Part of the Problem (the way I see it, anyway)

January 29, 2008 at 12:27 pm 70 comments

mclaren.jpg Here’s a quote from one of my favorite authors:

“Christian churches in Europe and North America were deeply involved in colonialism and, until the nineteenth century, deeply involved in slavery. When the church is that complicit in a lot of injustice in this world, I think it becomes harder for them to really face the call of the gospel on them for how they behave in this world. It’s very tempting just to focus on the gospel as something out of this world and after this life.” — Brian McClaren

As you guys know, I’m still coming to terms with it all. Since I’m married to a man I love deeply — and he happens to be a pastor — I have a vested interest in coming to terms with an organization I think is corrupt, in most cases, beyond redemption (please note: not all). In addition, as all my close friends remind me frequently, there’s little they can do to help. Most of them have had the opportunity to walk away. Me? Yeah, that would cause a little disturbance at home …

So I read the things McClaren says, and I think, “Wow. Here’s ‘one of them’ saying the same things that echo through my heart. Because, whether you believe in the Divine or not, it seems to make sense to want to help people who need help — the poor, the oppressed, the enslaved, the screwed-over ones. Since most of us fall into one or the other of those categories, I think we have an innate empathy that draws us to do “something.”

I bet, if I took an informal poll of the folks that frequent this site, I’d see people who actually “help” more than many of my “good church people.” Now, don’t misread this: many folks in the church have helped our family time and time and time again. And I deeply appreciate this. But I also know that, for an organization founded by a drifting anarchist who spoke of loving others as ourselves, and spent more time talking about how we are to treat one another than ignoring the world’s problems and preparing for the “great by and by,” organized, westernized, capitalized Christianity has failed greatly. And I think McClaren hit it on the head when he suggested it is the church’s investment in the injustices that benefit them is a big part of the problem.

So, what’s a girl to do? I’ve come to terms with the fact that whatever I do, I’m not going to “change the system.” Using their own terminology, I don’t think “the organized structure” people know as the church is even biblical, so changing it becomes a mute point for me. I try to rest in just “being,” continuing my own journey, helping people where I can, loving unconditionally, etc. But still, my heart wrestles with itself.

I’ve come to trust many people in this blogging community. How have those of you who live in a “world divided” come to terms with things? Do you still struggle — one minute wanting to run, the next wanting to stand on a soapbox and intellectually dismantle those who see themselves as superior to you, the next minute feeling pity on those caught in the system?

I don’t want to be part of the problem … but rather part of the solution that makes life here on earth a little less hellish for whoever I can help.

Looking for your feedback …

- lostgirlfound

Entry filed under: lostgirlfound. Tags: , , , .

The Problem With Pastors: Too educated? “You’re Just Angry at God!”

70 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michelle  |  January 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Churchianity vs. Christianity

    Churchianity burned me out. I now try to listen to the Spirit’s leading – not the organization’s.

  • 2. carriedthecross  |  January 29, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I feel like you’ve just written a chapter out of the book of my life! As a Christian, I felt a strong sense of duty to see the church’s image reconciled in the world at-large. I didn’t understand why I was so often brushed off, and in the end I found friends who were like-minded, frustrated with the status quo of comfortable, evangelical Christianity.

    Obviously for me, that itself was not enough to quell my doubts, and here I am as an atheist. And now I struggle with what to do with my former comrades. Sometimes I want nothing more than to get away from my college full of Christians who can’t even comprehend how someone can live a fulfilled life without God. And sometimes, like you, I want nothing more than to spark a fight and show them up. In the end, it seems to be my own pride that feels the need to prove I have a better epistemic justification than they do for views on faith. And yes, sometimes I cannot help but look with sadness upon those who want to do so much to change the world, but are hampered down by an equally powerful drive to convert the world.

    For me, the answer seems to come in the form of the tension between active tolerance and conversational intolerance. By active tolerance, I mean the acceptance of whatever a person chooses to believe (politics, religion, etc.) up to the point where it poses a clear and present danger to the health and safety of those around them. And by conversational intolerance, a phrase borrowed by Sam Harris, I mean a refusal to accept false belief in interpersonal relationship. When my nephew first learned math, we played math games together a lot. In them, he would sometimes make mistakes. Despite the temptation to gloss over them so as not to discourage him, I made myself correct him so that he might learn. In the same way, mistruth should be corrected without invalidating the person themselves.

    *shrug* Some thoughts.

  • 3. Jersey  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I agree…walking away from church would cause a major rift in my family.

    The church –Catholic, at least anyways — had hands in the Inquisition, the Nazis, killings between Protestants and Catholics during the Protestant Reformation, the Great Schism of 1054 between Catholics and Orthodoxes, slavery, mercantilism, and communism vs. capitalism.

  • 4. TheDeeZone  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    You have made some excellant points. In fact, you have stepped on my toes big-time. So I can choose to ignore this, dimiss it as the ranting of an angry unbeliever or see apply it to my own life. I choose the later. I cannot change all churches or even my own I do have a circle of influnce. I agree with McClaren.

  • 5. GoDamn  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Jesus Hare(as in Hare Krishna) Christ ???
    Check this page out.

    http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/3hare94.html

  • 6. Thinking Ape  |  January 29, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    The problem is that Christianity is stuck in a no-win situation. Contemporary Christianity, especially in America, is sick of the old “churchy” way of doing things – that is, to say, the dreaded “organized religion.” So instead they have created and, dare I say, emboldened a new sort of spirituality (simply look at the first response to this article). What has happened is that Christianity has gone from a corrupt communal institution to a highly egotistical individualistic endeavour to “know” Jesus.

