Friday, December 20, 2013

Hating the Church; Finding the Church

Why do even Christians disdain and reject the church? For one thing, it is hard to esteem what our society consistently castigates or just ignores. In Prodigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media, Marvin Olasky writes:

  • A 1986 study by New York University Professor Paul Vitz found that the vast majority of elementary and high school textbooks go to great lengths to avoid reference to religion. Vitz found American history textbooks defining pilgrims as “people who make long trips” and fundamentalists as rural people who “follow the values and traditions of an earlier period.” One textbook listed three hundred important events in American history, but only three of the three hundred had anything to do with religion. A world history textbook left out any mention of the Protestant Reformation. A literature textbook changed a sentence by Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer from “Thank God” to “Thank goodness.” (3)

And the bias has become far worse since 1986. However, there are other reasons for our disdain for the church. Sometimes, it’s a matter of our self-centered expectations. Ted Kluck bravely confesses:

  • After I co-wrote Why We Love the Church, I embarked on a few of the most challenging and church-hating years of my life. The reasons were myriad, but can be condensed to two: I was jealous of my pastor’s success, and we couldn’t get pregnant but were in a church that we not-so-affectionately labeled “the fertile crescent.” At that moment I wished I “had no religion” and wished I could “love Jesus but not the church.”

We tend to think too highly of ourselves and expect too much from others by way of them stroking our demanding egos. However, the facing the ugliness within can be unbearable. It sometimes takes years for the Spirit to cut through our layers of denial and rationalizations – “The church is at fault, not me!” – before we can see what is truly at stake. And this is made even worse by a culture that willingly reaffirms our assessment – “It’s the fault of the church.”

It is inevitably painful to confront the real me. It requires being stripped of our “protective” covering. It’s like being skinned alive. However Kluck was brought to a more unbiased assessment through this painful “surgery”:

  • The church is the best place to meet God authentically, and ironically we meet Him through imperfect people who are created in His image and who are called to meet together. I’ve seen Him work. He’s shown me my sin and led me to the cross – the only place where I have any comfort or hope in this life or the next. I’ve seen amazing grace in the church. It helped save a wrench like me. (CRJ, Vol. 36, Number 5, 61)

Loving the church requires heroism – facing the truth about ourselves - and seeing how our Lord addresses our brokenness through His church.

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