To those who sold doves in the temple courts Jesus said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me. John 2:16-17
This week some Christian friends of mine passed around a blog post advising Millennial followers of Jesus on what they “need to stop doing”.
The piece was that delightfully condescending mix of intellectual superiority, intolerance to dissension, Truth monopolizing, and moral high-grounding that has come to typify the young Evangelical positioning himself or herself as the last bastions of true “Biblical Christianity”.
It also perfectly crystalized the very reasons so many people are leaving the Church, passing on organized religion altogether, and seeking alternative spiritual community.
Central to the writer (and like-minded folks), is the Big Idea that you simply can’t criticize (or “bash”) the Church; that it’s somehow a spiritual character flaw to question anything done in the name of Jesus, as this somehow constitutes an attack on Christ himself or on God’s very people. (Violent Christian-on-Christian crime, if you will).
Spiritually speaking, yes Scripture speaks of the Church as the “Body of Christ”, a global community composed of living, breathing sanctuaries; those flawed and failing people where God’s beautiful Spirit dwells. Get all get that.
The only problem is, it is far other things too.
In a very real and tangible way The Church also now exists as local congregations, as faith communities, as actual buildings where people gather and give and serve and learn and live life. It is a worldwide institution wielding unparalleled power and political sway. The Christian Church is a global collection of locally operated religious franchises operating under the Jesus name. For better or for worse, it is a bona-fide multi billion dollar faith-based business that impacts the lives of more people on the planet than any other entity.
And if you’re going to tell me as a committed, passionate, conscientious, faithful follower of Jesus that I can’t speak into that—I’m going to politely call B.S. every single time.
The writer of this piece and so many Evangelicals like him, would have you feel guilty for everything;
for your challenges to Church practices,
for your demands of pastors and leaders,
for your differing theological positions other than the ones they consent to,
for your questions of creeds or Scriptures or doctrine,
for having a Christianity that in any way deviates from their own,
for the way the Holy Spirit of God personally moves you to push back or call-out or seek justice in the Church or in any local congregation.
I’m tired of it. Many people are. We’re smarter than that.
We know intrinsically that as members of the global community, the very treasure of our shared humanity often demands that we boldly speak truth to power;
to corrupt governments,
to maniacal political leaders,
to immoral business practices,
to human rights violations,
and to greed, inequality, and abuse of power wherever we see it.
If we stay silent in the face of these things, History teaches us that horrible stuff is allowed to fester and spread and grow stronger. We understand that silence equals participation; that the clear voices of good people can be a brilliant light streaking into the darkness and exposing all that is sick and sinister.
The Church as much as any other place, both deserves and needs this same continual, honest critique, and often from its own. As participants in the entity that visibly and practically represents Jesus in the world, it should be something we welcome and demand from one another.
So my friends of faith: you seek and pray and study and watch and listen—and then you speak when you are compelled to do so. It is as sacred an act as you can ever perform. Done in love and compassion, it is a beautiful, God honoring act of worship and it is exactly how you affirm and express your faith.
You can be the Church and love the Church and participate in the Church and still criticize the Church.
The idea that you can’t or shouldn’t, is a myth designed to ensure silence and wield control and stifle healthy confrontation—and it dishonors Jesus.
If there’s one thing Christians should stop doing altogether, it’s telling other Christians to stop criticizing the Church.