26 Replies to “just one more chance”

  1. Going back to an abuse situtation is a marker that a person needs counseling for a serious case of co-dependency.

    This is not just a tragic dynamic in abusive chuch communities, it is only too common in cases of domestic abuse and abuse in the workplace; although financial realities also figure in abusive domestic and workplace environments. I suppose the same would be true for those employed by the Church.

  2. And all too often people don’t realize how serious their injuries are when they’re in that environment. Only after leaving are they able to see – and feel – just how bad it really is.

  3. Going back to an abuse situation is NOT proof of codependency on the part of the abused spouse. That’s another way of blaming the victim, which she (or he) gets plenty of at home. Many abuse victims hold on because they are trapped- how can they leave against their convictions (some of them wrongly taught by their church), or leave without increasing risk of harm (which is intense at the time of leaving), or leave and manage to support or raise children alone, or leave without opening children up to the risk of having visitation alone with an abuser, etc etc etc.

  4. I agree Sarah. In an abusive religious culture that preaches “Do NOT question authority!” it makes it very scary for abused people to leave. Many feel their choice is sending them to Hell.

  5. I agree Sarah…Leaving is not that simple if there is abuse. There is the fear of non-support or visitation for the children alone with an abusive or alcoholic parent. I have also seen false accusations of abuse. There are protective places to go but that is a giant step.

  6. Leaving a situation is very hard…it is a big change and one risk losing it all. There are consequences to leaving even when it is the best choice, which is completely unfair but is life. I have a lot of respect for people who have been in abusive relationships and been able to leave.

  7. As a transgender Christian, I did not leave, I was ejected in 2004. Now, I laugh about it… but for two years, I grieved.

    My counselor offered that I had underestimated the amount the church had become/represented God in my heart… and thus, I emotionally felt rejected by God. It was a slow recovery… but now my heart knows the church is people and the leaders do not represent God – they are just people, too.

    In my mind, those that walk in the way of love represent God.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  8. “In my mind, those that walk in the way of love represent God.”

    I could not agree with you more Caryn. Well spoken.

  9. This was my husband and I for 6 years. This year, though, the hurt was more widespread. The board cancelled a program that had been a vibrant part of the community for 16 years. No reasone was given. Money? Not really. Facility usage? Partly. This church based community program brought literally hundreds of people happiness and was excellent community outreach. They hurt way more people than just us. We are gone. But really, 6 years?

  10. I for one go to a church where I am not abused. I don’t go to my church because I fear hell if I leave. I go because I love people there.

    I have been reading through much of this website and I feel as if you have taken your experiences in the church and applied it to all the traditional church. This is not the case for everyone. You need to realize there are people that go to church because they love. Not because they fear. I fear God, not the people of God.

  11. I know there are good churches out there James. But just the statistics alone, nevermind my own experience, should tell you that there is a mass exodus from the church. ‘Nuff said.

  12. I agree with you. There is a massive exodus from the church in the US and many other countries (most of Europe, Canada Etc.) This is not the case in other countries. In China christianity is on a huge growth trend. So where did Christianity go wrong in the US? Not enough Evangelism? Too Boring? The music isn’t good? None of the above! If you have been to a modern church you know that the Music is usually pretty good. And generally the preacher is pretty good too. The church has got really good at entertainment! and Evangelism… well the church has that down to a science… So why the Exodus?

    The reason is simple. The church used to have power. I don’t mean political power… we know where political power gets the church (look at Catholicism) The American church used to be much more pentecostal. American Christians today (even pentecostal Christians) don’t regard the power of the holy spirit. So the church has become powerless.

    If you look outside of the US where christianity is on an up trend, the movements tend to be very spirit filled and pentecostal. What do you think about this? Is this what is missing in the American church? The bible says that the Holy Spirit was given to us “for their unbelief”… Interested in your thoughts.

  13. I know about the rise of pentecostalism in such places as Africa and South America, etc… I don’t discredit the religious experience, but there are tons of sociological factors to consider as well. I don’t discredit those either.

  14. I don’t discredit the impact society has had on American Christianity. But I wonder how much of these sociological factors are natural progressiveness and how much is a direct result of the failures of the church? Could it even be measured?

  15. I believe there are people trying to measure it. I’m not sure who though. Remember last year the pentecostal mega-church couple in South America who got charged for misappropriation of funds and other shenanigans? Quite a story. I can’t remember their names. Lots of corruption, etc… but good things too.

  16. Is this the church in Brazil? I heard of a sex scandal in brazil but not about a money scandal… Unfortunately this is definitely one of those social issues that contribute to the decline of American Christianity.

    In the media crazed age well live in (especially in America) it is very easy to look from the outside and call Christians hypocrites (and we are BTW, but really who isn’t?) The truth is hurt people hurt people, and if these ‘hurt people’ had dealt with their pain and hurt and had been truly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, then we would see a lot less of this. So I still maintain that the fall of the modern church is a result of the churches lack of spirit-filled-ness (I made that last word up)

  17. Thats just it… I don’t think the church is corrupt. People are corrupt. Should we expect anything else from people? (not excluding myself)

    Very nice to meet you too.

  18. With the advent of the Enlightenment the theological emphasis changed from Metaphysics/Being to Epistemology/knowing, from the Trinitarian/Christologcal Mysteries to subjective beliefs that could be rationally comprehended rather than apprehended by faith as the basis of salvation.

    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” –A. Einstein

    “Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. Mere belief that one has already found the way and the truth is the exact opposite of such an intention and was recognized by the early Fathers as a weapon of the devil.”
    ~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

    This article offers a partial explanation for the spiritual malaise in the Western Church (I am posting a few initial paragraphs and the link):

    http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/2758-4.pdf

    The Antifoundational Foundations of Postmodernism

    When Charles Jencks suggested that “Modern Architecture died” in 1972 with the razing of foundations in St. Louis, he provided an apt analogy for postmodernism in general. For despite the fact that there are as many kinds of postmodernism as there are of Christianity, one attitude unifies most postmodernists: the desire to raze foundations. This, in fact, is what disturbs Christians about postmodernism. How can we welcome postmodern “antifoundationalism” while also singing with certitude “The Church’s one foundation / Is Jesus Christ her Lord”? Isn’t antifoundationalism antithetical to the truth of Christianity? Before I discuss specific postmodern theorists, I need to grapple with this very significant issue.

    Fighting Foundationalism

    More than “The Church’s One Foundation,” I grew up singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” relishing the drumlike beat of “marching as to-oo war.”

    Even better was a song that allowed our entire Junior Church congregation to slide off our cold folding chairs in the Blue Room, the girls with accompanying squeaks of petticoated flesh on metal, in order to throw ourselves into full-body movements. We would swing our arms and rowdily stomp our feet while singing, “I may never march in the infantry,” and then “ride in the cavalry” while bobbing up and down with arms extended before us holding pretend reins. The bobbing stopped when we took aim with the next phrase, “shoot the artillery,” one eye closed as we held left arms in air like rifles, right fingers pulling fantasy triggers next to our (incipient) biceps. After several more gestured phrases, we gleefully shouted the closing line of the refrain: “But I’m in the Lord’s army!”

    We honed our battle techniques through Sunday school “sword drills” inspired by Ephesians 6:17: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” No one pointed out that the “sword” could not possibly be the Bible as we knew it; after all, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians, there was no New Testament, which for us was the part that contained the truth of salvation. Instead, seated on the edge of our chairs with trusty “swords” perched in our laps, we held our breaths until the teacher yelled out a Bible reference: “Revelation 21:11.” Gulping air, we’d madly surf through the thin pages of our Bibles, and the first person to find the verse leaped (or squeaked) off the chair in order to exultantly read the passage aloud to the remaining lackluster soldiers.

    Early in my walk with Jesus, then, I developed a distinct sense that the Christian life was a combat zone and that I needed to be vigilant; Christians were surrounded by enemies far more subtle than those wanting to bomb me out from under my dining-room table. Today many Christians still feel as if they are in a combat zone, the enemy of their adult faith being postmodern attackers of foundations. What I have discovered since my sword drill days, however, is that foundationalists who wear philosophic boxing gloves to battle antifoundationalists are often shadow boxing: what they think they are fighting is in actuality foundationalism, only under a different guise.

    Defining Foundationalism

    Some people define foundationalism as the existence of indubitable, universal axioms that all intellectually honest individuals—no matter when and where they live—can perceive apart from empirical proof. Derrida called this kind of foundationalism “a metaphysics of presence”: certain foundational truths are so fully apparent, so “present” to the consciousness of any perceiver, that they provide knowledge no thinking person would question.