    Scholars know that neither is the “original” Chrisitanity, despite the ambiguities surrounding what “original” Christianity actually was. Here is the fact of today’s “church”: contemporary American Christianity is closer to the so-called heresies of Valentinus and other Gnostics than that of the historical centrist church – “knowing” Jesus personally is more important than obeying his teachings. Period.

  • 7. lostgirlfound  |  January 29, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    CTC – great thoughts, man. I struggle with when is “enough enough,” and (in the words of Paul) turning them over to their own lusts and passions …

    TA, thanks for the lead on “new heresies” for me … I know very little about the gnostics, but will explore more ..

    DZ, sorry. I’m not so much angry anymore (check previous blogs), and I’m definately not an “unbeliever” as far as the Divne goes. But thank you, for your gracious willingness to try and make a difference where you are. I think that’s the greatest “call” any of us truly have.

  • 8. TheNorEaster  |  January 29, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    “What is one to do?”

    Exactly what one CAN do.

    That’s all.

  • 9. karen  |  January 29, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I cannot help but look with sadness upon those who want to do so much to change the world, but are hampered down by an equally powerful drive to convert the world

    Excellent summary of the problem!

    As an evangelical I constantly found myself caught in this dilemma: I wanted to spend time doing practical ministry (I founded and ran a food co-op for the working poor, for instance) but church leadership was primarily interested in conversions.

    Consequently, there was tons of money and support and prayer for our missionaries out trying to convert heathens around the world (mostly unsuccessfully) and very little backing for the ministries I felt passionate about.

    Even as my team and I helped hundreds of poor families survive every month, we were made to feel guilty because we were just graciously reaching out to lend a hand – and not proselytizing enough. At one point, we were made to have a pastor present on food co-op day so he could witness to participants and invite them to church. Most of them, of course, were already church members or at least Christians!

    It was an exhausting and unnecessary conflict that hampered and devalued our good intentions.

    BTW – could I make a request? Could we have authors names on the posts or at the bottom of the text so we can identify who has written a particular piece? Thanks. :-)

  • 10. orDover  |  January 29, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I believe it is possible for one to be a cultural Christian, and focus on the positive aspects of the religion. When I am around my very Christian family I feel a lot of inner conflict. What do I do when religion comes up in conversation, as it always does? I can be completely quiet, I could leave the room, but that would cause conflict eventually. So I usually end up choosing topics of discussion in which I can participate without blatantly lying, and pretending I don’t hear the ones that could get me into trouble.

    I think it is possible for someone to participate in the Christian community by basically cherry-picking the activities that appeal to them, as I cherry-pick the conversations. I generally despise cherry-picking, especially when it is used as the basis of a belief system or an argument, but this is a different situation. For instance, you could support your church’s food drive, but not their missionary projects.

  • 11. artisticmisfit  |  January 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    It would help to know who Brian McLaren is before commenting. I never heard his name before and his quote made me want to not even read your article because of this.

  • 12. carriedthecross  |  January 29, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    artistic,

    Run a google or wikipedia search on Brian McLaren and you can easily get a basic understanding of who he is, what he believes and why he is relevant to the discussion.

  • 13. TheDeeZone  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Lostgirlfriend,

    No need to apologize. I didn’t think you were unessarily angry. Sometimes we all need a little rebuking. What said plus the Sunday school lesson this past week just were working on my conscious a little. The lesson was about how we use money & other recourses. In the opening activity he had the class of 10 people decided as a group how many differant electronic devices we had as a group. As a group we determined that we had easily $50,000 in electronics. The challenge was how much do we give or use to support missions & other social ministries. That what really eye opening.

    Artistic,

    Mclaren’s website: http://brianmclaren.net/

  • 14. Brad  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    lostgirlfound,

    AWESOME post. You nail the problem dead on. Thousands of Christians are fed up with the hypocritical “do nothing” attitude of a church that would rather sit on its hands and wait for Jesus to save the day for them, than be LIKE Jesus and do their part in “saving the day.”

    McLaren is part of a movement now referred to as the “Emergent Church,” which leans liberal theologically. The “Emerging Church” is very similar but theologically conservative.

    Both of these streams are being called the “new evangelicals” because they are characterized by people expressing the same frustrations you are, and want a church more more active within society and relevant to culture.

    I consider myself in the “Emerging” (conservative) camp. There is hope! Some Christians are waking up to the reality of a world that sees the church as (at best) irrelevant, and that number is growing at a surprising rate… You don’t have to cherry pick, and you don’t have to toss it all out either. There’s still hope for us. ;-)

  • 15. artisticmisfit  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    carriedthecross, you missed the principle of my point.
    TDZ, thanks.

  • 16. TheNorEaster  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Karen:

    That is precisely why I try to let my actions speak for me. People get so caught up in “saving souls” that they miss the practical simplicity of Jesus’s teachings, that if we do what God wants us to do then that will far, far more convincing talking talking talking. Besides, just how willing do you think someone is going to be to listen to a “witness” when that person is starving and homeless? Or, in the case of Lloyd–whom I discuss in my most recent post–DYING from a disease? If you’ll pardon my being blunt, only an idiot–or a spiritual infant (by that I mean, one who doesn’t know better)–would be so caught up in the next life that he, or she, continually ignores feeding the hungry and helping the sick in this life. And you’re absolutely right–it does dampen very worthwhile projects. Just the thought of someone trying to make me feel guilty for buying (alternative) medication for a sick man–who by the way was a homosexual–because I wasn’t “witnessing” to him is demented and disgusting. And, ultimately, that comes down to people taking advantage of God’s grace because the mentality ends up being, “Well, gee, I didn’t feed you, didn’t give you something to drink, didn’t help you when you were sick, didn’t visit you in prison, and so you died starving, sick, and miserable in prison. But it’s okay because I know God will forgive me!”

