Someone about whom I care deeply, has faith and is drawn to a deeper faith, but is repelled by the institutions of the faithful—the Church. How do I play a part in his struggle, especially when, in large measure, I share it?
Years ago, after a particularly horrendous week of encounters with church committees, I remember slamming whatever was in my hand at the moment down on my desk and declaring to the Almighty, “I’m done! I’m finished. I’m out of here. Not only can they shove this job, I’m through with the Church. She’s chewed me and others up and spit us out one too many times. I’ve had it; I quit.” I had no sooner gotten the words out of my mouth than I heard, almost audibly, “She may be a whore, but she’s my Mama.” The voice of God? My own sub-conscious? The devil? I don’t know, but I’m still here.
What do we say to those who can’t get over the obvious filth which covers us? Do we even try? The abuses and excesses of the Body of Christ are inarguable…inquisitions, violent crusades, 2000 years of corruption at every level, rampant hypocrisy, bigotry, narrow mindedness, attitudes and actions of the worst kinds of hatred, abuses of the young, the poor, and the vulnerable, political cozying…
On the other hand, we’ve stayed alive in love in so many ways and at so many levels. We’ve borne the best and the greatest in art, music, architecture, philosophy, and education in virtually every period of our history, often simultaneously with the abovementioned excesses and abuses. We’ve fed the hungry when others were devouring them. We’ve cared for the sick and created systems for that care. We’ve offered love and compassion to children who would otherwise have perished for lack of notice. We’ve acted against systemic wrongs of every brand in every era of our existence: prisons, treatment of the mentally ill, racial and civil inequities, warmongering, governmental corruption and abuse around the globe…
So, are we the sum total of the worst we have done, or the best we have done? Are we whore or Bride?
Yes. That’s about the best I can say, and, at its best, it still often sounds like so much whistling in the dark …and I can love…my young friend and others like him…and anybody else who wanders into my life. Jesus’ resurrection and life in me—in us—is as real as it is arguable. We truly embody a power to overcome the worst in us and to live out the best in Him. Those realities make forgiveness possible and love as inevitable as death.
In the face of monumental indictment, almost every argument sounds lame and pathetic. Still we stand and rely on on a love that we often can’t even see ourselves, much less declare to anyone else. Thin as it is, it’s all that holds anything together. “Jesus said, ‘Will you also go away?’ Peter answered, ‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I’m still here.