It’s all broken.
This religion we have, this spirituality, this relationship. It’s a mess. It’s broken, shattered into a million pieces that we are scrambling to make sense of. It’s fractured by suffering, by doubt filled hope, by questions with no real answers. It’s broken by despicable actions of other people, people claiming to be sisters and brothers in Christ. Doctrine gets twisted and creates more outcasts than it welcomes. It’s abuse, scandal, manipulation, and corrupt power that shatters this thing we call our faith.
This thing we call Christianity is broken. Some would say it’s broken to its core. You can’t really look at it and tell me it’s not. Sexual abuse runs rampant among “leaders”. Women are demoted to some sort of second class kingdom citizen. LGBTQ people are often told flat out that they cannot even be considered Christian simply because of their natural born sexual orientation and sexual identity. Violence ensues from the pulpit and we lie to ourselves calling it love. The rich get richer off the back of well-meaning, desperate faith seekers. Under the guise of spirituality, faith healers perpetuate falsehood and peddle false hope to the sick and dying. Name it and claim it has people lying in the face of hard realities.
Christianity is fucked.
Despite all these ways Christianity is broken, people still stay. People still call themselves Christians when that word is now associated with bigotry, hate, oppression, abuse, and a host of other negative images. Why? Why do people stay? Why do we cling to the word Christian, hoping to somehow redeem it? Why are we trying so hard to remain Christian?
And what about church? Why don’t we jettison the whole thing, give up on the doctrine wars, fire the pastors, sell the buildings, and go our own way? After all, we have the Bible and the Spirit. We can have normal friendships with other believers over beers, coffee, dinners, and other normal things in our lives. Do we really need this Sunday morning ritual, this stress? Do we really need all the trappings that come with the word “Christian”?
We are holding on so hard to this identity of American Christianity and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. The whole damn thing is broken from the inside out. It’s a mess, yet we desperately grasp at this identity, not knowing what else we could possibly be.
What would happen if we gave up the fight? What if we left the word Christian for the abusers, the charlatans, the liars, the power hungry, the politicians. What if we jettisoned the term completely and went back to being called followers of the Way, disciples of Jesus. Would we keep our big budgets, our fancy church buildings, our worship music, and “Christian living” books? What if we gave it all up, abandoned the word, left behind the baggage? What if we could really say, “Christians? I’m not one of them!”
But we can’t can we? There is something about Christianity that keeps pulling at us, that we keep gravitating towards, that causes a longing in our hearts. There is something about being called “Little Christ” that compels us to try and salvage the word. That’s what Christian means: little Christ. A little image of Jesus. There is something powerful about it. We aren’t simply followers of this Jesus, we are becoming like him, conforming to his image.
Except we’re not. There is so much shit that calls itself Christian these days. There isn’t another word for it. It’s just shit. Sex scandals and child abuse. Doctrine used to make people feel deeply ashamed for their sexual orientation. Exclusion based on gender. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Cheating, lying, fraud, false teaching… these things are just par for the course in the Christian church. As a whole American Christianity is far, far, far removed from being like Christ. At least, it’s not like the Christ I know and love.
How do we redeem Christianity? How do we save the sinking church?
I don’t have an answer to those questions. I ask myself them often, though. I think about it a lot. How do we redeem this vibrant faith that we have? How do we salvage the good things of the church, of the community of God, and jettison the shit? I don’t know if there really is an answer to these questions. Maybe it’s just a journey that we have to take, something we have to figure out along the way we walk together.
I do believe Christianity is worth saving, though. It’s worth redeeming the word, the life, the faith. It’s worth the work it’s going to take to clear out the abusers, thieves, and false prophets. It’s worth the risk of judgment and ridicule from the world to still call ourselves Christians, little Christs.
Saving Christianity means something different than a simple preservation of what we have. There is some change that is necessary; evolving that needs to happen. That scares some of us, makes us fearful of somehow losing the faith of our childhood. Let me tell you something, though: our faith is in Jesus the savior not in doctrines, creeds, or even the Bible. Doctrines, creeds, and the Bible exist to help us see Jesus more clearly, to help us follow him as closely as we can, but they are not infallible or inerrant. If they aren’t helping us see Jesus, they are getting in the way.
Seeing Jesus means seeing what he cares about: the oppressed, the outcast, the orphan and the widow. He cares about the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks. He cares about those of us that have been beaten up and torn down by so-called “Christianity”. He cares about those of us that have encountered abuse, torment, and rejection from the church. His heart is for his people, those he loves. He showed us his love in the cross and displayed his power in the resurrection. He is not helpless and he will have his day of judgment. Our hearts are learning to be aligned with his.
So maybe Christianity is fucked but we are still in the mire, still redeeming it and saving it from the sinful ways it is mistreated and misused. We are the ones unfucking Christianity. There is something holy about that.
Don’t give up and don’t give in. This is holy hard work and we need every stuttering, stumbling, faithful hand we can get. You are needed. You are wanted. You are loved. This faith that has hurt you needs healing for the sake of the world that needs its story, its message, its hope, its truth. You don’t have to do it like everyone else is. Go your own way. Just walk beside us as we burn up the shit in a holy fire of redemption.
Christianity is broken but Christianity is still good.