    Sometimes, I think the sheep are the goats and the goats are the sheep!

  • 17. TheNorEaster  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Sorry about the typos in my last comment. I kind of got carried away.

  • 18. carriedthecross  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    artistic,

    I was mostly being facetious. ;)

  • 19. artisticmisfit  |  January 29, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    CTC, I figured you were, but you were being nice about it?

  • 20. karen  |  January 29, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Brad:
    McLaren is part of a movement now referred to as the “Emergent Church,” which leans liberal theologically. The “Emerging Church” is very similar but theologically conservative.

    Ah, interesting. I have heard both terms used but never had anyone explain the distinction. Thank you.

    My problem with the emerging church is that for all its emphasis on good works and tolerance, it still seems to have a fist tightly clenched on a literal, conservative reading of the bible. It may say – let’s not talk about hell, or the gays or original sin or anything that’s unpleasant. But it doesn’t repudiate those teachings, either, though they are quite poisonous in my mind.

    I’m not sure what the “liberal” emergent church branch thinks about the literal versus non-literal reading of the bible, but many denominations in so-called Mainstream Christianity have no problem dispensing with the notion of a literal hell or punishment for gay people, etc.

    Just the thought of someone trying to make me feel guilty for buying (alternative) medication for a sick man–who by the way was a homosexual–because I wasn’t “witnessing” to him is demented and disgusting.

    I agree, that is sick.

  • 21. Yurka  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

    oh, please, please don’t fall for the vague postmodern gibberish from a snake oil salesman like McLaren.

    You and McClaren make a false dichotomy. The bible calls upon us to have an accurate theology, strive for personal sanctification AND to love our neighbors. Don’t use the last as an excuse for evading the former two! McLaren is one of these irrational liberal Christians that Francis Schaeffer described so devastatingly in The God Who Is There. They fervently desire meaning, but they are atheists at heart, so their world view drives them to despair, and they come up with irrational systems such as the ‘social gospel’ that are currently bleeding the mainline denominations (such as the Episcopalians) of all of their members. I wish they would be honest about their loss of faith like Bart Ehrman and Robert M Price and stop pretending to be Christian.

    “Because, whether you believe in the Divine or not, it seems to make sense to want to help people who need help”
    This is just riding on emotion. Most people are too sinful for this to work. You may not feel this way on certain days, or in certain situations in your life. And without a morality rooted in reality (ie. a transcendent cause) there is simply no reason to behave morally when you don’t feel like it.

  • 22. Yurka  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:20 am

    For anyone interested in an introduction to McLaren and the postmodern ‘emerging’ Christianity he is developing – I would recommend you read ‘The Truth War’ by Dr. John MacArthur.

  • 23. Yurka  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Brad, you must admit – there are about a million light years between Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll. The emergent/emerging label is becoming stretched so thin as to be meaningless.

  • 24. Thinking Ape  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Did someone seriously refer to Driscoll as an “emergent”? Mark himself describes himself as a vocal opponent of the emergent movement from which he was a part of. Driscoll’s theology is thoroughly Calvinist, however unconventional is preaching may be.

    For those harping on McLaren, I wonder what you must think of John S. Spong – now that is a guy that I ponder how he still considers anything he believes is “Christian.”

    Strip most religions of their supernatural mythologies and you end up with a strange array of Taoist or Greek ethical philosophy. It is too bad that apocalypticism and radical eschatology forces so many Christians to be so cold-hearted and loveless.

  • 25. Jersey  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:07 am

    I am sick of most people leaning mostly towards either Love before Law (or that the Law is dead), or covert before action.

    Jesus came to fulfill the Law, so therefor the Law is still in effect, I guess. We do not have to follow the full Law, that is for the Jews, but I am also aware that Jews state to enter heaven one must at least follow the Seven Laws of Noah.

    Jesus spoke of something like faith without action is futile. And look how many times Jesus was more into helping people rather than converting!!

  • 26. Tristan  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:36 am

    Your post flawlessly describes the same issue I have struggled with recently. Having loved ones intensely involved in an organization that I so strongly see as being historically corrupt and abusive. Now presently, it has succumb to the recent religiously backed, politically manufactured religious right movement that has propagated hate, discrimination, and greed.

    Yet at the same time, I struggle with my journey of faith, especially as it involves those I know who by themselves are good, moral, and well intentioned, but associated with a church and leader who seem quite opposed to this.

    For me, I have taken my somewhat existentialist philosophy and juxtaposed it with the intrinsic message of the Bible. In this world, you’re born, you live, you die. The life in-between this birth and death is what we have to control. At the end of the day, we make our choices, and we live with them. In the end, all we have are our actions. So for me, empty, absolutist, unpredicated, and hypocritical pontification is the most insincere and repulsive substitution for a way of life out there. When I look at the Bible, I take away an inherent message of love, just simple, unconditional, unprejudiced love, and a message of hope. To me, the fundamental Christian philosophy should be simply to love God, love the Earth, and love its people without hesitation. We should have no ulterior motives of advancing certain religious beliefs politically, or acting as judge and jury, pretension and hate should never enter into the picture. Without sounding too inflammatory, much of the Christian religion has exemplified the similar religious organization the Jesus was at odds with. The religious leaders in his times called him out for eating with prostitutes, and associating with those of other race, and the “unclean”. They created a system ripe of political corruption and strict doctrine. Jesus rebutted there ways, often harshly, with open acceptance, love, forgiveness, and actual action. To me, this message is the hope that even though it seems that 90% of the people out there are absolutely misdirected, and that any attempt to intervene would be an utter waste, I can still cope with the situation I, and many others, are in.

