Please Stop Telling Me I Can't Criticize The Church

MouthGag

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).

Ridiculous.

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.

0 thoughts on “Please Stop Telling Me I Can't Criticize The Church

  1. Reading the blog that you refer to was just frightening…how people can think like this always shocks me. How they can think that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Thanks for your response to it.

  2. Yeah, spot on. We need to grow up, and fast! I am sick and tired of Christians not being able to take any criticism at all, and reacting like brats in a playground. Not only that, we then turn and make it all sound like it is the other’s person issue. How many times I have confronted a “brother or sister in Christ” over acts or behaviour only to have my own character dismantled, called names, have the wrath of God be called upon me…etc…etc. I was told so even yesterday. We use the Church as an excuse under which we can act sometimes like greedy pigs, other times like sociopaths. The history has seen the Church from the Middle Ages use religion to justify murder, rape, ethnically cleansing. These days, it takes more subtle forms but underneath, it is the same ugly thing. But dare say anything and you are doomed for Hell. Really???

  3. In that case, when I am so moved by the Spirit, please do not tell me that I cannot criticize your First Church of the Homophiliac, which replaces the Cross with the inverted rainbow and invites the money changers into the Body of Christ. Do not pretend that the Body of Christ is the same as the Pharasees in your effort to sacrifice poor gender confused teenagers to Satan.

    • Theodore, I find it utterly fascinating that, despite the fact that John said nothing about homosexuality in this post, that’s where your mind went.

      I gather that he has made statements elsewhere on this issue which you find to be in conflict with your interpretation of Scripture. Groovy. But your total non sequitur of a comment on this post is basically saying that because he is “wrong” about X, then God is incapable of using him to speak truth on Y.

  4. How do I dis-enroll from these notifications of your blog? I can’t remember how I started getting the emails and I can’t readily spot anything on your website to dis-enroll. I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough time to go over so many blogs, not all of which I am in agreement…

  5. I agree with you 100% in what you say about the importance of being able to criticize the church. I’ve actually come to see the whole of scripture as the story of God’s continual attempt to remove “religion” from our lives in order to bring about real relationship. That naturally means the constant critiquing of church to keep it towards it’s purpose. That sad, in reading the article you referenced I didn’t see it as anti critiquing as you did. There are certainly some things I don’t agree with but I more read that part as about not being too quick to criticize. I’ve had opportunity to meet various church leaders that have been on the receiving end of some of that quick critiquing. Some of them with hearts of compassion and faith I stand in awe of and who really are trying to do what they feel called to. While they are not perfect and there is always room to point out things, sometimes their critics come off as as judgmental as the church they are supposedly critiquing. You, by the way, don’t come across that way which I commend you for. But there are some who do, and that’s kind of the way I interpreted the article you referenced. But that also could have been just me.

  6. Your issues with the Christian church will not be solved for another thousand years because the church is an institution; not a reflection of God or of Jesus, and as an institution it will not bow to criticism or even tolerate it, for that matter. The leadership in the church is no different from the politicians in Washington.

    As my adopted grandfather once told me, “Corruption begins at the top and when it filters down to the bottom, all is lost.”

    We have become a corrupt, secular nation driven by materialism and greed and my church, the Christian church, has played a big role in this development. Unfortunately, for meaningful change to take place, those who participated in the downfall of a nation or religion must suffer the consequences of their actions.

    For change to take place, it must start at the bottom and work its way up and as followers of Jesus that means simply walking the talk and raising your children to do the same. Until the numbers of Jesus followers reaches that magic number of thirty-three percent, the Christian nations of this world will continue to go through some very difficult times and it’s going to get much worse, but don’t give up hope because there is always the promise of ascension for those who follow Jesus’ example of “Loving your neighbor as you would have your Eternal Father love you.”

  7. I think you are more than able to get your point across without being condescending about the other author. When you put him down or what he thinks down it makes you look petty. It also doesn’t make you seem open to an actual dialogue about what is being said.

    • In defense of John, I think it would be fair to say that many sensitive people take criticism personally as “condescension.” The word is in the dictionary, and considering the religious belief system of the author, I suspect condescension was more that appropriate. Most fundies are convinced that they and they alone are God’s Ti-double-gr-gr-r, which means that they also think they should be immunized against all criticism and eye rolling. As my late friend Patricia used to say, “Well that’s just tough darts for you and Mr. Reid.”

    • The person who shared this article with me on FB appended this comment: Dear Evangelicals, Anybody remember where the word “Protestant” comes from?

      It seems to me that nailing your thoughts to a church door looks much more condescending than anything John could aspire to. 🙂

  8. Bold enough for me John. I also think I know what you mean when you say that those leaving the church are, “seeking alternative spiritual community.” If you allow me, I will suggest we are rather, seeking “authentic” spiritual community, which the religious matrix seldom offers.

    Anyhow, I know you won’t, but I want to encourage you of not giving up: never. You are victorious by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony!!! Word!

  9. Great article. Couldn’t agree more. Sick of some people deciding they know what’s best for everyone in the church. Those that would act that conceited, egotistical and superior need a good dose of Truth and a lot less religion in their hearts and minds. If you find yourself criticizing those that would raise questions about the church in a healthy way, stop.

    • The problem here though is that we are not always dealing with the “state of the church.” Rather, we are seeing the church reflected back to us through the filter of individual people and small groups of people, and all of their psychological and personality foibles. We need to be careful to separate what really is the church per se from the assorted A-holes and just plane difficult and buzzed out personalities that are present at church.

      How to do that is a more difficult question. For example, some people are really masters at asserting their personality in a group. It is often in their genes. They are loud and boisterous. They come into a room of 20 church members seated around a table, and their unspoken expectation is that they will be allowed to dominate the room and the discussion for 60 minutes—and screw the Sunday school teacher and what she wants to do with her class.

      Many of you probably will not believe this, but I am seated at that table in the above Sunday school class. I am the guy that stays silent through the class, behaves shy, listens carefully, and hardly says a word to anyone. I am naturally cautious with most people, painfully shy, and introverted. My feelings are easily hurt, and I have a history of being bullied in my K-12 years. If an long-experienced bully comes into a room, is searching for prey, and 50 unfamiliar people are in that room, I get immediately picked out as the most vulnerable person in the room—just like a female lion can pick out the right zebra to chase. Then the chase, the canine teeth, and feeding begins—and I am really bad at handling it all one-on-one and face-to-face—lose every doggone time—even at age 62.

      “Writing” is a place where I learned to BE calm, feel safe, be competent, and be the assertive and authoritative person I always wanted to be face-to-face with people I can do this really well face-to-face with people I know really well—but have a much harder time with strangers and people I do not know well. When I finish a writing session, I slip back into being the introverted and overly cautious person I do not want to be. Occasionally, someone here at the blog suggests that we get together someday and do lunch. This is just to inform you that the personality that is coming to lunch is not the one that shows up here on John’s blog to write. The face-to-face me is nothing even close to the assertive, bad-ass me that often shows up here to write and slay on-line spiritual bullies. Just sayin’. In my private life, people describe me as being a “really smart and sweet guy” beneath my exterior writing shell. However, one family member who knows me really well says that I am the “meanest man who ever lived” because I can convert a very serious life moment or situation into something incredibly funny on the turn of a dime. Then this person laughs out loud and says, “You are the meanest man who ever lived!!!”

      Did not know all that didja? I really do love you regular guys here at John’s blog, even the curmudgeons like Ted and Edward. However, I always say what is on my mind in confident writing mode. Have a nice day.

      John Pavlovitz. Please leave this post up for 3 days and then delete it. There are some people I would like to keep in the dark about the real me. Thanks!!!

  10. I appreciate all you said here. Since the early 2000’s my wife and I have been disengaging from organized religion which has become prevalent throughout most of the evangelical churches as well. Not leaving Christ; just the man-made vehicle that calls itself the church that has become more about buildings, corporate operations, and the building of it membership and organizational structure beyond what it is capable of supporting adequately in many cases without becoming manipulative and misguided in its attempts to become successful. It’s disturbing as the machine grew extensively for a period of 40 years or more, and much of church work became more professional career focused. That opens up several ways in which things could go wrong, mainly that it becomes misguided in its ultimate goal. It can become a breeding ground for ego driven and narcissistic leadership, especially with the larger churches.

    Too much is said about Millennials too, but as EchoBoomers I understand much of their thinking. In the late 60’s and 70’s (that would make me a Boomer) I was part of that whole Jesus Revolution that wasn’t as directed at the organized church, but that became part of the change in the church by default. I love a return to helping people and “doing life together” versus big budgets that support costly infrastructure…while the world falls apart around us. I am a big proponent of the home church. None of this has to be only one way of doing things, since there still is a place for a variety of types of churches. There are still many great larger churches and there are also many very effective home churches meeting around the world. But come on, we certainly not only have the right but the obligation to speak out about the imbalance that we see in the organized church today, especially when it becomes misrepresentative of the body of believers, the true and authentic church, and the pure and simple message that Jesus brought to us.

