Tuesday, August 03, 2010

when the Church lets us down

So, Anne Rice has attracted some recent publicity for leaving the church she was re-converted to. It seems pretty plain, however, that she is by no means rejecting Christ, but she is rejecting the Church and organised religion.

A reporter from the San Francisco Apologetics Examiner asked her this:

"Do you disagree that if you haven’t left Christ, you haven’t left the church, because the church consists of all those who believe in Him? Would you agree you still belong to ‘that’ church (those who believe in Christ)?"

Ms Rice replied:

"Possibly I still belong to the Body of Christ. I don't know anymore what that is. I just know I cannot mislead people into believing that I support organized religion. In Jesus' name, I cannot be complicit with many of the things organized religion does."

I know how Ms Rice feels, being ashamed of the members of the religion, or the institutional body, one identifies oneself with. And I know a lot of Protestants would immediately pounce on the Roman Catholic Church as the culprit here, but Protestants are just as guilty of corruption and evil as the Catholics have been, although this has sometimes been in different ways.

At this point, however, I do not think that the answer is to leave the Church and to call myself a Christian no longer. I know plenty of people disillusioned with organised religion who continue to meet with fellow Christians in home groups, and I think this is an option that works for them. I also find it difficult to ignore all the benefits of organised religion. The charities, the mass movement that can be possible through an organised body of believers. Besides, in the end, to renounce the title "Christian" is to renounce the reality that you are, literally, "Christ's one", and how on earth can you continue in faith in Christ without belonging to him in that sense? Yes, the term has been tainted for many people, but all the more reason to reclaim it.

How to do so, though?

The first place to start is in ourselves. Overquoted but nevertheless valid: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

The second place: We must take a stand against evil infiltrating the Church. We must be intolerant of anything that shames the name of Christ.

However: it is a reality that we must come to accept - perfection is not available to sinful human beings and the Church is always going to disappoint in some way. We have to admit that we shame the name of Christ and we cannot blame everything on the worst sinners within the Church. In some ways we must celebrate the Church as the only place to which lost sinners can turn. I am thinking of a song by Switchfoot, called 'The Beautiful Letdown'.

We are a beautiful letdown,
Painfully uncool.
The Church of the dropouts, the losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools.
Oh what a beautiful letdown,
Are we salt in the wound?

And I continue to think that abandoning it will not help. Those who see the darkness that tries to encroach on the Church must stay, because they are the ones who will fight it.

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