    But unfortunately, religion is such an awful subject to discuss, as it involves for many a combination of emotion, guttural reaction, a monolithic viewpoint and a perceived personal attack

    But I have few answers, and am just glad to find someone else out there with the same struggle. Keep writing-

  • 27. Yurka  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:55 am

    ThinkingApe, as far as I know, Driscoll calls himself ‘emerging’ but has distanced himself from the ‘Emergent Village’ of McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Scott McKnight, Rob Bell, etc. But you are right – he is now currently solidly orthodox and Calvinist in his theology.

    Oh, please don’t get me started on John Shelby Spong, retired atheist Episcopal Bishop of Newark who reduced church membership in his diocese by 40% during his term. He single handedly turned the Episcopal Church from a Christian denomination into a secular gay rights organization. Now the few remaining orthodox are fleeing for primatial oversight from foreign orthodox bishops, mainly in Africa.

  • 28. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:06 am

    ThinkingApe ponders:

    John S. Spong – now that is a guy that I ponder how he still considers anything he believes is “Christian.”

    I just recently finished reading Albert Schweitzer’s “Quest of the Historical Jesus”, and have just started his “Mystery of the Kingdom of God” (both available free on Google Books). Reading these books, which completely deconstruct the life of Jesus and leave it nothing but mist, I have to wonder how he considered himself a Christian (and he did), and I honestly compared his situation to Spong. After Schweitzer published these books, he became a medical missionary in Africa and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize. Quite a guy.

  • 29. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Yurka says:

    there are about a million light years between Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll.

    Reading comments like this, with names of church leaders I have never seen before, makes me feel sooo old.

    I grew up on the old time religion of Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts, and the Old Rugged Cross.

  • 30. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Yurka continues:

    Most people are too sinful for this to work. You may not feel this way on certain days, or in certain situations in your life. And without a morality rooted in reality (ie. a transcendent cause) there is simply no reason to behave morally when you don’t feel like it.

    Holy Smokes, I think I counted 3 internal inconsistancies in just this one short blockquote. I would comment, but since I am not rooted in the reality of transcendence, I don’t feel the need to.

  • 31. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Brad,

    Thousands of Christians are fed up with the hypocritical “do nothing” attitude of a church

    Brad, my wife is a Catholiic transplanted from the Philippines. She attended my Baptist church for a year and finally told me that was the first thing she noticed about the American denominations. They seemed more interested in having using Christianity to gain a good life for yourself, or making friends with Jesus, or lots of emphasis on relationships, but not doing much for the community. We once went on a mission trip where we were going to minister to the poor – we usually go to the slums of Juarez for that kind of stuff. But instead we went to the rich part of town and ended up trimming some old lady’s roses (??!!??) Her catholic church in Philippines usually goes feed orphans who are living in the trash dumps. After our mission trip to trim roses, she got thoroughly disgusted, and never went back to that Baptist church.

    She also can’t stand the emphasis on relationship with Jesus. She has never witnessed that phenomenon before moving to the states. “Why do people here want to be freinds with Jesus? I worship and adore Jesus, not pretend he is my buddy!”

  • 32. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:44 am

    LostGirlFound asks:

    How have those of you who live in a “world divided” come to terms with things? Do you still struggle — one minute wanting to run, the next wanting to stand on a soapbox and intellectually dismantle those who see themselves as superior to you, the next minute feeling pity on those caught in the system?

    It is hard sometimes, LGF. My wife is catholic, who bucks the system of her own faith sometimes, but she loves her faith and I would never try to take it from her. At the same time, we discuss our beliefs quite often. I think she has kept one of my legs in the spiritual realm (even though I am one step removed from atheism), while she has definitely become more liberal in her beliefs thanks to us influencing each other. I still attend church, but I now try to enjoy the music and ritual. I still enjoy reading the Bible, but I look at it now as a fascinating look at ancient cultures, mythology, and wisdom – how people have changed over the ages, and how they have stayed the same. Most of my friends and workmates are Christians, either Catholic or Fundamentalist, and most don’t know of my non-belief. They are mostly good people, so what do I care – but in some cases, I think outing myself would be.. uhh… detrimental to my well-being. Besides that, I am convinced that there are lots of unbelievers just like me, who just keep their big traps shut. Just like me.

    Not very organized, but those are just some random thoughts. Basically, I have found a pretty good balance of living without belief in a world of believers.

  • 33. Brad  |  January 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Yurka,
    Hehe, yes, there are “light years” between McLaren and Driscoll. I personally greatly disagree with McLaren’s theology, and love Driscoll’s preaching and ability to contextualize tough truths into the culture around him. The comparison is helpful because it distinguishes two styles/streams of Christianity that look similar but are in fact very different.

    However, while I may GREATLY disagree with McLaren, he is striking a chord with so many younger adults and we can learn a lot from how he is relevant to them. The goal is to do so without compromising the truth of orthodoxy. McLaren doesn’t see that truth as congruent with the world around us and its needs, so he changes it. Driscoll (and others like him) sees the truth as essential to explaining the world around us and its needs, so he contextualizes it into (or explains it in light of) our culture.

    HIS,
    That is so sad. That’s the same kind of crap that makes me loathe the suburbs in general. I think that Christians in countries like the Philippines, where your faith is a choice that often makes life more difficult, are closer to the truth of Christianity than many here in the States. We (myself included) have no idea what it means to hold to convictions that earn you persecution instead of a social club membership. Makes me sick sometimes.