    Don’t you think seminaries have to accept a huge amount of responsibility in this whole dysfunctional setting that has evolved? I don’t want to make extensive comment here at this point, but want to encourage you to continue down this path as there is a huge shift that must take within the structure of the church if it is to be the vehicle through which God can work effectively.

    Bruce

  11. Bravo John! You have struck upon a major reason why many leave the church – any questions are labeled heresy and rejected out of order. That gets old real quick – and in this today’s world where we teach our children to question everything to determine the truth – they cannot fit this exception that shouldn’t be an exception into their reality. And rightfully so.

  12. Have you ever considered the fact that there is no god? Can you imagine how extremely frustrated we atheists are about the constant references ’believers’ make to a god and what we can’t do. All religions are always about forbidding. There is nit a single religion that says “you can do anything you want”.

    • Speaking as a professional anthropologist, why would you want to do “anything you want”? That has never been an option in any human society or culture, regardless of religion. Not even the king or dictator can get away with it without consequences.

  13. Have you ever considered the fact that there is no god? Can you imagine how extremely frustrated we atheists are about the constant references ’believers’ make to a god and what we can’t do. All religions are always about forbidding. There is not a single religion that says “you can do anything you want”.

  14. When I was a young christian in the 70s I was appauled at the church. I recall an incident in which a local minister was defrocked for attanding an antiwar rally. So I just read my bible and listened to the Spirit. For years I did no attend a church and tended to avoid christian groups while the Spirit grew my faith. However, I had to face the call to christian comunity as it’s the assumed default state decribed in scripture. I have come around to the view that we should bear with oneanother in love. I guess that means we are going to have differences with other believers, but need to be humble enough to realise I am not right on many things either and should love me brothers and sisters even when they really annoy the heck out of me. And some sure do that. There is one redeamer, one salvation and one Spirit for all. There are none more holy, more Spiritual etc than another. There should be no divide between rich and poor, young and old, black, yellow red or white. We all share the same Spirit in equal measure. In full as that the nature of the infinite. We are however finite, limited in strength, endurance, understanding etc. Therefore must inevitible fail and fall short. It is simply the nature of humanity. Certainly be guided by high ideals but these are not achievables, they are like the stars by which to navigate through life. Please forgive me when I fail to reach your stars. Now I am an elder of a local independant church struggling to be a sheapherd to the thoes God has placed in my care. But I am just a man like any other. In the priesthood of all believers I have no authority over another. Each must make their own choices. All I can do is pray for wisdom, and the right words to offer what guidance or insight is given me, to encourage and try to teach by example as best I can. But I am only a man and Christ is the only true example we have. What do the scriptures say about resolving differences and preserving the bond of peace? Please do that.
    I don’t know where you have been. All I can say is it is my deepest wish to be part of a church that actually lives the new covenant and I belive we really do our best to do that. I am sure we are not the only ones. I hope and pray you may find such a community of believers too, though it may be a painful journey.

    Ken

  15. I know many younger folks who are in seminary or beginning in the business, and they themselves say it is a business. Many have gone to certain seminary schools that of which are under a certain denomination and they say when they beginning their jobs they will align as non-denominational.

    What a great post. 🙂 🙂

    I am trying to catch up on all the comments on all your posts. 🙂 🙂

  16. Well said. If Paul can do it, we certainly can. Christianity today, especially in the evangelical churches, is more a religion ABOUT Jesus than a religion OF Jesus. But things are changing. After 2000 years, we are realizing all that is necessary to experience the kingdom of heaven here on this poor planet is to love God and love one another. That is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

    • Very Good! The Bible is About Jesus and that needs to change to being Of Jesus. In 1955, knowledge was given to us from the spiritual beings who administer the universe for God and it contains the story OF Jesus. It is not a religion. Keep looking and you will find it.

      • Yes, Terry Degner. How did you know? That information is classified, and you need both a U.S. Department of Defense Top Secret security clearance and a U.S. Department of Energy Q clearance to gain access to that information. Oh well, now that the cat is out of the bag in front of the whole world.

        In 1955, the Kelatonins from the planet Klaktu made a secret interstellar visit to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C. They revealed to him that they had planted the first life on Earth long ago and have been nurturing it for more than 600,000,000 years. They are an extremely advanced culture—mind boggling actually because of the great time depth of their culture—and they also revealed that they established all of the Earths major religions. There is no death on Klaktu, and the leader of their planet is a powerful eternal being named Klictos Yahweh Kanos.

