Category: Churchianity


Published January 7, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE90% of the entries on this blog are going to involve movies, books, and pop culture. However, there is a subject matter about which I feel so passionately, like a burning ember in my being, I can no longer remain silent about it. It is also a hot button of controversy, so I will do my best to speak the truth in love. Here goes …

I am a Christian — let me be clear about that up front. A Bible believer, not thumper. I am also a Preacher’s Kid. To quote Dusty Springfield: I am The Son of a Preacherman. Yet due to certain events (which I will not transcribe here), I was raised with extreme amounts of legalism, hypocrisy and religious abuse. I didn’t know it at the time, but shackles were being tightened year by year — not freedom in Christ, but bondage in Christ. Christian fundamentalism carried to a level that would make a Pharisee blush (or beam with pride, one or the other). The rules were laid down, the mold was cast, and punishment for not adhering to either, would be swift and eternal. You know the rules:
Don’t drink.
Don’t smoke.
Don’t do drugs.
Don’t ever dance.
Don’t rock and roll.
Don’t go to the movies.
Don’t read secular books.
Don’t forget to tithe tithe tithe.

By the way, I hate that word secular — far too “dirty” sounding to encompass all that it does.

My lifelong obsessions for watching films and reading fiction, instantly made me suspect to those in my family. I was told repeatedly over the years that these passions were evidence of my backsliding and not being “sold-out” to the Lord. They even convinced me a couple times (back in the 80s and 90s), that I needed to sell all my video and book collections so that I would be “acceptable” to God. Have to fit the mold if you want to get to Heaven. You have to look, act, think and speak a certain way if you want to belong to this very exclusive club.

I was well into my 30s before I realized that … not only did I NOT want to belong to their club, I could not imagine a more unpleasant group of people to spend time with … much less eternity! I couldn’t even be myself around these people, and if you can’t be yourself — especially in church — what’s the point? If anything, after the price Jesus paid, covering the sins of the world, once for all, Christianity should be the most inclusive club of all. Nothing can be added to what He did, so why do so many churches act like they improve upon it? That is arrogance beyond comprehension. If a church requires more of you to become a member than God requires of you to go to Heaven, there is something wrong with that church. And yet …

Still, I longed for God. For a relationship with my Creator. After going through some excruciating therapy to deal with traumatic childhood experiences, I ended up screaming at God (from Whom I had run for a long time, after all, I was unacceptable to Him) every filthy foul name I could think of. Collapsing afterward, not only did I not get struck by lightning, I felt like God was saying, “Finally. I see all the pain and turmoil you have under that anger, and I want to help you get rid of it. I would rather have you scream at Me till you’re blue in the face than ignore Me or run away from Me.” It was not only liberating, but the beginning of a new understanding about God and what He desired of me. What He desires from any of us. Shockingly, it had absolutely nothing to do with the legalistic rules of my youth. It is simply this: Intimacy with our hearts. Honesty. Genuiness. The same thing you would want if you were in love with somebody. You wouldn’t want them to perform for you, jump through hoops and do all manner of tricks. You just want to share their heart and whatever is in it. Sad? Mad? Glad? Let Him know about it. He is our Abba, which means literally, “Daddy.” That one word speaks volumes about the kind of relationship He truly desires.

Yet the church is so obsessed with performance-based laws and rules, most people feel completely unacceptable to Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! Because God loves us as we are, not as we should be. Not that He won’t try to change us, but those changes will not make Him love us more. Neither will our mistakes make Him love us less. THAT’S unconditional love.

I’ve come to believe there is only ONE RULE to Christianity and it has nothing to do with the ad infinitum rules of the modern day church. Words of Jesus to His disciples: If you love me, you will obey me command: (Singular: command:) Love one another. This is not rocket science, folks.

And yet, this is a world that hates Christians. They see us as an ugly caricature: uptight, intolerant, judgmental, sanctimonious, legalistic, hypocritical, anti-intellectual, prudes. The worst part about this stereotype, is that all-too-often, it’s ACCURATE! You don’t even need to watch the money-hungry, prosperity-gospel, Word-of-Faith, “blab it and grab it” evangelists to know that the state of modern-day Christianity is not healthy. It has a plague on it that I like to call The Church of the Bubble-Dwelling Pharisee, where the members follow the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt build a bubble around your family and your church, where your dysfunctions can grow like fungi, it’s easier to follow the rules, and you revel in judging those not in the bubble. (Newcomers welcome! Jesus Loves You … now please follow these rules to make sure that doesn’t change.) This type of repressive, isolative vacuum does nothing but breed shame, guilt and neuroses. Psychosis, even. And … it repels infinitely more lost, wounded souls than it attracts. A slap in the face of the Great Commission.

Call me a heretic, but I think God is pissed about it.

Let me say that in no way do I mean to imply that all Christians act this way, but there are far too many legalistic traditions that the church has proclaimed as gospel for so long, they no longer know the difference. I WILL say, if “love one another” is not at the heart of your Christianity, then it is worthless.

That troubled boy down the street. You know, the one who smokes dope and is obviously hurting and on the wrong path. If you, as a Christian, are not going out of your way to befriend him (not CHANGE him) and let him know you are a safe person to talk to, you are completely missing the boat.

I have much more to say about this topic (indeed, my forthcoming first novel, BROODING – The Heartland Chronicles Book One is loaded with subtext about this very thing), but I think I will save it for a later blog post.

If you have an opinion about this matter, please do not hesitate to either leave a comment below (there’s already some juicy ones down there) or contact me through this site. I would love to hear from you.

God bless.

Continue to Churchianity Part II — Tithing.