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church versus Church

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Aug. 2nd, 2007 | 06:32 pm

(originally posted here)

People have sometimes asked me why I don't go to church, even though I call myself a Christian. There are multiple reasons that I don't, and this is one of them: that I believe the church has done more harm to the cause of Christ than any external source in history. The attitudes that the church (the overall group of people that call themselves Christians) displays are not attitudes that the Church (capital C - the true Church, the body of believers) should - in fact, they are often almost entirely contrary. A good friend once said this to me, about Christianity:

If you were to tell me about your beliefs, starting with your belief in a God who loves us and wants us to basically live together in peace, and then expanded on him sending prophets, and then his son, and talking about the teachings he had... it would all make sense. I'd love to be a part of that. But the minute you attach the label 'Christianity' to it, I immediately run away and want to fight it.


I was torn by his statement. The arrogance, the holier-than-thou attitude that is practically screamed by the church at large should make the Church cringe. But the Church doesn't seem willing to break away from the church - instead, all too often, it plays along, letting itself fall into the infighting clique and forgets the basic principles of outreach and salvation. It would rather argue over John Calvin than tell people that God loves them. It would rather yell about how very wrong and condemned people are, then tell them that there is more in life than what we see around us. It would rather keep "outsiders" out, than getting to know and love them.

When I go to church, I feel like I am being a part of the problem, not the solution. I feel like I'm telling everyone else that I am all those things, that I am a part of that clique. I'm not - or at least, I try not to be. My best friend is an agnostic. I hang out with people who are not Christians, and who label themselves atheist, pagan, bisexual, liberal - and I love them, and hopefully I can show them a little bit of what Christ has done for me by how I live my life, using words only when necessary. And when I need fellowship with other believers - with the Church - I can easily find it outside the doors of a church building.

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Comments {17}

. W H U N E .

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from: whune
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)

lol: your 'old blog'? (!)

I'm torn about the whole church thing, as well.

I feel more alien than evers at the Grove, (but more welcome there than anywhere else)

but I can't seem to stay away

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)

I don't think there's anything wrong at all with going to church. I just don't think it's NECESSARY as some people make it.

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. W H U N E .

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from: whune
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)

I think we yield entirely too much to our feelings;
well, at least: I do.

I'm frequently, emotionally, compelled to forsake 'church,' as I've experienced it;
however:
"Forsake not the assembling of your selves together," perpetually haunts me.

I think we need to remember that what we 'feel' is merely an echo of what, and what aspect of, that which, we focus upon.

I find that when I kind of look past 'Christians,' and instead focus exclusively on God, and gather with those others, my fellow flawed hosts* of the Holy Spirit, in a manner expedient to love**, as empowered by said focus, to worship God...
Then I am fulfilled, in spite of my failings, and those of those all around me.

I also find that endurance of said failings & manifesting in spite of them; exercises all manner of our own failings, further shaping us to be ideal, independent witnesses, much more, yet matter-of-factly, bolder, in the character of the NT.

*Could it be that our retreating from facing, and embracing this reality, is really just our wanting to believe we personally are somehow above it?

**unconditional giving/acceptance

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)

"Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" I interpret differently than those who use it as a command to go to church every Sunday. and honestly, I have my best times of worship and prayer in a small group.

I do like your point on fellow flawed hosts. I will give that further thought.

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. W H U N E .

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from: whune
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)

*smiles*

it t'was a genuine question actually;
but the more I think about it: the more it becomes rhetorical.

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Prester Scott

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from: prester_scott
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)

As much as I hear where you are coming from, I utterly disagree with you.

You're disobeying a direct command and universal precedent of Scripture.

There's no sacramental fellowship over the Internet. There is also no worship.

The Church Invisible is not a totally independent entity from the Church Visible. I am sure you know your theology well enough to know this.

It sounds like you're doing a fair job being an ambassador for Christ among your unbelieving friends, but you are not doing them any favors by hiding your allegiance. I note that the paragraph you've quoted falls well short of the gospel... which suggests that perhaps you are softpedaling not only the dirty laundry of Church history but also the hard parts of the Message. Included among the hard parts is that Christians still sin and churches sometimes err, but those "warts" do not change the fact that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

In all this you are doing yourself, your friends, and the Church a disservice. I hope you will reconsider.