        From a time before when life was first seeded on the Earth, the planet Klaktu has been at war with a neighboring planet in their solar system. This is the planet Hellaus. The first and only leader of planet Hellaus, Klarkan Lucikir Satanikos was once the Chief Planetary Minister of Klicktos Yahweh Kanos on Klactu. Unfortunately, Satanikum, being a bit conceited and thirsting for more power, decided to launch a coup d’etat against Kanos of Klactu, but the coup was quickly suppressed. As punishment, Satanikos and his minions were banished to Hellaus, a nearby desert planet undergoing massive volcanic activity that heats the ambient atmosphere of the planet as high as 250 F. at its equator. Satanikos and his followers adapted to the high temperatures on the planet, and they also managed to secretly smuggle significant cultural knowledge from Klactu to Hellaus when they were banished. This allowed them to recreate most of Klaktu culture on their new planet, and after enough years had passed, they came to be almost as powerful as Klaktu. Kanos and Satanikum have hated each other for eons and have been at constant war with each other since the staged coup.

        Sorry to say, Kanos and Satanikos were unable to limit their war just to their own two planets. Satanikos, determined to win at all costs, soon expanded the war across the universe to the Kanos colonies on other planets and to the many other planets Klactu had experimentally seeded with life long ago. One of those latter planets is our Earth.

  17. We left churching behind for the very reason you just posted. Thank you for saying it. My husband was a deacon and I was a bible teacher. Not one person called to try and find out why we left. We had tried 5 churches in that same denomination and were on our last one with 7 years attendance. We just couldn’t stand our spirits withering in every one of them. Their hermeneutic was so steeped in literalism and legalism that if you asked a question you’d get shot down. They would make you feel bad for asking. There were so many other things but what finally broke the camel’s back was a poor man walked in the door, sat on the front pew and turned and looked at all of us. He stood up and walked out. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “what the hell are we doing?” Something was really wrong when we just sat there on our comfy pew and did nothing. Funny thing was, that very day they were taking up extra donations to begin building a gymnasium and more bible class rooms. They even had loan officers sitting in the foyer ready to give us interest free loans so we could help with their cause, which I had never seen before in my entire church going life. Today we are just people who don’t feel the need to go to church to find God. We have more peace now and have found some really cool ways to serve Him without standing on sidewalks and street corners proclaiming what those things are. I guess you could say we are recovering Pharisees who fell off that wagon and found a new one. I’m so thankful for your encouragement and loving heart. Don’t stop doing what you do.

    • “There were so many other things but what finally broke the camel’s back was a poor man walked in the door, sat on the front pew and turned and looked at all of us. He stood up and walked out.”

      He was an angel not getting entertained unawares. I would have given anything to have been there and witnessed this. There is nothing like one bearing a message. Dang!!!

  18. “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.”

    There is only one truth and for Christians, that comes from the Bible. If you debate something as simple as that, then you need to ask some serious questions about your own faith. Assuming you live in America, it’s hard to deny that the Christianity around us is not founded on the Bible and instead focused on how to incorporate Christianity in our other plans and ambitions. If encouraging people to live by biblical principles is enough for people to leave the Church, then were they even a part of it to begin with?

    “You can be the Church and love the Church and participate in the Church and still criticize the Church.”

    I’m pretty sure this was his original point. He’s saying that people criticize the church, but refuse to be a part of it, love it, or participate in it. He did say in bold letters that “It’s also important to remember that as Christians we ARE the Church therefore we are the imperfection that is, the difference that needs to be, and the good that the Church is doing.” When you criticize the Church, you need to realize that you are a part of it. You said:

    “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.”

    So good. You’ve brought up a valid issue. Now realize that you are a part of this system and be a part of the solution.

    • No. I do not think so. I think a Battelle solution is called for here. We think of competition as two skilled teams going head-to-head—and may the best team win. Battelle sees it differently. Their idea of competition is to create a new product the likes of which has never been seen on planet Earth, grab the exclusive product rights, and make all the money strictly for themselves because in their competitive game—they are the only team on the field—every gameday.

      As Monty Python used to say, “And now for something completely different!!!” The reformed Battelle church needs to be a unique animal, the likes of which has never been seen before on Earth, and on gameday, it is the only team on the field.

  19. So many things to say on many subjects – so here is just a few that I am understanding AT THIS TIME. That last statement is so true. Each of us is on a different or one on one walk with God. There are scriptures I have a little more grasp of than some – and there are people that have much more understanding than I do. Therefore, we will not all agree and need not try to convince everyone that our understanding is absolute. None of us has absolute understanding and see dimly in the mirror until we see Him face to face. Jesus even states that there are things He would love to tell us, but we are not able, ready, mature or whatever – but I don’t want to forget where I’ve come from (religion) so I can understand how they feel – which most are very passionate about what has been revealed to them at this time.

