We do a good job of muddying the waters of Christianity. We seem to complicate things that don’t need to be complicated.
I’ve been following a trend lately and trying to figure out what I think about it. I noticed on twitter women speaking about things they have heard while in church (#thingsonlychristianwomenhear), most of which seemed to be anger at not being able to pastor or lead in a church setting. There is also the “submission” topic in marriage too. Then there is the Jen Hatmaker incident. She wrote a Good Friday post about it:
This year, I deeply experienced being on the wrong side of religion, and it was soul-crushing. I suffered the rejection, the fury, the distancing, the punishment, and sometimes worst of all, the silence. I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us. I felt the cold winds of disapproval and the devastating sting of gossip.
I see a trend that I don’t really like though. It’s some sort of power struggle which pits men against women. It demands rights for women to preach and teach, but stomps on men who do. Men and women have the gloves on, going head to head with one another. Men bloggers like Matt Walsh take their stance on women, and women like Sarah Bessey come out in droves to fight back. And rightly so. Most of what men leaders say is total BS. But I still find it all ugly.
These tweets and blogs remind me of why I have shaken off the church. Not just because of things said to me. Not because at one point I was hurt. I feel I’m past all that really. Yes, it still rises up sometimes when I’m triggered, but the main reason I stay away from the institutional church system (IC) is because I don’t like the idea of it at all. I don’t like what it produces. All these things point to what the church is doing, what it will always do, and how people tend to react to it in order to stay there. Jen Hatmaker was on the “wrong side of religion” but religion has only one side: evil veiled as goodness.
I told my husband the other day that I no longer read books by famous authors, listen to celebrity pastors and their sermons, or keep up with well-to-do churches or their members. He said “Well, they aren’t all bad or all good”. He’s right there is truth in what most preach and teach. They aren’t all bad or all good. Yet, I don’t want to weed through their sermons to find the tidbit of truth. I’d rather go directly to the Bible and see what God says for Himself. If I have questions, I know God can lead me to places where I will find those answers. If not, I know the mystery isn’t mine to know.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
It’s a simple faith I try to lead. And sometimes I do feel lost in it. The quietness of my faith can sometimes resemble the feeling that something is missing. It can sometimes feel void of conflict. It can feel drama-free. But I think that is the point.
I’m not saying my life has no drama and I don’t deal with conflict. I certainly do. But what is missing is the added drama. This clawing to the top, this vying for a role in the church. Who needs it? Just go out and be the church. I don’t have to ask permission to show love and kindness to someone, to speak about Christ to someone, to be a light to someone. But in the church, there will always be that power struggle. Systems are made for someone to control it.
Jen Hatmaker’s words are words I can understand, even if I don’t agree with her in other ways:
This year I became painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine. I saw with clear eyes the systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection that poison the simple, beautiful body of Christ….My mind knows the difference between the Christian Machine and Jesus, but this year it feels hard to separate. The whole system seems poisoned, and I struggle to drink any of it.
And so the ones rejected and spit out by the church will be hurt because they didn’t follow the rules exactly, but expected to be treated like they did. What they really want is for people to tow the line and regurgitate niceties and scripted language. They want polish. They don’t want questions. They don’t embrace doubts.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
I guess all I really know is that when you allow Jesus to be your King, not other people, you let Him guide you into truth. We battle against others when our fight should be in ourselves. It’s one reason I dislike social media. It’s much too easy to wage war online. I think my time is better spent pursuing peace with those who need it. There are some who have no interest in thinking, only spewing their rhetoric, and for me, that’s not what God made me for.
It’s easy to get sucked into what the church is doing. I’m not saying to ignore it or not bring light to it. I’m just saying I don’t want to be defined by it. “She hates the church” shouldn’t be what people know of me. “She loves Jesus” should be. And while I have no plans to step back into a church building experience, I do love the church — the real church that embraces others in love, speaks the truth in kindness, and shows mercy to the weak. This is not something that requires a systematic approach and a building. It requires a heart that loves Jesus and longs to be like Him.
There’s nothing complicated about that.