    This kind of truth does not need to be transmitted through scientific discovery,
    philosophic formulation or divine revelation. It is self-evident.

    In contrast, others define foundationalism as the commitment to foundational beliefs on which people build a worldview that explains reality. They believe their perceptions about the world to be universally true. Unlike the first group, these foundationalists make no claims about “invincible certainty.”

    Modernists appropriated the first definition, which can be traced back to pre-Christian philosophers such as Plato (427-347 B.C.) and his student Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). In fact, during the early years of Christianity, Platonists criticized the new religion because it emphasized belief in Christ rather than certitude in Ideal Forms that provide the foundation for all perception. In other words, Platonists considered Christians to be nonfoundationalists!

    Traditional Christianity, then, at least during its first thirteen hundred years, operated by the second definition of foundationalism, articulated most famously by Augustine: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Seek therefore not to understand in order that you may believe, but to believe in order that you may understand.” Augustine, quite appropriately, seems to reflect a New Testament view of foundations, which repeatedly identifies Truth with Jesus Christ, a person to believe rather than an Idea obvious to all rational people.

    With the demise of medieval assumptions about the centrality of belief, however, early modern philosophers reasserted ancient pagan certainty about autonomous reason. Aristotle’s assumption that “mental experiences . . . are the same for all” was echoed not only in Descartes’s cogito, which eliminated possibilities of doubt, but also in Kant’s coin-machine mind, which posited uniform categories of perception for all.

    The edifice of Enlightenment truth was thus constructed on a foundation of empirical stones mortared together with reason. Though its seventeenth century architects kept Christ as a cornerstone, builders in the eighteenth century spread the mortar of reason over the cornerstone, covering Jesus up.

    Remodelers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries chipped away at the cornerstone, eventually prying Christ out of the foundation altogether. For them, Jesus was not a solid stone because his miracles defy reason and his claims cannot be empirically proved. By the end of the twentieth century, however, postmodern building inspectors starting digging away at the mortar of reason, creating a space to replace the stone which the builders had
    rejected (Mark 12:10).

  19. With the advent of the Enlightenment the theological emphasis changed from Metaphysics/Being to Epistemology/knowing, from the Trinitarian/Christologcal Mysteries to subjective beliefs that could be rationally comprehended rather than apprehended by faith as the basis of salvation.

    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” –A. Einstein

    “Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. Mere belief that one has already found the way and the truth is the exact opposite of such an intention and was recognized by the early Fathers as a weapon of the devil.”
    ~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

    This article offers a partial explanation for the spiritual malaise in the Western Church (I am posting a few initial paragraphs and the link):

    http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/2758-4.pdf

    The Antifoundational Foundations of Postmodernism

    When Charles Jencks suggested that “Modern Architecture died” in 1972 with the razing of foundations in St. Louis, he provided an apt analogy for postmodernism in general. For despite the fact that there are as many kinds of postmodernism as there are of Christianity, one attitude unifies most postmodernists: the desire to raze foundations. This, in fact, is what disturbs Christians about postmodernism. How can we welcome postmodern “antifoundationalism” while also singing with certitude “The Church’s one foundation / Is Jesus Christ her Lord”? Isn’t antifoundationalism antithetical to the truth of Christianity? Before I discuss specific postmodern theorists, I need to grapple with this very significant issue.

    Fighting Foundationalism

    More than “The Church’s One Foundation,” I grew up singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” relishing the drumlike beat of “marching as to-oo war.”

    Even better was a song that allowed our entire Junior Church congregation to slide off our cold folding chairs in the Blue Room, the girls with accompanying squeaks of petticoated flesh on metal, in order to throw ourselves into full-body movements. We would swing our arms and rowdily stomp our feet while singing, “I may never march in the infantry,” and then “ride in the cavalry” while bobbing up and down with arms extended before us holding pretend reins. The bobbing stopped when we took aim with the next phrase, “shoot the artillery,” one eye closed as we held left arms in air like rifles, right fingers pulling fantasy triggers next to our (incipient) biceps. After several more gestured phrases, we gleefully shouted the closing line of the refrain: “But I’m in the Lord’s army!”

