Behind the talk of God’s love lurks the shame and anxiety that has always been the driving force of church. Tonight’s Good Friday service will once again hammer home the gory details of the crucifixion. People will weep and nod in solemn agreement that it was their own sinfulness that caused Jesus’ agony.
We use the story to tap into the shame and anxiety that most of us harbor inside ourselves all the time. And we’ll use it to motivate ourselves to do good deeds.
But there’s a problem and it’s a big one.
Shame and fear do not promote nobility. They make us sick with an anguish that fosters addiction, and corruption. They further lead us to conceal these miseries so that we can’t face ourselves and make our corrections.
Church is the place where people are scared to really face themselves. On Sundays, with few exceptions, they won’t talk about the things that keep them up late at night with fear and shame. Instead, they put on their nice clothes, plaster smiles on their faces, and talk about how blessed they are. And perhaps they whisper to each other the terrible secrets their neighbors are harboring.
People will read this and feel defensive. Or perhaps they’ll feel shame because they’ll recognize the truth of what I’m saying and blame themselves for it. But it’s not their fault.
The problem is systemic with no specific person to blame. Church can’t be a place for openness and healing when its basic premise is that people are awful sinners who caused the death of God’s child.
We need a safe place where there is no pressure, where people are loved with softness, and humanity is celebrated with quiet joy. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a place where people could freely air their true worries and flaws, where they could help each other with authentic words of comfort and encouragement?
Too bad we can’t find that at church.
9 thoughts on “The Weakness of the Cross”
I went to church to find God and I did. There were exit signs at every door. I am not sure if it is church, religion specifically. Maybe. I always find the opposite of what they promise me is in there. I tend to think this is societal. Every agency, government or private, that provides something for children, elderly, veterans, poor, you name it, seems to often do more harm than good. This has been discussed often. I tend to agree with those lines in the movie, Men In Black. A person is intelligent and compassionate. A herd of them are dangerous animals.
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There really is something about institutions becoming less effective as they formalize. I don’t know what that is but I think it has to do with losing the sense of purpose and trading it for a demand that everyone give allegiance to the group itself rather than the cause.
I sort of agree with you, and sort of disagree.
I definitely agree with this statement: Church can’t be a place for openness and healing when its basic premise is that people are awful sinners who caused the death of God’s child.
I remember, maybe I was around 12 years old — my mom rejecting the notion of “sinner” from birth. She said, quite tenderly, that when she held each of her children as infants, she could *not* regard us as “sinners” but human beings needing love and care. Her comment way back then has been influential on me as I re-evaluate my relationship with religion.
So I think I agree with you, David, at the fundamental level. But do all churches disagree with this? Or do some churches actually present a similar and accepting view? I believe some do, including the church I presently attend.
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I am glad you have a church that works for you. Do all churches believe as I described? All I can speak of is my own experience. But I think it’s quite prevalent
I couldn’t agree more. It’s why I finally walked away when I was 16 (that and just being way too rational and sick of the hypocrisy). My father’s a Lutheran minister so I got to to witness some of the non-public side of the pulpit.
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My wife would say you saw how the sausage was made.
You are a brave man. Your story is inspiring. I applaud you for your courageous decision. I can’t imagine myself to be in that situation and be brave enough to leave the career and life that is built on it.
Good for you and I am going to be your reader from now.
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Thank you and welcome.