I trust God but I have my doubts about the North American Church.
Worse still, its response to my lack of faith in the institution troubles me. The reflex is to protect the institution and not the sheep.
It is not that church leaders and lay people are not aware of what is happening. They know that sex abuse scandals, financial mishandling, power struggles and partisan politics are not only a part of the church’s history but also a present reality.
It is that Christian disciples, “new creatures in Christ Jesus,” are unable or unwilling to change, to challenge the systems of belief that enable these discrepancies, to practice a discipleship that includes prophetic truth-telling and justice, confession and accountability.
What is the point of baptism if we simply rinse and repeat?
“Only Jesus is perfect.” Then why use his name when other people fall short of it? Why raise a standard if we are only going to lower the bar so that our family and friends can climb over it?
Justice is not to be rationed out and grace is not case specific.
Some say, “Go to church. Read your Bible,” as if my concerns are evidence of a lack of faith. Instead, that combination, that two-step process caused me to take a step back and see that Jesus and his church are not going in the same direction. Full stop.
Because Jesus didn’t say, “Upon this rock, I will build my bigoted, capitalistic, colonizing, misogynistic, patriarchal, partisan, racialized 501(c)3 organization.”
So, I just want to stop the church services until we have a long talk with Jesus. I think that we could all benefit from sitting at his feet.
Because I have questions about the silencing and invisibility of women, about race and segregated Sundays, about God’s sovereignty and white supremacy, about gender and sexuality, about God’s unconditional love and welcoming the refugee, the immigrant and the stranger.
But the answer is not hiding behind scripture or in the faith that was handed down to me. The North American church cannot claim that it has the answers if its members won’t “practice what you preach.”
Consequently, I am looking for the exit doors. Because where the church is headed with its hatreds, its hypocrisies, its hubris has a younger generation scratching its head.
What are we supposed to believe? Are we supposed to listen to tradition or to what Jesus said?
We, girls, were warned about boys who wanted to look under our dresses: “Keep your dresses down and your legs crossed at the ankles.” Church leaders told all of us to watch out for the devil, who was prowling around and out to get us most often to do drugs or to have sex.
These were the greatest temptations for us teenagers. They told us to be vigilant in a world that sought to take our virginity, our sober minds, our faith away from us.
Life outside of our church doors was dangerous. Big Bible in hand, they could protect us. It would be safer, and life would be easier, if we stayed in church.
Come to church and wait for Jesus’ return because there was nothing good out there. “Keep watch,” “stay vigilant,” “be on guard,” deacons, preachers, teachers, revivalists told us. So, I went to church and to almost every service that they offered, including choir rehearsal.
Losing faith. It was one of the greatest fears impressed upon me as a young believer in Jesus. It was called “backsliding” or returning to your old nature, your sinful ways.
Instead, you wanted to stay close to Jesus, to follow him all the way. The world was the enemy. It was out to get me, my purity, my holiness, which is why I needed to “walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
But it really wasn’t the world that I needed to worry about. Because you can lose your faith in church. You can lose your faith in Jesus at the 11 a.m. service.
In fact, I have friends who have left the church under the cover of COVID-19. Some have stopped believing altogether while others are at home deconstructing a faith they take seriously.
The latter really want to be born again, and so we question anything that sounds like more of the same, that lacks accountability and only knows how to shift blame. We want to do this bodywork but, increasingly, it seems like we won’t be able to do it at church.
Making room for the inquisitive, the curious, the rejected, the faithless has made room for people like me, who have their doubts but still believe.