The system needs to change, not just people!

"Stiff Necked" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Stiff Necked” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

I posted these thoughts in my online community The Lasting Supper yesterday.

I’m interested not only in how people change, but systems. It’s nearly impossible for people to change. It seems impossible for systems to change.

Here, I’m talking about the system we call the Church.

In the Bible, “stiff neck” refers to inflexible obstinacy. It doesn’t necessarily point to any specific fault. It simply describes someone or something that is unwilling to change. It is a stubborn attitude resistant to transformation.

A young woman, Essena, was a huge hit on Instagram because of her natural and beautiful “candid” photographs. Tons of followers! Now she’s come out and exposed that it was all a sham. Fake. Not real. She rewrites the descriptions to her model-quality photos and what she was really feeling, how much effort and how many takes it took, and how much a company paid her for the shot. She’s being honest about how she presented a whole life-style that was phony. She’s started a movement protesting this phoniness and encouraging girls and women to be real, to be themselves, and to not allow the world to dictate how they should look, what products to use, or how to feel about themselves.

Similarly, Kate Winslet now has a “no-photoshop” clause in her contracts with companies. Others are doing the same. On the one hand: awesome! On the other hand, they can do this because they’re already established, already made lots of money, and they are in demand. But take a young woman coming into the beauty industry now. She has no choice. She can’t “come out” and get the job. She can’t require a no-photoshop clause because they’d just laugh at her and tell her there’s a million girls waiting behind her.

I see the same struggle with the church and religion. I’ve come out because I can. I’ve taken a stand because my life is viable without it. I already do what I do. I can already survive and even make a little bit of a living from it. I can survive independently. But I couldn’t have done this, say, 10 years ago. Like many pastors today. And many Christians and church-goers. They can complain and cry for improvements. But they’ll often be laughed away because there are a million people behind them waiting to fill the space they leave behind. The risk is too high for many to walk away. Most people realize they have to sign the church’s contract in order to belong to the system.

No substantial change will come to the beauty industry because they really don’t have to. Yet.

No substantial change will come to the church because it really doesn’t have to. Yet.


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14 Responses

  1. L says:

    “They can complain and cry for improvements. But they’ll often be laughed away because there are a million people behind them waiting to fill the space they leave behind. The risk is too high for many to walk away. Most people realize they have to sign the church’s contract in order to belong to the system.”

    That was hard to read, but sums up what I went through recently. It hurts.

  2. It does hurt. I’ve felt it.

  3. Carol Wimmer says:

    And when the “yet” comes, I have 3 tools that will help facilitate the necessary change. In the meantime, some people are actually willing to look at them because they realize the system needs to change.

  4. Adam Julians says:

    Lol stiff neck – genius 🙂

    You talk about being real for a young woman. Is it any less of a risk for a man to be real?

    Some people have been kind and called what I do prophetic. Others have been unkind and called me a troublemaker. Someone recently kindly called me a troublemaker.

  5. Elaine says:

    i describe it as out-growing my denomination.

  6. I think that happens a lot Elaine.

  7. Caryn LeMur says:

    Let’s talk business, so to speak.

    In business systems, change cannot be easily accomplished after about 10 successful years. That is because a successful business culture is a ‘proven commodity’ and therefore cannot be quickly abandoned… hell, it makes profit. It also promoted me and (ultimately) provided a clear chain of command. Why abandon it and risk losing all?

    So, the business tweaks itself… but (due to the pace of change being rapid in our culture), the business cannot tweak fast enough. And soon, about year 20, the business culture (and often its sales approach and product) is outmoded compared to the culture.

    Large business are learning to invest in new corporate cultures for new markets. Fast, nimble, little SWAT teams form and explore opportunities. It is chaos. It is uncontrollable. It makes no profit.

    But it is necessary, because one of the several SWAT teams may suddenly blossom, grab market share, and can become the business of the future (wholly owned by the 20 year old giant). The father corporation allows the son corporation to continue, rather than absorb it.

    About year 30, the giant is fading – – but has moved its incredible talent to the son corporation, and allowed the moderate talent to stay with the giant, until it closes its doors.

    I think a similar system model for the church institution is needed.

    Look at The Lasting Supper (TLS). It is certainly not for everyone — TLS is a new business culture, so to speak. This community continues to grow, stand with each other, and yet allows deep conversations: Jesus as a historical person, a myth, a evolved myth, a vehicle, a part of the god head….. where else can you get a respectful dialog about such matters?

    Oh, and personal dialogs are allowed as well: Someone discussing their divorce, their new love, or their child’s concerns… where else can you get a dialog and sharing about such matters?

    And yes, venting is allowed as well: Someone finally owning their own feelings about an unjust situation at work, at home, or at church.

    You cannot find these as ‘dialog’ in the old corporate culture of the church, because doctrine is key… and a clear chain of command has created a sustainable profit line for years. The old culture demands a final answer… they cannot withstand an open question and trusting people to think.

