A few weeks ago we drove down to Myrtle Beach for vacation. After you get off of 95 you’ve still got a long back road to follow before actually getting to the beach. A long back road littered with churches of all shapes, sizes and beliefs. As we drove down this road passing church after church, all of whom differ on beliefs both big and small, I found myself feeling more and more discouraged with each one I passed. All of these people think they are right and the next church down the road is wrong. They think they have cornered the market on “TRUTH”. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is anyone right here at all?
I came home from the beach and found a book at the library that I’d been wanting to read…it’s called “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage to Find God in America” by Jeff Chu. It was a remarkable book. I was moved and frustrated. I thought, I really want to hang out with Jeff Chu because he seems terrific. It was hard to read.
One of the reasons it was hard to read followed directly with my observations from the road to the beach. The church in America (and the whole world I guess) is completely broken. In this book, Jeff visits Westboro Baptist Church (he is braver than I am!) at one end of the spectrum, and churches where pretty much the only members are LGBT and a whole bunch in between. I came away from his story feeling totally discouraged and wondering why on earth anyone would follow a religion that is so disjointed and sending so many mixed messages.
The problem as I see it is that all of these disparate sects think that they are RIGHT. And others are WRONG. They can interpret and use scripture to back up their positions. ALL of them. They accuse the other side of twisting scripture to support their own sinful position. They all think they are acting in love.
Even Westboro Baptist Church in some sick way firmly believes that protesting at funerals, calling people “fags”, and telling pretty much everyone they are going to hell is LOVE.
Here’s what really rubs me the wrong way about this: we’re not just talking coffee vs tea, Yankees or Red Sox, tomato/tomahto. We’re talking “If you don’t do/believe/follow what we say is right, you will go to hell.” Eternal torment and punishment or eternal happiness. Life or death.
Them’s fightin’ words if I ever heard any.
I honestly can’t make heads or tails of this thing called Christianity anymore. I can barely separate who I think Jesus is, who I think God is, in the midst of what all these denominations, all these churches are shouting at me and insisting is RIGHT and TRUE and THE ONLY WAY. It makes me want to say “the hell with it!!” and just forget it altogether.
I can’t do that though. I’ve been closer to atheism the last year or so than I ever have been in my entire life. But I can’t seem to quit God. I can’t look at the amazing way the world is ordered and not see him or her or whoever. The kids found a birds nest and in the incredibly intricate and sturdy way it was constructed-by a BIRD without HANDS-just screamed God at work to me. I can’t see the beautiful way people care for one another in need and love one another throughout the world and not see God. (of course depending on the day there are likely just as many things I see that scream “There is no God!!!” quite loudly but I just can’t go there. Maybe I’m just a chicken.)
I’m totally sick of church. I know there are churches around the world doing beautiful things but right now all I can see are the shattered pieces of an organization that claims to follow a guy who told us that next to loving God, loving your neighbor as you love yourself was the most important thing. Not what songs you sing. Or what building you hold church in. Or tattoos or clothing or race or financial state or even (gasp!) sexuality. And yet all those things are the “truths” we hold on to. We argue about. We kill over. I want to see the church universal as a beautiful thing but right now to me all I can see is an ugly, broken mess.
I don’t know what is “true” anymore. I have some thoughts that “seem right” to me (that’s in the Bible right there…”It seemed right…”) in my gut…a lot of people would tell me I’m wrong about them. Dead wrong about them. And you know…maybe I am. But maybe they are too. And God’s grace is either going to be big enough to handle my being wrong…or it’s not. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a hell of a lot I can do about it.
Maybe that’s why people shout so loudly about being right. Because it makes them feel like they’re in control of something they’re totally not in control of.
Ugh. This is really a depressing post isn’t it?