You’re Absolutely Right

“You know, you’re absolutely right,” says the Christian, in response to my message. “We should be acting that way, the way you say; but we’re not. I realize that the church is broken and sinful; that’s why I pray each day that God will help me be full of the precious passionate peace that passes all perception…”

Dear Christians, it isn’t good enough.

It isn’t good enough, when someone points out hypocrisy, to say “you’re absolutely right, something is wrong, and I pray that the Lord will help us fix it.”

At some point, you need to admit that it isn’t fixed. It’s never been fixed. It’s never going to be fixed. There is no evidence that it even can be “fixed.” You want to tell me that Christianity makes this particular kind of difference in people. When I look at the church, and I mainly see weird personality quirks, a sheltered subculture, and similar hierarchical quibbling as exists in society, you want me to ignore it.

Presumably, you want me to ignore this because the true faith points to something better than this. But this is just lip-service. I’m looking for whether something is actually different; whether what you’re saying and preaching actually works. It means nothing to me that “it’s supposed to work,” or that “one day it will work,” or that “we wish it worked.” It means nothing that you can dream up a scenario in which everyone is acting in such and such a way. The fact is that it doesn’t quite work, in quite that way that you think it does.

That’s what matters.

To me, at any rate.

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4 Responses to “You’re Absolutely Right”

  1. Ben Mordecai Says:

    I have mixed feelings about this one, because I really do see lots of Christians who do the things that are befitting of Christians to do. For example, just Google “food pantry” and see how many of them are Christian. We have adoption agencies, homeless ministries, halfway houses, and lots of programs that do exist for social good.

    But I also know what this Christian means, because fundamentally a Christian person is someone who has been forgiven of their sins, and therefore see their need of forgiveness clearly and know that they really haven’t arrived.

    Of course, there are also Christians out there who seem to do none of this. To these, other Christians have the duty of re-preaching the gospel to them so that they can realize that a lack of love towards the needy is a lack of love towards Jesus, and when a savior gave everything for you out of love, you ought to love him and walk in a way consistent with the reality.

  2. Here, I am making a judgement about the whole state of affairs. I admit that there are some Christians doing very good and consistent things. There are also other people doing them. But it is not just about deeds–it’s also about having wrong facts, wrong attitudes, wrong understanding.

    If you pin down the Christian next door, he or she often admits (with little prodding) that the church in the world “needs to be fixed,” or is in a state much different from how it ought to be. Since they so often admit this, I’m taking it as a given.

    The question is, why is that OK? The implication always seems to be that it’s good enough just to aspire to something–it doesn’t actually have to happen. However, it seems to me that if the doctrines were true, it would happen in a way that it doesn’t happen.

    • Ben Mordecai Says:

      When it comes to being wrong, I don’t think you can single out Christians as being any more wrong than any other group. Are there some crappy churches out there? Definitely. But they aren’t all that way. Mine is awesome and I could vouch for tons of other great churches out there.

      But to follow out your train of thought, (Why does aspiring to something great count for anything even if it never happens), well it doesn’t count for a whole lot. If you value or enjoy something, you do it. No one has to get their arm twisted to watch their favorite teams on TV. Even people who have trouble finding time for their families often manage to watch 3 hour sporting events.

      So if we do really value something, we find a way to do it. My hope is that people who have been transformed by the gospel would value the things that God values.

      But I do think you’re missing something in saying “if the doctrines were true, it would happen in a way that it doesn’t happen.”

      We have to ask the question, Which doctrines? There are a lot of people who would call themselves Christians that would not confess basic orthodox beliefs if you pressed them on it, like the Trinity, the virgin birth, creation, the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation, etc. I don’t expect that people who don’t understand basic Christian doctrine would live in accordance with it.

      Hope all is well with you,

      Ben

  3. In order to make this more objective, let’s zoom out for a moment and look at the church as a whole. The argument is that God wouldn’t let “the church” just be this way, if this was really his representation of his will, on earth. Observations include:

    1) Church people can be good, but they are seldom “that different” from people you can find elsewhere. And the ways in which they *could* be that different are not expressed remotely as often as one would expect, if all the difference were being made.

    2) The church is wrong about too many things too often. If the Holy Spirit is guiding the church, you should be able to be an honest “seeker” and walk into a church expecting that God will provide you with–at the very least–things that aren’t completely factually wrong. You wouldn’t expect to go into God’s house and ask for guidance, then get told you have to believe X (where X is say, creationism) or else not be a Christian.

    Observation indicates that the church really is unguided, and that nobody is keeping an eye on it. They are permitted to go off in whatever crazy direction they please, and people who walk in will be exposed to the craziness, without ever getting a spiritual nudge that “this wasn’t the real deal; try that again.” I think anyone who tries to downplay the craziness belongs to a less crazy congregation and has not visited all the other churches to see how crazy they are.

    I don’t hate the church and its hypocrites as much as a lot of, say, Internet Atheists probably do. But I do see that they are essentially fulfilling their needs for community, love, and so forth, in a way that society just wishes it had. We competed for mates in different ways (and shamed people who admitted that they are competing at all), compared ourselves to each other in our spiritual “successes,” and broke into cliques–we basically did all the normal societal stuff.

    Today when I look at it, there’s nothing about it that makes me think, even for a moment, that it’s being externally watched over or guided–that it’s a heaven-sent operation, or a blessed operation, or anything like that.

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