We have gotten to a point with Christianity that we are sitting in a broken down car.
The car used to go. It used to get us where we needed to go. It used to work really well. But that was many years ago. Sometimes it works really well, but more often than not, it fails and sputters.
Something has happened to this car, and it wasn’t done to us. We haven’t maintained it. Nobody is to blame but us. Nobody stole the tires. We let them rot.
The steering wheel doesn’t work anymore. The car no longer goes where we intend for it to go. Instead of driving us to the people that need help, we take care of our own people in church. Instead of showing compassion to everyone, we are taught to feel sorry for people who aren’t Christian. We are taught to “love the sinner but hate the sin” – while forgetting that Jesus never said anything like that. We are taught that homosexuality is a sin, while forgetting that Jesus taught us to love everybody, and that judging others is a sin.
We were never taught how to get the oil changed, so the vitality of the car isn’t there anymore. We no longer are taught how to heal in the name of Jesus. We are no longer taught how to welcome the Holy Spirit. All the gifts that were given to the Disciples on Pentecost are lost to the majority of us.
We have the owner’s manual, but we don’t take it seriously. We have the Bible, but we don’t actually make them applicable to our life today. We pick and choose the parts of the Bible we want to follow, rather than paying attention to Gospel, which for Christians is the new, updated portion of the manual, to make it supercharged. Or we let someone else do the interpreting for us, and we don’t study the Word for ourselves.
When our mechanic tells us to fix the car, we don’t listen. We aren’t taught how to hear from God. And in some churches, the minister will discourage this behavior.
We’ve decorated the car up with all the geegaws we can, rather than on what is important. We’ve spent money on the windows and the seats and the paint job – but still we aren’t getting to where we need to go. Why are we spending money on the car, rather than on the poor and the homeless and the hungry and people in prison, you know, like Jesus told us to do?
So now we sit in this car. We sit in it every Sunday. It sure is pretty. But it doesn’t go anywhere. We content ourselves that sitting in it is what it is all about. At least we are there, rather than sleeping in. We feel so good about ourselves for going.
Every now and then the car goes. Sometimes we are able to fire it up and make it do what it is supposed to do. But it isn’t for very long. Then soon enough we are back to having book club meetings that cover books that aren’t about our faith, or having covered dish suppers where we feed ourselves rather than the hungry people in our neighborhood.
And be sure not to tell those people who have sat in the car the longest that the car doesn’t go. People don’t like having their possessions taken away from them. They don’t like being told that it is broken. They will hold on to it for their very lives. I think this is normal human behavior, but it is not what our goal is.
We’d be better off selling the car for scrap metal and giving away the money to help people in need than what we are doing now.
I was like those people who sat in the car. I looked at my friends who had left church with some small version of compassion. I thought that they just didn’t get it. Perhaps they were in the wrong denomination, or in the wrong parish. Perhaps they could see how things weren’t as they thought they were if I just kept on trying. So I did. And then I started to see the cracks too. And I couldn’t look away any more.
I wanted to help people. I asked three years ago, how do I learn how best to help? My motives were questioned. I had to submit a spiritual history on myself. I had to submit a photo, and a financial disclosure. I had to prove when and where and by whom I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. I had to wait two years before all that began – and it still didn’t get me any closer to being able to help people. This is like the church telling me that I needed to build a car first.
I’ve walked away. I’ve not walked away from God or Jesus, just the church as it is. There is some thought that I should stay, to help repair the car. But I’ve been told not to talk about how broken the car is, because it hurts people’s feelings. How can I wake people up when I’ve been told to be quiet? Perhaps there is some concern that I won’t do it in the right way. Perhaps I don’t take everybody’s feelings into consideration. But there is a lot to be said against being too cautious and too careful. If you wait to make everybody happy, nothing is going to happen.
This is not a social club, and it isn’t a personality contest. It is hard work. This isn’t about feelings. This isn’t about egos.
I’m sorry that people’s feelings were hurt, but not for the reason they think. I’m sorry that they have invested so much of themselves into something that no longer works.