    “They are mostly good people, so what do I care – but in some cases, I think outing myself would be.. uhh… detrimental to my well-being.”

    It also saddens me that this is something you actually have to worry about. Not being able to express your belief in front of Christians is just wrong. On behalf of my faith, sorry bro (as well as to anyone else with this problem).

  • 34. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Yurka,

    MacArthur writes a book against everything. Usually is arguments are very shallow. Think he follows a formula for all of his book.

    DH

  • 35. TheNorEaster  |  January 30, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Sailing:

    There was always something about that “personal relationship with Jesus” stuff that never quite sat right with me. I never could put it into words, though.

    What you have said has done so nicely.

  • 36. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    HIS & NorEaster,

    Maybe I’m misuderstanding your objections about a personal relatioship with Jesus. I believe that God is knowable, approachable & that he wants to have a relationship with us. However this does not mean that Jesus is my buddy. It is similar to a relationship with those isn authority over you. God is God and must be treated with respect. He is not my buddy, good luck charm or man upstairs.

  • 37. MCHuddy  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    good post, to everyone, i most especially appreciate the honesty of every one. i think i find myself as a minority here on this site because i’m quite comforatable and happy in my church community. i am (and i don’t want to scare anyone away from reading whatelse i have to say, but) Catholic (yeah i even capitalize the “C” to make it imporntant), matter of fact i’ve been known to associate with folks who joke around and call each other “Hardcore Papists” with a positive conotation. but i digress.

    i look at this post and the comments that follow and one doen’t have to be a genius to see a lot of hurt and disgust with “organized religion”, and it guess it follows that the answer to “orgainzed religion” would be “disorganized religion”? which, if your honest, is what what we’re really looking at when we discuss the problems with bad examples of Christians. if these Christians, and i know that Catholics aren’t always the best of examples, that we complain about were properly organized with the the one whom they (and myself) believe in, then the problem would cease to exist. but the simple fact is that we don’t, we fail to follow the example, we fail constantly and consistantly when tried.

    the problem with this problem is not that we fail, for there is no perfect person in the world, not even the pope (holy crap a Catholic said the pope is not perfect, true but that’s a different topic for a different day), but that we do not see that we’re failing. one comment mentioned doing a math problem and helping his/her nephew find the mistake instead of letting him feel good with the mistake. this a great example of how one needs to approach truth (mental high five to that person), because when we make a mistake we must regonize it first before we can fix it and until we fix that mistake, everything that follows will be skewed.

    as far as acting as Christ in the world today, i recommend looking at the many people who are much better than myself at bringing the Gospel message to the world, and by Gospel message i don’t mean tallying conversion numbers i mean people who give every bit of their lives every moment of every day to the service of others so that Christ may live through His people and in His people.

    sorry for making my first comment on this site so lengthy but i do have hope for all of you, and i pray that you have hope for me, and if you do pray (heck even if you don’t) please pray for me and my continuing conversion to Christ so that I may be organized with, through and in Him, i promise to do the same for all of you.

    Peace, God bless you and God love you

  • 38. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Lostgirlfound,

    I struggle and walk the tightrope you talk about. When I feel like it, I go to church. When I don’t, I don’t, but some people have no choice and must go to keep the family peace. I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer feel guilty for not going. I’m sure God’s not crossing off days on his (sic) calendar and marking when and where I go every day. Nope.

    It’s all about how much you are willing to “out” yourself and your thoughts in your community setting. Because once you’ve done it, you are labeled and discussed as “not part of the group.” Some stuff that is said in Sunday school I let pass as not worth the argument. I know it comes from a very, narrow view of the world and that’s fine. But other things I cannot let pass; when people judge other people on race, sexuality, age, etc. or rant on and on about the evils of television or “youth today.” I usually then speak up. I tell them that youth aren’t the problem, parents are. I tell them they miss out on good things in culture if they isolate themselves, including music, film, and television. Most have branded me that dreaded word “liberal” but I’d gladly be known as that rather than as a narrow-minded bigot who insists on the jots and tittles of the law and not on the spirit. If you can take the whispers and looks and stares from church members, I say be yourself and voice your opinion. One person CAN make a difference if we speak up. Remaining silent and stewing….well, I’d just as soon stay home.

  • 39. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    MCHurdy,

    Well said.

    MOI,

    It upsets me as well when people start talking about how bad youth are today. Of course, that has been the complaint of the elder generation for a long time. I work in a Christian bookstore & last week a customer chewed me out for playing Christian rap. She said something about the beat not being conduscive to Christian values and that I have low morals for playing the stuff. Don’t really know what she said because after about a sentence it became like when the adults talk on Charlie Brown “Wah, wah, wah”. As for morality she didn’t listen to the words. I just stood there wondering how that rap was any differant than what John & Charles Wesley did with their hymns. They used the tunes from drinking songs.

    Dh

  • 40. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Dee,

    Yes, it’s amusing because these same adults defied their parents who in turn defied their parents and on and on. It’s so easy to blame other generations for our problems.

    I like all varieties of music today and consider Christian rap at least a redeeming value compared with secular misogynist and racist rap. A style is only a style. Many in the Wesley’s day didn’t mind borrowing music either as long as the purpose was a good one. “All things are permissible, but not everything is beneficial” right? :-)

  • 41. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    MOI,

    My dad who was a minister of music used to say that music was just a bunch of siggley lines on paper. The problem is what humans do with that music. So rap, rock etc is not evil in & of itself. The Cross Movement Rappers like Flame, LaCrae and DaTruth have much deeper music than many of the Southern Gospel I have heard. As for borrowed music the lady probably isn’t aware of the orignial lyrics for song whose tune was used for our National Athnem.

