I was sitting in my office today, chugging away at all my little HR duties, when I had my usual morning epiphany that hey! I'm married to Aaron Baer! And I texted him to say HI (just like that) and he texted back and asked if I wanted to do lunch and I'm telling you, I was as excited as a 16-year-old getting asked out on a date to go see the second Lord of the Rings movie and smuggle in Starbucks in my purse and it spills but I don't care because it was carmel apple cider and that stuff smells gooood. (This may or may not have happened to me once).
It was a lovely lunch; we finally went to this Thai place by Aaron's work that he gets to go to all the time but I've never been to. Delish yellow curry, just the right amount of spicy (I am inherently distrustful of the "spice scale" they ask you to use but this one seemed pretty accurate, but also what do I know about curry spice scales.)
We talked about some articles and blog posts I've been reading online this week, and how they've been leaving me wringing my hands and grinding my teeth and longing to crawl back in bed. Because they hurt.
I read a lot of theology blogs and other "commentary" blogs on religion. Lots of religions. And I read writers from across the spectrum - some I agree with, some I believe are misguided, etc. I do try to keep an open mind. I want to learn.
But for some reason this week (every week), everyone is out for the Church (again.)
We're "Abusive." We're "Fake." "Hypocritical." "Old-fashioned." "Judgmental." "Failing."
These are Christians saying these things. This is Relevant Magazine. This is Rachel Held Evans.
And they've been said before; last week, and last year, and ten years ago, and twenty years ago, and twenty years from now. Ya'll, it's not new to criticize the Church. If you take nothing else away from what I'm writing here, PLEASE TAKE THAT. You're writing is unreadable with how novel you think you are. It makes my stomach hurt, I'm serious.
And so in response, my heart wants to say four things:
1. The Church is not always, categorically, wrong. In fact, the Church does a lot right. (Believing in Jesus, for starters?)
2. The Church does a lot of good.
3. The Church is a human institution.
4. God asked us to be a Church.
Have you ever heard that pithy little phrase people like to spit out on College Green and stuff, where they say "I considered being a Christian until I met one."? If that's you, and you're really saying you refuse to be a Christian and/or you left the faith because you came into contact with some really terrible Christians (they probably watched the Bachelor) I have to give you some tough love here, because presumably you're better than that. This would be akin to me saying "I really thought the science of chemistry was true but then I had a super mean chemistry professor so now I think it's all a bunch of bullshit." (I do secrectly think chemistry is bullshit.) Either Jesus died and rose from the dead or not. Whether you believe that should have everything to do with whether it's true and nothing to do with the actions and/or personalities of other people who believe it. (And it's true.)
And if you're someone who does believe in Jesus, but you're really fed up with the Church, please understand it's human. I understand holding it to a higher standard because of the moral claims we make; and that's appropriate. But if you are letting human pain and relational squabbles interfere with your belief in or communion with your Father - well that just doesn't compute.It's hurting everyone. It's hurting you.
And if it makes you want to spout off, and complain, and accuse, and diagnose; for you I'm reminded of this incredibly beautiful blog post by my brilliant friend Kate. (When I texted her for her help in locating that post, I couldn't believe it was 3 years ago. That post had such a huge impact on me - it felt like yesterday I read that! 3 years in your twenties is NOT like 3 years in high school and something about that feels very sad to me; sorry for getting off topic but oh man, aging, am I right?)
That post is such a gut punch. At some point, all of us self-appointed 'commentators' need to stop considering our rage-filled "criticism" constructive and start finding the line that we're crossing. The line beyond which this becomes ugly, and angry, and too much and too often and incorrect. The line beyond which we''re starting to feel entitled to the Bible and the Church fitting US.
The last thing I have to say is that "pretty writing" doesn't make "true writing." This keeps me up at night.
You are - we are - Christ's bride. We are His people. He delights in us. We are trying. We are beautiful.
So have some grace and love and patience - even for us.