Sinking Sand

Under no circumstances should practices and traditions of our faith/religion be accepted without question, reasoning, or a critical eye. Recently, I’ve discovered there are a good many individuals who are more comfortable simply accepting what they’ve been fed their entire lives, instead of taking the time to question and analyze. Trust isn’t what it used to be, friend. If our faith is true, then it must be the most important element of our lives and subject to every scrutiny, question, and analysis. If truth is to be found within the practices, they ought to be able to withstand every such question, no matter what form it is asked; throwing the baby out with the bath simply because a question is asked in a comedic manner is absolute injustice to our responsibility, as those who claim to follow Christ, to make an intelligent and articulated stand for the faith.

Recently, I posted a video on my Facebook profile, showing a large group of people “slain in the spirit” and I have a very difficult time accepting this to be a movement of God. “How can you say it’s not God?” was a question I received. How can you say it is? More importantly, I would much rather make a statement, based off of logic, reasoning, and familiarity with reality, that proclaims an act is probably not God, than to stand and proclaim it is. I am completely open to being corrected, as I don’t mind being wrong if it’s part of the path to being correct. However, to triumphantly stand upon a rock and claim you are a harbinger and voice for the almighty, proudly proclaiming His words, you are in a very difficult position if it turns out your words were nothing more than lies. I do not envy you.

The American church has failed. there, I said it. With over 33,000 denominations of Christianity, and over 300,000 churches in America, why are we not seeing any change? To put this into perspective, there are only 13,500 McDonalds in the United States. They do a better job of killing us with only 13,500 locations than the Christian church does changing lives with 300,000. When I say “change” I mean real, earth-shattering change as proudly proclaimed by the speakers at youth conferences who have told us for decades that THIS would be the generation to change the world. The world is not changing, nor does it want to.

I’ve grown up with altar calls, tearful sessions spent confessing what I was taught to be sins, hours spent in repetitious ‘praise and worship’ sessions, and countless hours spent listening to sermons, bible studies, and tear-streaked preachers begging for money to continue their missions. Perhaps I am a critic, hardened by the endless years of church experience, who lacks the ability to look at faith in the proper lens. If this is the case, I will happily apologize to God when I stand before Him and accept my just punishment for being a skeptic of American Church culture.

As somebody who teaches a weekly bible study, I would like you to not throw this baby out with the bath, nor think that I am doing so. It was not until this year that our bible study began to critically look at what it means to live what we claim to follow, while also taking a look at God that eliminated religious structure from our pursuit of Him; looking at attributes and characteristics of the Creator, without being bogged down by petty doctrine, religious ritual, or frivolous debate. Make the most out of what you’ve been given, love others as you love yourself, and devote your heart, mind, soul, and strength to loving God. This is what Christ preached. This is what I have taught, not because I “felt led” to teach on this subject, but because it’s what He taught.

I have grown tired of the Christianity that preaches feelgood mentality. “I really felt the Holy Spirit” “I feel led” “We feel this is Gods will”. And so on and so forth. When did Christ make a decision because of how He felt? You will recall, as He was praying before being executed, that if it please the Father, that the cup of execution be passed from His hands. The church has taught to deny the part of us that feels good, in light of pursuing what God says. For example, it feels good to be aroused by a woman, and so we are told to deny this part of our life until we reach the sacred realm of marriage, thus making every woman-driven arousal to be a consequence of sin, rather than a natural reaction that men are designed to have. We are taught denial of anger; “turn the other cheek” in all situations, thus making us neutered individuals who have no spine to stand up for ourselves. The child gets pushed into the trashcan and, bless his Jesus-loving spirit, turns the other cheek to the bully.

I say this is absolute nonsense, and contradictory to the beliefs and practices that are taught in the modern day christian church. I’ll explain why.

