself is just a building. By itself, the church isn’t the hypocrite. People are the crux of the church. A church body chooses to be welcoming or to be stifled. A church body chooses to support or condemn. The Bible was written by man through interpretations of men that believed that had been given the Word from God. I believe in God with all my heart. But I don’t believe that people have the right to judge others for their mistakes. Do I believe in the judicial system? Mostly. Do I believe that the system is flawed? You betcha. I know some folks who have paid for sins they didn’t commit and were wrongly convicted yet they had to endure sentences that they never should have served. Some of them are out now and still can’t volunteer because they are serving probations for things that they never should have served time for. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7. There’s a reason that Jesus died for our sins. Don’t believe in Jesus? Fine. But whatever you may believe, no society is perfect. No religion or church is perfect. No job has zero political issues. There will always be cynics and hypocrites in this world. The challenge becomes to not become part of the problem but rather the solution.
Let’s start with having honest dialogues with each other in our church communities and in other environments. Take the time to get to know people that you wouldn’t normally have met. Are you straight and don’t know anyone gay? Highly unlikely but let’s just pretend you do. Get to know them with an open mind. They are not going to try to convert you to be what you aren’t. Do you know an addict? Probably. Most people won’t admit it because they are afraid they won’t be accepted. Learn about addiction. We’re all addicted to something. Some of us are addicted to chocolate, some are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise, etc.,. The point is that no one on this earth is perfect. And if you think you are, here’s a reality check. You have a lot to learn if you get to that point. I want to be able to experience everything in life. I want to start by not making excuses and making a difference and most importantly, I want to feel like being a member of the Christian community doesn’t make me any less of a human being than my friends who are Muslim, Islamic, Jewish, Atheists, or any other group. We as a church make up labels with each other. Maybe it’s more than time to make us what we really are. Sinners who aren’t perfect and accept one another as we are.