    We honed our battle techniques through Sunday school “sword drills” inspired by Ephesians 6:17: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” No one pointed out that the “sword” could not possibly be the Bible as we knew it; after all, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians, there was no New Testament, which for us was the part that contained the truth of salvation. Instead, seated on the edge of our chairs with trusty “swords” perched in our laps, we held our breaths until the teacher yelled out a Bible reference: “Revelation 21:11.” Gulping air, we’d madly surf through the thin pages of our Bibles, and the first person to find the verse leaped (or squeaked) off the chair in order to exultantly read the passage aloud to the remaining lackluster soldiers.

    Early in my walk with Jesus, then, I developed a distinct sense that the Christian life was a combat zone and that I needed to be vigilant; Christians were surrounded by enemies far more subtle than those wanting to bomb me out from under my dining-room table. Today many Christians still feel as if they are in a combat zone, the enemy of their adult faith being postmodern attackers of foundations. What I have discovered since my sword drill days, however, is that foundationalists who wear philosophic boxing gloves to battle antifoundationalists are often shadow boxing: what they think they are fighting is in actuality foundationalism, only under a different guise.

    Defining Foundationalism

    Some people define foundationalism as the existence of indubitable, universal axioms that all intellectually honest individuals—no matter when and where they live—can perceive apart from empirical proof. Derrida called this kind of foundationalism “a metaphysics of presence”: certain foundational truths are so fully apparent, so “present” to the consciousness of any perceiver, that they provide knowledge no thinking person would question.

    This kind of truth does not need to be transmitted through scientific discovery,
    philosophic formulation or divine revelation. It is self-evident.

    In contrast, others define foundationalism as the commitment to foundational beliefs on which people build a worldview that explains reality. They believe their perceptions about the world to be universally true. Unlike the first group, these foundationalists make no claims about “invincible certainty.”

    Modernists appropriated the first definition, which can be traced back to pre-Christian philosophers such as Plato (427-347 B.C.) and his student Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). In fact, during the early years of Christianity, Platonists criticized the new religion because it emphasized belief in Christ rather than certitude in Ideal Forms that provide the foundation for all perception. In other words, Platonists considered Christians to be nonfoundationalists!

    Traditional Christianity, then, at least during its first thirteen hundred years, operated by the second definition of foundationalism, articulated most famously by Augustine: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Seek therefore not to understand in order that you may believe, but to believe in order that you may understand.” Augustine, quite appropriately, seems to reflect a New Testament view of foundations, which repeatedly identifies Truth with Jesus Christ, a person to believe rather than an Idea obvious to all rational people.

    With the demise of medieval assumptions about the centrality of belief, however, early modern philosophers reasserted ancient pagan certainty about autonomous reason. Aristotle’s assumption that “mental experiences . . . are the same for all” was echoed not only in Descartes’s cogito, which eliminated possibilities of doubt, but also in Kant’s coin-machine mind, which posited uniform categories of perception for all.

    The edifice of Enlightenment truth was thus constructed on a foundation of empirical stones mortared together with reason. Though its seventeenth century architects kept Christ as a cornerstone, builders in the eighteenth century spread the mortar of reason over the cornerstone, covering Jesus up.

    Remodelers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries chipped away at the cornerstone, eventually prying Christ out of the foundation altogether. For them, Jesus was not a solid stone because his miracles defy reason and his claims cannot be empirically proved. By the end of the twentieth century, however, postmodern building inspectors starting digging away at the mortar of reason, creating a space to replace the stone which the builders had
    rejected (Mark 12:10).

  20. Perhaps we need to build Christian communities that are more focused on worshipping and serving God than on getting our spiritual needs met.

    “We should be less concerned about making churches full of people and more concerned about making people full of God.” – C. Kirk Hadaway and David A. Roozen

    “Reforming Church governance is not about shared power but about mutual empowerment in the Holy Spirit.” –Fr. Patrick Collins, from his essay on “Thomas Merton on Ecclesial Reform and Renewal” in Commentary

    “The point of the spiritual life is not our personal private holiness but rather opening our selves so that the life of God can pour out on the community.” ~ Maggie Ross

    “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it.  But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.  Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

    “Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. And when that person moves away, someone else arises to take his or her place.” ~ Parker J. Palmer

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