    As I’ve studied scripture, (and I feel it is imperative to study ancient Hebrew word meanings, as this was the language God first began to speak to people, in which much has gotten lost in translation), an “Ah Ha moment” or revelation would hit me as God would open my eyes to a new understanding. I would confidently go out and share that understanding with everyone (proud that I was gifted with a new understanding, blah, blah, blah), but not with the results that “I“ wanted (Why can’t everyone see it my way). This also made me question if I was hearing from God. So I asked Him….. and felt He told me, “When I am opening your eyes to understand my Word, it is for you alone – to speak into your life. After you have walked in that understanding (by example which will humble the HELL out of you – its purpose), people will ask and you can give testimony to it – because it will be a reflection of My love.” I believe the reason for this is – unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, there is no way you can minister to them.

    Concerning John’s last few posts: “Dear World, I’m A Christian, But…”, and “Please Stop Telling Me I Can’t Criticize The Church.” While I am enjoying John’s perspective and the replies on this website, the ones that are speaking out on sin and/or against the church are mirroring their behavior or tone (seems hypocritical). I don’t think anyone can speak out against sin unless you have fully arrived (only Jesus has fully arrived). I know people will say, “We need to stand up for righteousness.” We are told by Jesus to spread the gospel (good news) and what it is to walk in the Kingdom of God (taking care of widows, feeding the poor, uplifting the down trodden, etc.) – the righteousness is told to us as individuals – not to spread. It’s not good news to tell people if they don’t believe in Jesus, or do it their way, they are wrong or going to burn in hell forever. People need to test this doctrine. A good place to start is the book “Hope beyond hell,” at http://www.hopebeyondhell.net. It is free to read on this website. Jesus never told the multitudes, “Go and sin no more.” He only told a few individuals as in saying (like we would to our children) don’t do that again or life will be hard (hell) for you. Hell is good for us as God’s all consuming fire burns off all that does not reflect him. If you are not in the peace that passes all understanding – you are in hell (for a season).

    Concerning LGBT. The Word of God is spoken in a very eastern hyperbolic language and should not be taken literally (the moon turning to blood was an eclipse – that’s just how they described it). Yes I believe that Gods design is for man and women or else there would be no more humans on this planet. It’s mother nature, if you will, to have this understanding that life cannot reproduce without a male and female (animals, trees, insects, etc.). LGBT don’t need to be told this – they know it. But people have had generations of abuse and hurt that can change their very DNA. Have you been around an animal that has been severely abused? They resist the touch of humans and/or will even get violent toward you. Do we tell the animal, “You are wrong to be like that!!!” The only way to gain the animals trust or to reverse the damage is to LOVE IT. It may not instantly change, but it definitely has a better chance than to correct it for its behavior. Very much like the racists issues. The African American has suffered great hatred, control and judgment from white folks and is lashing out much like a wounded animal (kinda like we’re lashing out against religion). If we turn to love and accept them as they are (equals in God’s site), things will change – but it may take several generations to be realized, as it will be with the LGBT. Hell, as it will be with all of us – as we all have suffered from some kind of abuse or BS.

    We all can share our walk, but feel our tone is paramount. I, and am sure many on this website, have come out of the Church, or religion. We all were there once and were steeped in pointing the finger and raising ourselves above others. Isn’t pointing the finger what we want to stop doing? Yes, Jesus did some finger pointing at religion ONLY – but He is the Son of God (Arrived) and knows the hearts of men – we don’t. He didn’t judge the world because the world doesn’t know any better – but the religious leaders were supposed to know better. They had the Word of God for centuries but conformed it to the traditions of men, which wants to be praised, be right, to be better than others, separated out and be #1, etc.

    But this is the thing I’m getting from scripture. God blinds people, or else (if they could see) He would have to heal them (John 12:40/Isaiah 6:10 to name a few). He opens other eyes. He has a plan for this world that seems very contrary to human understanding (His ways are so much higher) and is very much in control, in which I think He is a great leveler. He brings the proud down and the humble up to live in the center. If you are scientific, think about an atom that has a proton and electron. Life on this planet could not exist without both of them (positive and negative). If we don’t have something that pushes us or gives resistance, our muscle will become weak (i.e. if everything went perfect in our lives ((boring)), would we even consider God?). Trials and differences make us run to God, which strengthens us. Judgment, hatred and finger pointing – weakens us and keeps this vicious cycle of ego going around and around.

    John, the crazy voice of Christianity shouldn’t define us. He even says in His word about the MANY (that would be the majority) people that would say (paraphrased), “But God, did we not heal the sick, cast out demons and do miracles in Your name?” to which God said, “Away from me….you don’t know Me…..you workers of iniquity (defined as grossly unfair behavior, immoral – not reflecting the heart of God).” So He is not surprised by the behavior of Christians to the point of telling us so.

