I saw a quote from the author Anne Rice. It stated: “In this country, Christians can teach toddlers to hate and to persecute, and we, through the automatic tax exemption for churches, foot the bill.” I’m not too clear on the economics of this argument, or what she deems the more serious issue (the hate or the money). What struck me is how many now view the church.
The light of the world has clearly dimmed. The tall white steeples that were once the pinnacle of spiritual ideals have fallen. The fire and brimstone from the pulpits are being rocketed back into the church. And it’s backed by centuries of evidence, and a growing and very public discontent.
People see the Christian church as judgmental, arrogant, intolerant. Its music, its beliefs, its practices, its entire foundations are all under fire.
Why is this happening?
The obvious answer is that The Church has drifted off course. The Good News brought and taught by Jesus is no longer front and center. Jesus illustrates what the light of the world is and is not with the Sermon On The Mount. To put it succinctly, The Church has become Pharisaical – For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Much of Christian teaching misses what Jesus taught about the kingdom. As scholars repeatedly note, there is very little understanding of Jesus or his teachings without a grasp of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t come to create the Christian Church. He was thinking a little bigger. He came to create God’s Empire. Is the Christian Church a part of this, of course. But it doesn’t stop, nor is it contained there.
Moreover, there is a lot of Christian teaching that basically says this: hurry up and wait. In other words, it’s a hyper-focus on “saving” people now, but then telling them to wait for the kingdom of heaven until they die. Say what? Living and growing in the kingdom of God is a now thing. Will things happen later, sure. But we’re to live and experience a relationship with God now. That’s the fun part!
The growing discontent is important. It’s a flag. A big one! It’s an opportunity for Christians to reexamine what their teacher has to say. The discontent also screams to the human desire to be free – free from judgment, scorn, feeling less than – quite similar to the things that Jesus actually taught.
People with a God mind-set are cool. They’re gentle, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and loving – they’re quite different from the norm. They stand out. They’re a light. People with a Church mind-set are irritating. They stand out too, but it’s usually ugly and distorted – although they do help us practice patience.
Jesus opened up the heavens to everyone who wanted in. The Church constructed a big gate. Ignore the gate.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson