A lot has happened during the relative silence on my blog. If I had to pick out the most important thing I can share with you, here it is.
One of the youth pastors I used to volunteer under has a
young family; they’ve been a favourite of mine ever since his girls first sat
on my lap in church. In addition to loving his family, I found that we agreed
on many things theologically – more so than I usually agree with other
Christians. Generally speaking, he impressed me. However, his family fell on
hard times; I don’t know the details, but he and his wife were hurt by the
Church. He swung more liberal and stopped putting up with conservatives. It
made me sad to see the hurt and anger he was carrying, but everyone has their
own journey. As he cut off ties with a lot of people in my church, I was still
welcomed into their home.
A little before Remembrance Day this year, he made an announcement.
“I’m not a Christian,” he posted to his blog and Facebook. This wasn’t a
bait-and-switch thing that people online seem to love, one of those scandalous-title-with-an-inspirational-message
articles. He renounced his faith. My brother saw it first and texted me to let
Our friend has since blocked or deleted his blog and
disabled his Facebook, so I can’t check the quote for accuracy, but the thrust
of his message was that he still believes in God…for now… but as far as
Christians are concerned, he said, “If it comes down to being with them or
against them – I have to set myself against them.”
I cried inside all that day.
In chapel just that morning at school, our deacon had given
a sermon on cynicism towards the church. He pointed out that as we study and
develop critical minds, we also often develop critical spirits. We have higher
expectations of our Christian compatriots than of random godless schmoes from
the street. When we are disappointed by those in the Church, the result in us is
cynicism and arrogance. He spoke about how Christian cynics isolate themselves from
the community of the Church and end up becoming functional atheists.
He also spoke about how the antidote to cynicism is an
active prayer life and more, not less, fellowship and worship with those in the
Church. It’s not a matter of blinding yourself to the problems within the
church, but a matter of being willing to learn and grow together. It’s a matter
of being willing to serve the ones that drive you crazy and seeing that your
distaste can turn into love.
I have noticed a tendency in myself to be critical and
cynical towards the church. I came back to my dorm thinking, “I needed to hear
And then our friend made his announcement.
It’s not that I don’t understand why he made the choice he
did. I do. I understand so well that I guess I had to hear that sermon just before
it all hit the fan. He and I tend to think a lot along the same track, though I’m
not so far along the trail as he is. Our minds work in similar ways. But here,
I guess, we diverge.
He renounces being a Christian.
I choose to continue being a Christian - because I still love the Church, I still hope
for it, and I still want to rise with it to be what it’s called to be. I can’t
do that while I’m busy condemning it. In the past, I’ve tried to steer clear of
labeling myself a Christian to the general public, not because I’m not one, but because I am ashamed
of the baggage that goes along with the term. Yet, this season I have decided
that I am not going to keep that distance anymore. I am a Christian, and both
as tarnished and as blessed as the holy Church.
There is so much more I could
say, but today I am first and foremost thankful for the people who surround me,
challenge me, and encourage me in my walk. This semester has been incredible.
"Christ is the salvation of cynics and fools. Of all
people, he had most reason to be cynical. He is the one who suffered in prayer
in the Garden of Gethsemane and he is the one who gave himself over to a
community that would only abuse his body. The salvation that Jesus brings to
cynics is…that we meet Jesus himself as we persist before God and in the midst
of the people who bear his name.” Dustin