    DH

  • 42. karen  |  January 30, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Yes, it’s amusing because these same adults defied their parents who in turn defied their parents and on and on. It’s so easy to blame other generations for our problems.

    This is one of my pet peeves! I see it both in religious and nonreligious people, and it’s the oldest complaint in the book.

    I point out that older people have been complaining about the “young whippersnapers” from time immemorial. I also point out that my two teenaged sons are being raised in a culture that is far, far more tolerant and respectful of different ethnic and racial backgrounds than mine ever was.

    They also have been ingrained with the notion of accepting people with differences, whether they are handicapped, slow learners, gay or just offbeat. Those groups all used to get teased and taunted mercilessly when I was a kid (not by me!) and now I don’t see that in my kids’ schools and peer groups.

    It’s a different generation coming up and they have their good and bad sides, but complaining that they are “worse” than any other young generation is just ridiculous. I think in many ways they’re a heck of an improvement!

  • 43. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 30, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Karen: Hear! Hear!

  • 44. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    My husband is working on a PhD in colonial American History. He showed me something a while back written about how terrrible the teens were & they were causing all sorts of trouble, disrepectful, etc. It was written in the 1700s.

  • 45. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    TheDeeZone:

    MacArthur writes a book against everything. Usually is arguments are very shallow. Think he follows a formula for all of his book.

    I have lots of books and commentaries with John MacArthur’s name attached to them – and I have to say this comment gave me the best laugh I had all day!

  • 46. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    TheDeeZone:

    Maybe I’m misuderstanding your objections about a personal relatioship with Jesus. I believe that God is knowable, approachable & that he wants to have a relationship with us.

    DeeZOne, you are responding to opinions made by my wife, and I really don’t want to speak for her regarding this. My opinion as a Christian though was that God was wholly unknowable. I took ‘mystery’ seriously, and considered God to be Holy in the strictest sense – that is pure transcendence and separation. As I grew older, I found God to be more unapproachable, and ultimately discarded any notion of him wanting any kind of ‘relationship’ with humanity.

    I stopped relating to the concept of a relationship with a supposedly infinite being at least 20 years ago. I grew up with hymns like ‘In the Garden’, and such sentamentality really got to me after a while.

    Several months ago, I wrote an article about my thoughts on this trend of sentimental Christianity that I see. Click Here:

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/07/12/my-homoerotic-relationship-with-jesus/

    I know it depicts a distorted view of Christianity, but one that I see as pervasive in our culture, so don’t be offended at my criticism in the article.

  • 47. Brad  |  January 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    HIS,

    Dude. I totally hear you. Some of the crap we sing in churches does border on homoeroticism. I JUST wrote a post about how the church has, in many ways, ceased to be irrelevant for men. In part due to an overemphasis on a “personal” relationship with Jesus scares off a lot of guys. It’s just…. goo…. What happened to Jesus -the- leader worthy of following? Instead, we have this sissified momma’s boy Jesus who’s image denies the hammer-swinging (step)son-of-a-carpenter identity he had.

    Anyway, if you care to read, here’s the link:

    http://seminarianblog.com/2008/01/17/book-review-why-men-hate-going-to-church-by-david-murrow/

    “I know it depicts a distorted view of Christianity, but one that I see as pervasive in our culture, so don’t be offended at my criticism in the article.”

    I haven’t read your article yet, but I imagine that no offense will be taken. The church has so distorted what “relationship” looks like (largely in an effort to be relevant to women), that we desperately need to regain the roots of who Jesus was.

  • 48. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    HIS,

    The comment about MacArthur was borrowed from one of my ethics profs in seminary. We always had to read a MacArthur book in his class. Someone asked about it one day & he replied that MacArthur was always good for the dissenting opionon.

    On knowing God, I understood it was your wifes comment. I believe it is possible to have relationship with God & we where created to have fellowhsip with him. I agree with your wife the God as a buddy bothers me.

  • 49. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    MacArthur was always good for the dissenting opionon.

    I still have my signed copy of ‘Charismatic Chaos’ on the bookshelf right in front of me. Next time I read it, I will just remember that he is against *everything* haha

    On knowing God, I understood it was your wifes comment.
    My wife has helped co-author an article or two with me on this website – just to add her opinion to things. I might ask her to do another on her perseption of American Christianity. She is a Christian, no doubt about it, but she has a real interesting take as an outsider to this country. I bet folks here would find it interesting. I officially retired from writing articles here, but blast if I cannot tear myself away from this rediculous blogsite!!

  • 50. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    whoops. excuse the crappy formatting

  • 51. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Dude. I totally hear you.

    Ha – I have not been called ‘dude’ in at least 25 years. Anyway, I am glad you understand my frustrations I felt when I was a Christian. That article that I wrote several months ago could easily have been written by me even as a believing Christian, because the anxiety caused by the intamacy we were required to feel with Jesus was very real. I think lots of Christian men have just as hard a time as I did. I’ll check out your article later – thanks Dude.