Recently, there was a merger between churches in Columbus that did not go through. The story is this: a church that had existed for over 90 years was reaching a point where the members were beginning to stifle and kill the churches potential for newer, younger growth and members. Rather than growing with the time and changes in our culture, they continued to hold onto their own, and it cost them dearly. As this church was dwindling in members, financials began to hurt, and a well-needed shot of life was going to be necessary for the church to sustain itself. Enter in H****** church, a fast-growing church plant that has a reputation for bringing vibrancy (taking over) into churches. When put to a vote, after several weeks of careful/prayerful deliberation, the merger was rejected. Here are the facts:

– The new church would receive all assets, property, and financial responsibility for the existing church. This included a piece of real estate worth well over $2,000,000.00, a residential house worth $119,000 – but paid for with $155,000.

– The current board of elders on the church, overworked, overstressed, and frustrated with years of dealing with the churches problems, would no longer have any responsibility, as the new church leadership would be in charge of everything.

– The current pastor of the existing church would drop down in responsibility to a ‘small group’ pastor, rather than the main pastor.

My personal opinion, without any regard to the obvious decrease in responsibility of the existing church staff and board of elders, is that this is a poor business choice; an organization would receive, free of charge, full ownership of a $2.0M property they didn’t pay a cent for, with complete ability to, without warning, sell the property, cash in on a sizable amount of money, and walk away from the rubble.

However, this is what I’m getting at…

Every person that would be a beneficiary of this deal was in complete favor and “felt” the “will of God” that it should go through. The current pastors would be rebranded as H***** staff; a cool upgrade when you are currently pastor of a dying church with complete lack of job security, the board of elders would no longer have to spend hours every week toiling over the difficulties of the church, and the new church would receive a free building and location to do whatever they pleased with, without having to pay a cent. Sweet deal.

Those opposed to this move also spent considerable time praying and pondering if it were the right thing to do. Clearly, the decision was not passed. And the current church pastors have stated “Disobedience” “sabotage” and “manipulation” as reasons for it not passing, with harsh reprimands of consequences, similar to the children of Israel, for not “allowing Gods will to pass”. One of these pastors boldly stated his contempt of the situation by saying “the congregation has to trust that we, as staff, are able to hear Gods voice better than they are. That’s why we are in staff. It’s like comparing kids to adults in terms of hearing Gods voice.”

Really?

I’ll conclude — and would encourage you to also do the same.

One must learn to separate feeling from fact. As somebody who personally has a hard time seeing reason in the midst of situations where I want something, I have seen the consequences of having my head up my posterior.

Objective thought, critical analysis, logical reasoning, and academic study are completely reasonable methods and standards we need to hold our method of faith up to. There are some things that defy all of the above, such as miraculous healing and walking on water. However, when it comes to ‘holy spirit’ filled sessions, improper indoctrination of children, and unhealthy living choices; faith instead of work for provision, for example, we cannot sweep everything under the rug.

As somebody that was raised in a household where faith replaced hard work, best effort replaced results, and prayer utilized as a replacement for critical thought/decision-making abilities, I have seen the harmful effects of charismatic beliefs being utilized as a direct replacement for living in reality.

It’s time to wake up.

Comments
  • Difficult questions, to be sure. Reason and logic are powerful tools, but there is also something to be said for simplistic faith and obedience.

    For instance..

    The things written in the Bible by people such as Paul are supposed to be analyzed and tested, but how are we to react to the written words of Jesus? Should those be tested, or treated as absolute truth?

    Then we also have the problem of relative reality. The fact that you feel 100% certain of one thing does not discount the beliefs of another. Of course you can’t both be right, but even countless hours of study and prayer might very well lead to an even firmer commitment by both parties.

    Even more, we have the problem of discord and strife within the church. Topics such as these are extremely unpopular. Some people might see that and wonder “Hey, why don’t we ever talk about this in Bible Study?!”. Perhaps the simple answer is that it usually leads to division rather than a solidified Christian belief. Two years ago, I would have been the first to jump in and say that all things are meant to be analyzed, studied and tested, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps, in certain areas, ignorance and tolerance really are the most beneficial perspectives. I agree that the church is largely ineffective, but I will also admit that I am pretty unaware with the state of the church on a global scale.

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