Critiquing the Bride
Over the last year I have received emails from different people suggesting that my critical approach to the organized church arises from my personal experience. In other words, my negative and sometimes traumatic experience with the church as tarnished my perspective. Although I don't want to claim that I see clearly and that my experiences haven't embittered me somewhat, I want to argue that I agree that my experiences have influenced the way I see things. How else do we learn? Not very many other ways! Why, in almost every other sphere of existence, do we expect people to learn from their experiences, but when it comes to the church, people are supposed to ignore their negative religious and ecclesiastical experience and just blindly love the church? I know why! Because many people feel that the institution we call church is holy and therefore untouchable. Many feel that to critique the church is to attack the church in order to destroy or eliminate her. I get this a lot... that the church is the bride of Christ whom he loves and it is cruel to criticize her. I agree, the church is the bride of Christ. But surely you don't mean that, say, the church that cooperated with Hitler shouldn't have been confronted! Ya ya, I could go on with more examples. Suffice to say that we shouldn't confuse what we do as the church with the holy and unblemished bride of Christ. Could you imagine the problems we would run into if we did that? In fact, that IS the problem when the institutional church equates itself with the bride of Christ. That IS the problem! So I will continue to challenge the institutional church precisely where it thinks it is authoritatively representing the bride of Christ. That's what has happened to me in the past! I, along with many many others, have been the victim of religious people and institutions who think they are the very hand of God. I have the freedom to discern the spirits, whether they are good or evil. Which, by the way, I think is the number one spiritual gift sorely lacking in the church today. I see the temptation daily as a pastor and as a church: the temptation to assume we are THE church and that I am God to people. Until pastors and congregations get a hold of this, we'll continue hurting people. I did this painting over the weekend. It reminds me of the passage that says that even the trees of the field will clap their hands. It looks humanoid to me. It is available for sale HERE.