    This is just a synopsis as much, much more can be discussed about God’s ways as He has always worked through a minority of people (of which I don’t know if I’m one). Let trust the One who begins a work in us, is able to finish it and love one another.

  20. Thank you for supporting the ability to criticize Christian dogma, no matter where the dogma originates. I appreciate your willingness to put your reputation, and your career, on the line for your beliefs.

    We’re fortunate to live in a nation where speaking truth is dangerous primarily to untruth. I’m thankful that Christians like you are willing to stand up and declare what you believe to be Jesus’ message and to criticize what you believe to be people teaching a false message.

  21. Yes John. The key problem is how to do it in the right and loving way. I am still struggling with that and probably failing in some…perhaps many…ways. Rolling over and playing dead for most of the 20th century and all of this century has only led to a world of more injustice, hurt, and tragedy inflicted by people who claim to be Christians. I am often hesitant to say “by Christians” because it is often hard for me to believe that many of them really are—but they no doubt feel the same about me.

    Right now—over on the blog you cited—some of them in the comments are arguing over whether “evangelism” should be what the church is all about—and insisting that the Christian faith consists of nothing else but evangelism. The crux of their argument (paraphrased) is an old one:

    “This life here on Earth is so short, and the flames of Hell are for all eternity. Surely, a little physical or emotional discomfort here on Earth is so small and inconsequential in the face of the Lake of Fire that lasts forever. Therefore, does it not make sense that we should avoid wasting our precious money on loving and helping people in this live—and spend it ALL instead on evangelism alone to give everyone a fire insurance policy so they will be covered when the final day comes—which may be tomorrow—or even tonight because Israel has been restored as a nation in the Middle East?”

    Well, yeah…that is…if you want to ignore about half of what the Bible says on a variety of subjects to get there. I see no place where Jesus or the Bible authorizes us to forget that 50 percent nor any place where they say that we can just forget that part and not do that part because some uneducated, half-wit preacher wants to avoid it. Black lives matter. Evangelism matters too—but so does that 50 percent of the Bible that Christian fundamentalists give lip service to but otherwise try to forget—and they certainly avoid doing it in any way except on the microscopic, most token level.

  22. As everybody has the right to choose their own religion, everyone should also have the right to criticize something or even have a difference of opinion about anything.

  23. Thank you for expressing this so well. Myself raised in evangelical community and family, I first really began to awaken and recognize much of the discomfort and feelings of just not fitting in were originating in so much of what I had been taught was neither actually “Biblical,” or actually “true,” about 20 yrs ago. I became intensely interesting in reading the Bible, really reading it, all of it, and with an open mind, to comprehend what it really “said.”

    I was then not sure what to make of a common response to my telling very churchly involved family and friends of my intended project. It seemed odd at the time that their reaction was not exactly positive, but more often expressing caution that in doing so, I don’t start criticizing the Church. When I was puzzled at why they would respond that way, the answer was usually along the line of, “Well, that’s what most people mean when they say that.”

    It didn’t take long to figure out why that was their initial reaction.

  24. Sure, we need to critique ourselves first and the church in which we are a part. But gently. Many of us are just people struggling with life’s challenges, trying to serve Christ, hurting a little bit, but we need a word of encouragement too. Surely, balance is needed between criticism and encouragement. There are many very gentle people in the churches I know who try to be loving and thoughtful of others.

  25. And YOU are not using a “condescending mix of intellectual superiority, intolerance to dissension, Truth monopolizing, and moral high-grounding” that has come to typify the new age pastor positioning himself as the “last bastion of true” (in as much as YOU think it’s true) “Biblical Christianity”? You are one arrogant pastor shouting at traditional Christians for having the gall to stand up to the bastardizing (YES! YOU are bastardizing the true meaning of the word) of God’s word (YES! It’s HIS word) and calling those out for doing it. I just read an article stating that some California elementary schools are going to do away with boys and girls bathrooms and have one bathroom for all students. But, of course, the new age pastors and so-called new age Christians are bowing to the god of political correctness and tolerance and are whole heartedly accepting this. I do NOT want my little grand daughter to be washing her hands next to a little boy who FEELS like a girl wagging his penis around at the urinal. This is pure, far-left liberal BS. Next wall to fall: non-gender showers and dressing rooms for MS and HS students. Heck! It’s already happened in some liberal colleges. Whatever happened to decency? Oh, I know, “tolerant” (for those who think like them anyway), PC Christians failed to speak up as this Pandora’s box of idiotic decisions knocked down those walls. Where will it end? Will America eventually be like Rome in the days of the Roman bath houses and orgies? Oh, heck, it’s already like that too, in some circles! But, we Christians are not to dissent in any way shape or form. That’s the new age message. Welcome to liberal America. I don’t care if you see this as poorly written and rambling. The message is clear.

