At some point in my Christian walk I started to get bitter with certain things about Christianity. I’m really not sure where it all came from, but it was similar to that moment in life when you start to think your parents are uncool. I mean, you still understand the idea of parents and the value of them, you just don’t like their orientation to the world and you desperately want to get out from under their paradigm in favor of your own.
Some churches, like some parents, get mad about your desire to head in your own direction. Some encourage to get out there and experience things. Some just shrug and say, “whatever”, knowing full well this is a phase you’ll go through before you have kids of your own and look back thinking, “why did I give my folks such grief—this is harder than it looks!”
When I fist got into the church scene I thought it was amazing. I was on fire and I loved God and I wanted to tell the world. Then I realized that because I wasn’t the first zealot on the scene, most nonbelievers had had their fill with church getting rammed down their throat. I realized that the zealot Christians needed to chillax and treat nonbelievers like people and not like those little dot’s that PacMan tries to eat before the timer runs out. Then I got fallout for trying to get the newborns (in Christ) to calm down. Then the inevitable battle about being pushy versus letting God work. Then the conversations about maturity in Christ and whole milk versus meat thing. Then the cliques. Then opinions on other things like music and dress and politics and sports. Then drinking. Then movies. Then we’re reading books by pastors who teach things that our church doesn’t teach. Then silence. Then paranoia. Then that moment when someone confronts you and asks you if you’re really really saved. Then you’re offended. Then you’re looking for another church and unfriending people on Facebook. Then you’re plugged into another church but you’re still talking about the people at the old church and how they disliked you while you stalk them on Facebook. Then the honeymoon period with the new folks. Then something like deja vu starts to happen… Then face-palm.
I see this happening in churches a lot, and in remarkably similar manners no less. I can spot a “mature” Christian because they all have some kind of inner church war story about how things wen’t wrong. Some strong opinion on some belief system that bit them and now they look at things less black & white because they once looked at things very black and white but met someone who saw things ever blacker and whiter who thought their black and white was more grey and charcoal, and fell prey to their own logic, only bigger and meaner. I have a lot of friends that, when we get together, act like members of some VFW, swapping stories about how it all went to hell and how we were lucky to get out but that there are those that weren’t so lucky left behind.
If you’re a non believer and you’re reading this, you might very well be thinking to yourself, “see, this is why I’ll never get involved with religion”. Fact of the matter is, I don’t blame you at all. It’s a messy thing, mostly because it’s full of messy people who, despite loads of scripture to the contrary, honestly believe they have been made perfect thanks to adopting a religion. If you’re a believer and you’re reading this, maybe you’re shaking your head and thinking, “that’s so me”. Or maybe you’re a believer thinking, “this is so horrible that you say these things—you’re destroying your testimony! I shall pray for you.” In which case, I will be talking about you at my next VFW Christian meet up.
I carried this weight in my heart for a long time. I just couldn’t shake it. How we all seem destined for that moment of splintering since it’s so human to splinter. In fact, that’s one of bed rocks of Christianity—bitter, splintering, division. Division of man from God. Division of Man from Man. Division of Satan and God. Division of Jew and Gentile. I always thought our propensity for Division was a sign that this whole faith and one in Christ thing was a joke. However, then I heard a sermon in which my pastor made it very clear that all I was feeling was perfectly normal. That the bitter division we seek after as people— and we do indeed seek it— was par for the course. As a mater of fact, the Jews believed that the Gentiles were created to be fuel for the fires of hell. The Gentiles believed that the Jews were unbending fanatics. To this day, the same sentiments still exist, religion to religion, people to people. Some of these groups we know quite well having been next to them in church pews. Others we’ve only met through stories and news headlines.
I can honestly say I don’t think about Jesus the same way I used to. Mainly because I don’t think about church the same way I used to. For some folks that’s good. For others that’s bad, horrible, unfortunate. But I think the one thing about Jesus that has never changed is that he came take away all our bitter division, not create an icon by which we feel justified to make more of it.