    Yet, our current culture does not care so much for doctrine/theology – – they crave dialog and being listened to. The individual matters. Multiple conversations across multiple lines of thought is quite the norm.

    The church institution cannot change… but perhaps… they can approach successful online communities, and learn from them. And create their own SWAT teams.

  8. Yes, I like this Caryn. I think it is a good description of possibilities available.

  9. Adam Julians says:

    That’s great that you have found what you have at TLS Caryn. Unfortunately for me it didn’t work as you describe with the venting. Mind you, I was a lot more angry then than I am now and like I say, not unusual for me to be described as a troublemaker. I do find what you have mentioned about TLS in other communities however and perhaps it would be my experience if I were to be involved now.

    However I understand that much of what happens at TLS is deconstruction, which is not my need. I wish you all the best there and all the best for TLS.

    Have you seen the recent news about Germain Greer and what has followed from her comments? I would be interested in your take on it. Thanks if you get round to it.


  10. Caryn LeMur says:

    Hi Adam: I did check on the recent Germain Greer comments. She seems to be like many brilliant people that operate with one foot in the culture-of-the-moment, and one foot outside of the culture-of-the-moment.

    And that is ok by me.

    Her opinions of transwomen not being real women is just her opinion. For some male-to-females, being labeled a ‘woman’ is overwhelmingly important… However, for me, I prefer to be labeled ‘a unique’. I often say, “I was born as if a man; I live as if a woman – what of it?”

    “What of it?” has been a theme of mine… meaning that my gender identity is not really a matter of public interest…. nor should it really be:

    – So long as I am fired and hired based on my work performance, what of it?

    – So long as others show human respect to me (and I to them), what of it?

    – So long as the church community keeps its power-lusting out of certified psychological conditions, what of it?

    – So long as communities continue to welcome the incredible diversity of human experience, what of it?

    Gender identity is such a deep inward-facing struggle, and journey, and blossoming. Learning to accept ‘who I am’ is very deep for all the gender identity issues across the gender continuum.

    And, at the core, I consider myself to have a female gender much more than a male gender identity… and Germain probably would think otherwise… but she holds nothing that I desire… therefore, in reality, her opinion does not matter to me. Seriously.

    I noticed that Germain claims that Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner due to ‘his’ lust for the female limelight. I guess that is a form of reverse-penis envy theory… lol.

    Sadly, her concept shows a lack of brilliant thinking – can you imagine desiring to write a university-level paper for our Professor that has a thesis of this: ‘Caitlyn is a narcissist that craves the limelight given to television females, and therefore underwent multiple surgeries to gain that limelight. Please approve my thesis so I can begin my research in earnest.’

    And our reviewing Professor of Psychology would write on such a paper, “Most Caucasian men treasure their white male status, their athleticism, and especially their penis…. and would never give up all they have for a simple moment on the public stage. Most medical/psychological review boards that certify Gender Dysphoria would easily have identified self-mutilating narcissism… and therefore moved against such surgeries. Further, the PhD Psychologist that oversees her recommendation for such surgeries would have counseled other ways to gain long lasting fame.”

    And then, he would add, “While I admire the audacity of your thesis, I question its reasonableness. I look forward to your argumentation. Good luck.”

    It is one thing to make an audacious comment or thesis… it is quite another to offer reasonable argumentation.

    I therefore can only wish Germaine ‘good luck’.

  11. Adam Julians says:

    Thank you Caryn, that was helpful.

    On the issue of “what of it” and “public interest” what comes to my mind is being asked about my neighbours Frances and Linda by some workmen about whether they are lesbians. My answer was “that’s their business.” To me they were just Francis and Linda.

    I like what you say about “reasonable argumentation” vs “audacious comment or thesis”.

    I can guess out of these options, which is more likely to sell column inches and air time.

    Thanks again for your reply 🙂

  12. Ryan says:

    Your post reflects a significant season in my life David. I am only 26, yet I love Jesus dearly and have never been hurt by him. The pain I have incurred is a reflection of being a “Christian” in the “Church” more than it has been because I Love Jesus and want to be like Him. I would rather live life in love with Jesus than be a Christian. It isn’t because I don’t love the Church, that was Jesus’ idea after all, it’s what it has become under current leadership. Truth is I am the body of Christ and my lack of “contractual agreement” with a organization doesn’t make me any less of the body. You’re right though, the system doesn’t want to change, and people like me get stoned for saying there’s a problem, but because I’m a minority there are plenty of people willing to sign up and embellish the status quo. They say it’s too necessary and why mention it’s broken legs when its got two functional arms. I’m hopeful though, I know Jesus deserves a beautiful bride and Im thankful for people like yourself and others who are lovingly speaking up. 🙂

  13. Thanks Ryan. I appreciate your story. There are a few communities out there that would value what you say, but they’re hard to find. We can continue to hope for change and do our best to facilitate it, at least.