    • I thought your message was hilarious.

      Commandment 11:

      “Thou shalt not simultaneously pee and poop in a restroom used by both sexes. Neither shalt thou allow a boy child’s weenie to be unzipped in the same restroom with a girl child’s unzipped cave. For the moment that thou dost do this, they may learn that I have created weenies and caves in human anatomy. Even so, makest thou also sure that no copy of Gray’s Anatomy or any similar medical volume sittest anywhere on thy bookshelf at home or in the library. Thus sayeth the Lord.”

      (J.E. Jones Voice/Lightning/Thunder)

      Toilet behavior is, to the best of my knowledge, not addressed anywhere in the Bible. Most toilet behavior is culturally defined. One of the sad things about this American toilet fear is that it was such a white-person-nasty subject to talk about–apparently—that we have next to nothing recorded ethnographically about Historic Period Native American toilet habits, behaviors, and traditions—and the related culture surrounding it.

      Still. I agree with you culturally that I would want to keep them separate. I can lay down some mighty poops, and the last thing I would want is to have the gal I am going to ask to the prom get a strong whiff of my unique perfume. California is a battle ground for craziness sometimes.

    • You do realize they don’t put urinals in the girls room, right? Trans girls sit down just like every other girl. Maybe instead of make a bunch of assumptions about people with a condition you know absolutely nothing about you take the time to educate yourself instead of getting all your information out of a book that was outdated over 2000 years ago.

  26. Look, I may get crap for this, but let me just say this. I am sick and Tired of stuff like this, yes, we can criticize each other, yes people and religions aren’t perfect. But you wanna know something, you can think as critically as you want to but that won’t change who people are, you can tell someone that there’s something wrong with their religion but it’s part of who THEY are and only THEY decide if it remains a part of them or not. All you adults, you are looked up to, kids-teens think you know how to be mature enough to handle yourself, but seeing stuff like this… Look it’s great and all you have an opinion, but.. There’s this cool thing called a diary that I think would be great.. I’m just saying I mean I’m not an adult yet so when I see stuff like this.. I’m not sure if people ever really grow up. Don’t hate me for this, I’m only repeating what all of you where doing, stating my opinion..

    • Hi Junior Jake. Fear plenty. These are the rituals all adults go through in life right before the really fun stuff starts: black eyes, a bullet in the head, wars, concentration camps, torture, genocide. We argue these things to stoke up the level of hatred necessary to confidently advance (always with righteous indignation) to doing these really fun things.

      I think you are onto something kid.

  27. Primarily we are critiquing a system that has moved far from Christ for the most part.There are many lovely people in the system, but the system is not Christ. Occasionally, specific leaders may deserve comment because their actions/speech are public and open for discussion.

  28. Pingback: Please Stop Telling Me I Can’t Criticize The Church | myfullemptynest

  29. Wait a minute here…

    After reading the original source material this is critical of I have to say this does not seem a fair representation of the spirit of what was said.

    Let’s get this straight, BOTH of you are publicly criticizing the church here…

    And if you wish to disagree, then there is no need to be condescending to someone whom you feel to be condescending.

    I think there needs to be some reflection here and a long look in the mirror. There is something to be said of some basic truths that were highlighted in the blog.

    1. The gospel is offensive by nature. In as much as it is unifying for Christians it is divisive to those who are not. The Bible itself tells us that we shall be persecuted for it. An acknowledgement of this would’ve been more helpful to your argument. When you tell someone you need to believe in Jesus to be saved you’re going to get a reaction…

    2. Theology does matter. Everyone has theology. If you’re saying you don’t have a theology then you’re saying you don’t have a belief or understanding of God.

    3. Relevance matters, but there is a limit. What more bending do you need before the truth you are trying to share along with the joy of Christ is changed to something that doesn’t resemble Christianity? Paul again and again refers to the gospel in his letters for a reason. He’s driving people back to the truth which was preached. He’s going back to the ground of faith in Christ. It’s also the same with Jesus.

    4. This person talked about church-bashing people who can’t take what they dish. I guess the question is, does that apply here? No one likes criticism. If criticism has merit then it should be taken in stride. Just as this critique of that blog should be weighed on the other side. It’s a two way street. That’s why it’s called accountability.

