Photo credit Kevin Jarrett
“I was hurt by the church,” she said.
“Happens to me a couple times a week,” I replied.
Just kidding. I wouldn’t mock a painful experience. And I’m not talking about abuse. I have zero tolerance for abuse in the church and certainly agree leaders should be held to the highest standards. Naively, like many others I’ve talked to over the years, she experienced something in the church she did not expect: human nature.
Someone says, “Yes, but it’s CHURCH!”
“Your point being?” I ask.
“People are supposed to behave there.”
“People are supposed to behave everywhere.” I explain.
Churches have no QR scanner at the door to screen-out imperfect people. If there were, then who could get in? So, I like how some people persevere in the mess of creating community rather than the way others don’t.
Friendship or family, business or church—they all stay healthy and thrive only when people hang in there and learn to respond well to human nature.
Know what you are questioning
Some criticisms are legitimate. Every local church has a batting average when it comes to balancing grace and truth. But other complaints come from provocateurs looking for an easy target– a scapegoat for the general pain and suffering of life. People who take a swing at the church are usually hoping to hit God.
Some of them lose their will to fight. “I tried that religion thing but it didn’t work for me.” Or, “I don’t believe in God.” When I’m quick on my feet I ask, “What kind of God don’t you believe in? Maybe I don’t either.”
If anyone wants to spurn “organized religion” (a dismissive term), I’d like them at least to be clear about what they’re rejecting. Straw-man beliefs are easy to knock down. Below you’ll find some of those—a whole cartoon version of Christianity. It’s a bit of satire from Dorothy Sayers, a good friend of C.S. Lewis. She lived and wrote several generations ago when attitudes were…about the same. Remember now, it’s a parody….
Q. How does the Church think of God the Father?
A. He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible to fulfill; He is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He likes to be truckled to and is always ready to pounce on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the Law, or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary.
Q. What does the Church think of God the Son?
A. He is in some way to be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. It was not His fault that the world was made like this, and, unlike God the Father, He is friendly to man and did His best to reconcile man to God (see Atonement). He has a good deal of influence with God, and if you want anything done, it is best to apply to Him.
Q. Who is God the Holy Ghost?
A. I don’t know exactly. He was never seen or heard of till Pentecost Sunday. There is a sin against Him which damns you for ever, but nobody knows what it is …
Q. How does the Church think of sex?
A. God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties are (a) married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.
Q. What does the Church call Sin?
A. Sex (otherwise than as excepted above); getting drunk; saying ‘damn’; murder, and cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. ‘Original sin’ means that anything we enjoy doing is wrong.
Q. What is faith?
A. Resolutely shutting your eyes to scientific fact.
Q. The human intellect is what?
A. A barrier to faith …
Q. Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?
A. No fear!
So what is the one thing I’ve learned about human nature? Expected it from humans, of which I am one.