Should You Trust the Church?

Would you jump into the church's arms?

I wouldn’t.
Oh. Wait. I did.
So. Many. Times.

jump cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Cartoon description: A person is deciding whether or not to jump off of a high place into the arms of the Church which is promising to catch him. There are many bodies strewn around the feet of the church.


I once heard a comedian talking about why less people are getting married. He compared it to crossing a busy street. What if you saw that half the people who tried were run over by a car? Would you try it if you knew there was a 50/50 chance of survival? Certainly not, especially if you didn’t need to get to the other side of the street. Same with marriage. Who wants to risk it?

Once, I was listening to the pastor/theologian Eugene Peterson at a conference for pastors (he wrote "The Message", etc.). He talked about when he planted the church and that his oversight committee kept checking in. After a while he began to feel as if the inquiries were automated. He started concocting worse and worse stories of what was happening and how terrible he was doing. The response was always a superficial one, like, “Glad you are doing well. In our prayers.”

The Church can’t love you.

My experience has been that when I’ve trusted the Church to catch me when I fall, or catch me when I jump into its promising arms, it fails and I get hurt.

It was years ago, during Peterson's talk, when I began to understand the reality of systems and systemic evil.

Years of research, observation, and experience have convinced me that the gravitational pull of all systems, including the Church, is towards the dehumanization of people and, as a result, their harm.

This sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Now, people WITHIN these systems can care and help people.

But, here’s the struggle: the system not only is victim to the gravitational pull towards the dehumanization of the people it claims to exist for, it also dehumanizes the people who work within and for the system.

The Church claims to exist to care for people. But too many of us who have been harmed by the Church know it fails to live up to this claim. On top of this, those of us who have worked for the Church and believed its claim to exist to care for people and signed up… we too have experienced the gravitational pull towards getting caught up in the dead bureaucracy of the system and as a result experience the hopelessness of reforming it.

This is why I constantly critique the Church and those who naïvely believe that it fulfills its claim to exist to love and help people. It’s a lie. It’s not true.

The Church doesn’t have feelings, so I don’t care how brutal my critiques seem. It’s because of the people who are a part of it and are affected by it. I, as a person, care for them, as people. We all should.

Interesting parallel: I watched the documentary “The Social Dilemma”. A critic of social media (another system) said, “It's the critics that drive improvement. It's the critics that are the true optimists" (Jaron Lanier).

Like all systems, the Church too is a system that we must closely monitor and constantly challenge to live up to its claim. Otherwise, it won’t.

And we will all suffer for it.

But, I’m a true optimist. I have hope that the Church will, at the right times and at the right places, fulfill its mission to love and help people.

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