  • 52. GoDamn  |  January 31, 2008 at 8:06 am

    JOURNALIST IN AFGHANISTAN SENTENCED TO DEATH
    A student of journalism has been sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. Sayed Pervez Kambaksh is accused of blasphemy for printing a report from a Farsi website which states that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the prophets words. Sayed was tried by religious judges without legal representation and in secret. The Afghan senate upheld the verdict yesterday with a motion condemning Sayed. This is Hamid Karzais ‘free’ Afghanistan. Newspapers have also been threatened with prosecution if they protest. The Independent has launched a petition requesting Hamid Karzai to pardon Sayed. You can help by signing the petition here-

    http://www.independent.co.uk/petition

  • 53. Brad  |  January 31, 2008 at 9:46 am

    HIS,

    Hehe, I normally suppress my use of “dude,” but considering the topic at hand and my common frustration, I think the emphatic use of the word was very appropriate. :-)

    “That article that I wrote several months ago could easily have been written by me even as a believing Christian, because the anxiety caused by the intamacy we were required to feel with Jesus was very real.”

    Man, do I hear you… It really wasn’t far off from something I would have written either. You hit a chord ridiculously common among Christian men, much less ex-Christian men like yourself. Would you mind if I used your article on our blog (with all due credit of course)? It’s an absolutely perfect example of what I was writing about… God Bless ya, brother…

    Peace.

  • 54. TheNorEaster  |  January 31, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Sailing:

    “Contemporary Christianity, especially in America, is sick of the old “churchy” way of doing things – that is, to say, the dreaded “organized religion.” So instead they have created and, dare I say, emboldened a new sort of spirituality (simply look at the first response to this article).”

    How would you define “spirituality”? I am trying to find my own definition and I would really like to learn as much as I can about how others define the term.

  • 55. lostgirlfound  |  January 31, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Wow … thanks for the comments and suggestions, folks! Tristan, yours was especially encouraging for my soul, and HIS (Dude – that’s freakin’ funny) … always good to hear from you. I think, in “real” life you and your wife would be our friends … maybe even sharing some “baloots” (sic). Sorry for those of you who are not familar with McClaren. And, please don’t think I am a “devotee” of any one man. I just enjoy his writing, and the way he tends to “shake up” mainline thought patterns. That’s all … for now.

  • 56. samanthamj  |  February 1, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Nice post lostgirlfound, and feedback from everyone. Thanks. I guess I was lucky – and made a clean break from church many years ago. I still have lots of family and friends that are Christians, but all of them know me well enough to know I don’t go… and we manage to all get along anyway (for the most part, anyway). All I can do is what I feel is “right”, and often, that makes our two worlds overlap. When that happens, I think it always amazes my Christian friends for some reason and makes them want to believe that I’m a believer after all…
    ~smj

  • 57. HeIsSailing  |  February 1, 2008 at 10:25 am

    lostgirlfound reveals her taste in the disgusting:
    “maybe even sharing some “baloots” (sic)”

    No thank you. I will eat any and all sorts of bizarre asain food, but you can keep your “baloots”. That is a line I dare not cross. sic indeed.

  • 58. lostgirlfound  |  February 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    HIS — should we tell them what “baloots” is? No, you’re right — too “sic”. Interesting, too … my husband and I, both from fairly sheltered midwest backgrounds, saw our first limb-less begger in Juarez years ago … it was the first time children ran up to us, asking for money. To this day, it tugs at my heart and makes me a sucker for people in need on the street. Regardless of if they’re “for real” or not, I always empty my pockets …

  • 59. Hugo  |  February 5, 2008 at 11:14 am

    lostgirlfound, can I contact you somehow? I’d like to suggest a book, or even send it to you. I share your like for McLaren. I also fail to “walk away”, I have too many friends and family members stuck in fundamentalism.

    This morning I met Ron Martoia, I think he has a book you’d like. “Static”. I’m basing this on a “sermon” of his I listened to, and his talk this morning: I have yet to read the book, but he says what he said this morning and on Sunday comes from the book. (Asked for book recommendations, he suggested McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy” above his own books…)

    I’m keeping an eye on what you discover, methinks we’re on the same mission. Best of luck with your endeavours.

  • 60. lostgirlfound  |  February 6, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Hugo … I have heard Martoia speak many times, and read a couple of his books. Haven’t heard from him in a while, though. “Generous Orthodoxy” is one of the catalysis for my entire de-con journey … actually, it was the proverbial slap in the face that made me realize I don’t have “all the answers,” and no one else who calls themselves Christians really does, either. (to be fair, “… or anyone else who deems themselves spiritual superior to everyone else …”). I think my email is on my lostgirl site. If not, leave me a comment there, and I’ll get it to you.

  • 61. prairienymph  |  July 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Spong was my gateway drug out of biblical inerrancy. It was because he called himself a bible-loving Christian that I had the courage to read any of his books. Do you think he is a double agent :)

    One thing I am interested in is revival. There have been many self-reported cases of revival bringing about positive social change. I’m thinking of the Transformations video series about how revivals brought positive change in whole town and cities), Bruchko, the Auca/Waurani, revivals in South Africa lead by Angus Buchan, and even certain native tribes in Western Canada that credit Christianity with social improvement. I’ve been in India and witnessed how Christians treat the outcasts, tribals, lepers, orphans and widows so much better than many of their Hindu counterparts.

    Is there anything outside of Christian revival that has the same results as bringing together warring factions of people, and causing people to spend much of their lives helping the poor and unfortunate? Individually I’m sure there are many examples, but corporately?

    Isn’t the example of a changed life point to something?

  • 62. Quester  |  July 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Isn’t the example of a changed life point to something?

    Yes, but what? Is it something within or outside of human nature? Is it always the same something, or could it be many different somethings, depending on the circumstances? If Christendom wasn’t spread by empires, would something else have filled the same role?

    Is there anything outside of Christendom that has the same results as inspiring factions to destroy the other, and causing people to spend much of their lives fearing and hating the different and the unknown? Individually, there are many examples, but corporately, over the span of history? And does this really say anything about Christendom, or just about people?