    5. To the heart of your blog… Isn’t there a point when criticism and negativity taking our eyes off the ball? Should we not appreciate the fact that there are good positive things going on in our traditional churches as well as the churches which attract a lot of the readers here?

    This blog solely concentrates on one point mentioned. And in that, it seems like a stretch.

    The other blog isn’t telling you to stop when you think there are course corrections or considerations or critiques which may be helpful to a church. Rather, it’s a precursor to the question that should’ve been asked by both of you… what are you doing about it? And is it helpful?

    Neither of these blogs would be helpful without an alternative to the reality here… we may be smarter than we are given credit for, but we’re still people who need Jesus because we’re sinners in need of the Good Shepherd to come and cleanse us with His blood.

  30. Criticize by definition is 1) indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way; 2) form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work).

    Would Jesus indicate the faults of someone in a disapproving way? Would Jesus form and express a sophisticated judgement of some one he cares about?

    I’d probably say “no he wouldn’t” on both counts. He would recognize the imperfection. He would not approve of the imperfection. He would say “go and sin no more”. But would he just indicate faults and pass judgement? I would say no.

    Jesus is there to make things right, good, and new. We should have that attitude with his bride. I think that would honor him.

    Would I criticize another man’s wife and have him be pleased about it? Hopefully not if he’s a good husband!

    So there’s a word that describes it, but “criticize” does not seem to be the right one. Tread lightly, especially on social media — where billions of people that are not Christ-followers see how Christ-followers approach and treat this.

  31. And I would add, everyone, Christians and those who are not Christians, please stop telling others how and what they should and shouldn’t believe. Just respect each person’s beliefs and show them love – even if their beliefs are different from yours.

    • I would like to be able to speak the truth in love. currently I only know the way of being triggered, angered, defensive when I encounter ppl who obviously have a religious addiction problem probably bc I am newly in recovery and have to deal w a lot of trauma (cognitive dissonance/mind rape). a mindful , discerning, respectful, creative way of the holy spirit is something I pray for continually as I engage w ppl who are still in the game & have become quite trollish!

  32. There are so many churches and people who need these words. We are the body of Christ and the bride of Christ but are fallen as is every person in the church. Fallen and broken. Our job thru the Holy Spirit is to lift up heal and repair. You can only do that if you use constructive criticism. John has never done anything but that. He is not always right because he is fallen too. But he is making a loud noise in the desert saying make way for The Lord. I hear John in everything he writes saying “Jesus is coming are you ready?”

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  34. Thank you for writing this post, John. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to voice out differing opinion in the church because everybody just sweeps it under the rug and refuse to acknowledge it. Sometimes if we ever voice out, we would even be pulled aside by the leaders to talk to us. Also, sometimes I would think that it is very wrong of me to do this like I’m feeding poison to my Christian friends when I tell them about it. But luckily I have a group of Christian friends that I can share my thoughts with but yet still love God and the church. When we criticize the church, it does not mean we hate it. We still love it. So thank you John for your post, I have always looked forward to your posts!!

  35. Thanks John for another Great blog. Yes we are the church . Not a buiding. As such we should be following Jesus and that is daily. We should be there for others and not as most fellowships I know nowdays. They use The building and worship the building and what it has for them in this day and age. The amount of money that goes into the ambience of the building. The lighting sound systems and concert appearances that they want to attract people in. Did the early church use tricks to attract. new followers. Did money become a God to those in charge. The bigger the church the more popular. and less personal the church has become… Jesus wants us to fellowship but that fellowship should be people loving one another being there for one another. The church of today as I see it is far from that. We meet on Sunday for one hour or perhaps an hour and a half. Perhaps a community meal once a month. and a few. and I mean a few. meet for prayer perhaps once a week. I know for in the past I was one of them.
    I am now old have lost mode of transport. (due to health). Live a few short miles from my closest fellowship. Yet where is that fellowship.. Have spent a lot of time in hospital . .Only a couple of friends visited while there. Not even a phone call from most. and visits here mainly from a couple of friends on the margin of that fellowship. I have one person that will pick me up to take me to a mens group……. I might seem to be critical of what is happening. I really am not doing this for myself as I am used so much of my amazing God here at my keyboard. I only feel for those out there that could be in the position the same as myself. Are they being looked after by the church. Jesus told us to look after his flock. That means to be there for those hurting and alone. Loneliness can be a big Killer. It can make one bitter. Is that what fellowship is all about. No jesus told us to love one another to good to those needing help. We are not buildings we as the church are flesh and blood. . Let each of us each day Thank our father and ask him if we can be of help to anyone Today. God bless and you are in my prayers

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