Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Grant Us Wisdom, Grant Us Courage

i am becoming increasingly aware that the focus of our church's approach to life is unhealthy and misguided.  in every lesson that is taught at wednesday evening bible study, every sermon that is preached, and every prayer of confession in corporate worship, we are told how unworthy we are as human beings.  the calvinist doctrine of the total depravity of humans is a recurring theme that we hear each time we enter the church for study or worship.  i am sure our minister is unaware of how her emphasis of human frailty when compared to God's greatness beats us down as a congregation.

i long to hear words of encouragement and to be reminded that we are created in God's image.  i want to hear joyful words that celebrate the richness and beauty of creation.  i need to feel loved, valued, and comforted inside the doors of the church.  we spend too little time studying the teachings of jesus and too much time on the failings of the ancient hebrews and paul's criticisms of the early christians.

in the background there is constant sniping and bickering between those who believe our minister should leave and those who are loyal to her.  behind the scenes there is a struggle for power in the church and a demand that other staff members demonstrate absolute loyalty to the minister.  it has come to the point that those who continue to have personal relationships with the critics of our minister are on the "naughty list" of the minister and her allies in the church leadership.  my wife and i have tried not to engage in this infighting, as have many of our friends, but it becomes increasingly difficult to stay above the fray when it is suggested that a staff member may be fired if he talks to members of the wrong faction.

this is not what church is supposed to be.  our participation in church should bring us joy and renewal.  the church should support us as we seek to follow the teachings of jesus.  the church should be honest rather than teaching old myths as fact, while ignoring the valuable lessons that those myths preserve.  we should see each others as sisters and brothers in the family of God, not as members of one faction or another.  as more and more of our members flee this atmosphere, i fear for our congregation's survival as a church.  i don't want to be one of those who abandons the church, but something must change soon or my wife and i will no longer feel welcome.

our minister is a good person at heart.  she wants our church to flourish, but i fear that her inability to reach out to those whom she has hurt and offended stands in the way of healing our divisions.  those who have befriended and been most supportive of her have engendered an attitude of intolerance toward her critics, many of whom have valid points.  bullying of those who dissent by some lay leaders will not bring us together.  it is heart-wrenching to witness the upheaval and bitterness and to be told at every turn that we are unworthy of God's love, that God's grace is all that keeps us from damnation, that we have no redeeming virtues.  where are the words of love that jesus taught?  where is the good shepherd who cares for the sheep?  where is the call of jesus to come to him to find rest, to carry the yoke of his easy burden and bear his light load?

may we who are christians stop dividing one another into sheep and goats.  may we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  may we worship a God of love rather than a god of wrath.  may we abandon petty squabbles and power struggles and embrace one another as members of a family.  may we regard all those who seek to do good and to love others as part of our family regardless of their religion or lack of religion.  may we acknowledge that all suffer and long for love, compassion, and respect.  shalom.

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