  • 63. Anonymous  |  July 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    “Is there anything outside of Christendom that has the same results as inspiring factions to destroy the other, and causing people to spend much of their lives fearing and hating the unknown?”

    Yes. It is called Communism. Particularly the Chinese and Russian varieties.

  • 64. Quester  |  July 7, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Really? Interesting. I’m unfamiliar with Communism, particularly how it might be practised in China or Russia. It never really interested me. How many factions does Communism have? Are there even a tenth as many as there are Christian denominations? Has Communism as a concept lasted even a tenth as long as Christendom?

    All I know about Communism sounds much like the Christian church of the first century: no class distinctions, property owned in common, collective society making decisions for the common good, et cetera. It sounds like the Christian ideal.

  • 65. Sarah  |  July 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

    That is the catch: all of our ideals fall short in reality. I’ve heard it said so many times that any style of government would be perfect if people were. Communism would be wonderful if people didn’t take advantage of its weaknesses. Same with capitalism. Communitarianism sounds a lot more interesting than libertarianism, but neither would produce utopia because people hurt still hurt each other and the rest of the world.

    I’d say our tendency to group off into tribes (us vs them instead of I-thou) is at the root of religious differences.

    But, revivals have claimed to overcome these differences, not on at an individual level, but on a community basis. I’ve only ever heard of Christian revivals though. Has anyone experienced a non-Christian ‘revival’? Would banding together to cheer for the same soccer team produce them same results?

  • 66. Quester  |  July 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I’ve never experienced a revival, Christian or not, that brought together all people, including people outside of the reviving group, together to join forces for good. What Christian revival have you heard of that was willing to work with non-Christians or Christians of “insufficiently orthodox” denominations in order to build community or help the poor? Your example of native tribes in Western Canada particularly interests me, in the light that one Anglican diocese in British Columbia went bankrupt due to court costs from being sued by Native Canadians who were forced by Christians into residential schools, and another in Saskatchewan almost followed it. Christianity brought what can be seen as social improvement to native tribes in Canada, but did so by breaking up their families and trying to destroy their language and culture. I see a difference between bringing together warring factions, and trying to destroy anyone who disagrees.

  • 67. Sarah  |  July 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    The reference to the Native tribes in BC came from a conversation I had with a masters student on the bus. She was not a christian and was fascinated with how certain tribes credited christianity with positive changes. I may have misunderstood her- I did not do any independent research. There was no mention of residential schools. I don’t think anyone could call them good.

    I grew up on stories of revival. Our church came from a denounced pentecostal revival. Orphanages mostly were given as examples of community coming together. The orphanage I helped out in India was a joint venture between our group, some Catholics, Anglicans and occasionally- Hindus. That may have been more from the fact that it is a good thing to support orphans rather than the Holy Spirit?

    Perhaps the stories from Angus Buchan and South Africa have more to do with giving people a different ‘tribe’ so they stop fighting each other and come together to fight something else?

  • 68. Quester  |  July 8, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, Sarah, I have spoken with people grateful for their times as students in residential schools, glad for the opportunities to learn many things, not least of which (from their perspective) was the story of Christianity. They felt that their lives, and the lives of their children, benefited from the experience. I’ve also spoken with people who taught at residential schools, and heard of their heartache as the children they loved as their own grew up to speak of the horrors of the residential school system. I’ve heard from past students who had been physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused in the schools. There’s rarely only one story, let alone one side of the story.

    Let’s take Angus Buchan as another example of that. I did not grow up on stories of revival. I had to do some research to find out who Buchan is. One one hand, he is a faithful man of God, running an orphanage on his own property, and leading people in reportedly successful prayers for rain, crops and prosperity. On the other, he is apparently a man who preaches to tens of thousands of people at a time. All of them male. Almost all of them white. The vast majority of them Afrikaner. With the end of apartheid, it is much harder for these men to get and keep the well-paying jobs they once could take for granted. Thanks to new employment equity laws, they could end up competing for jobs with their own wives. It’s a rather drastic turnabout of affairs. And Buchan preaches to them at Mighty Men conferences, telling them that the way to fix the country is to take their proper place in their own families- the position of prophet, priest and king- earning bread for the table, cherishing and protecting their wives and disciplining their children. He preaches biblically supported roles for men and women, and the disempowered men come out in droves to hear him. An estimated 3,000 white farmers have been murdered since the end of apatheid, and Buchan preaches to the survivors that their masculinity might be restored.

    As for communities coming together, it happens more often than one might think, especially if there is a sudden disaster that simple actions now might appreciably affect.

  • 69. prairienymph  |  July 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    That is true. I love the instant community formed during a snowstorm when everyone gets stuck.
    My husband actually told me not to read parts of Buchan’s writing where he talks about gender roles :)

    Revival is really more my husband’s issue than mine. I’ve seen the divisions that revival can bring right in my own family. But most people talk about it as if it was the best part of their life and they wish they could stay there.

  • 70. Quester  |  July 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    I’ve had wonderful experiences with people pulling over with cell phones, shovels and/or tow ropes while I was stuck in a snowbank (gotta love winter driving in the Canadian prairies).

    I’ve also had wonderful experiences in Christian rally groups and charismatic events.

    Again, I’ve watched people drive on winter roads in ways likely to kill or seriously injure others, and people act in “spiritual” contexts in ways prone to manipulate, belittle, and take advantage of others.

    People is people: more gracious than any angel could dream of; more destructive than any devil could aspire to. And that’s sometimes the same individual, one moment to the next.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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