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from: alterum
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)

Hi! I agree with this gentleman's comments. There's hardly any sacramental life outside the Church. Did you baptize yourself?

The Church doesn't always do what's good or even what's right; She is a hospital for sinners, who comprise Her every rank. But I do think you're neglecting the importance of resisting the heresies of Calvin and all the other heresies throughout the ages. If She did not combat them, our theology -- some of which concerns matters essential to eternal salvation -- would be chaos.

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)

I was baptized in a friend's backyard by my friend John, who happens to now be a pastor. And while the church may be a hospital, I wouldn't want to go to a hospital who prescribed bad medicine any more than I'd like to go to a church that preached an incomplete gospel.

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)

It was his quote, not mine, he was outlining only what he saw as the "basics" of the message... whether I agree with him or not, doesn't matter. He's aware of far more than most Christians I know, actually.

My allegiance is far from hidden, but the fact that the churches in my area are extremely distasteful does not mean, I think, that I should join them. You say I am missing sacramental fellowship and presume I only get fellowship over the internet; neither is true. My beliefs about sacraments are significantly different than yours, from what I've seen in your writing, so I don't doubt we would disagree here. I can fellowship with my believers at a house, say, 5 or 6 of us discussing what God has done for us and how our lives are going. We can even "break bread" in remembrance of his sacrifice without needing a priest or pastor to break it for us.

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Prester Scott

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from: prester_scott
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)

I can fellowship with my believers at a house, say, 5 or 6 of us discussing what God has done for us and how our lives are going. We can even "break bread" in remembrance of his sacrifice without needing a priest or pastor to break it for us.

"Discussing" is not worship.

Casually "breaking bread," especially with the ironic quotes, is not the Eucharist. (I leave aside the issue of who is rightly qualified to celebrate it.) There is nothing in our culture that approximates the ritual nature of the meal... Americans have done their darnedest to de-formalize everything.

Twice you use the word "can." But do you do this? On every Lord's Day like the early church did?

Also, who among you is mature enough to be teacher and spiritual director?

And if you are doing all these things right, and you grow, then what is it that will prevent you, 20 years on, from becoming one of the Distasteful Dead Churches you now deplore?

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)

Discussing CAN be, and lead to, worship. And I don't believe that communion needs to be as ritualized as it is by many denominations. Paul instructs us that when we take of the Lord's supper, we are not to do so just to eat and drink, but something we pray over and examine ourselves. I don't see anywhere that says "And when the priest breaks it for you..." I do not prescribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation, or any similar idea - I believe that the actual food and drink being consumed is not the point, but rather the self-examination and prayer.

I have two main people in my life who I look to as spiritual teachers, and both are well capable of teaching and guiding and praying for me outside the doors of a church.

I am not trying to convince you to agree with me - this is not something I expect you to agree with, any more than I think I could expect a Catholic to agree with me on my stance on the Papacy and priesthood. I just want it known that I have thought things out to some degree. I don't believe these sort of differences are grounds for separation or salvation however.

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. W H U N E .

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from: whune
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)

I think you should endure the best of the worst*, and pray God gives you an alternative; perhaps to start your own church?

all that is required is a place, dedicated to the purpose of simple worship, at least in that moment, and with more than just your self.

I empathize with your plight; I merely implore you not to discount the practice entirely.

*unless you perceive it to just be outright heresy: if you just or turned off, then like I said previously: I think its a call to intensify your focus on God, past those around.

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Kierseyla

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from: kierseyla
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 04:52 am (UTC)

Dan. Now, more than ever, I love you. I have many reasons for disagreeing with the two people directly above me. You know what they are. I am proud of you, and of how you maintain who and what you are despite how people would have you change to fit into what *they think* is the right way to go about things.

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. W H U N E .

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from: whune
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 04:56 am (UTC)

We are not what/how we personally manifest: we are that which chooses what/how we personally manifest.

To alter behavior, or shift paradigm is not a kin to betrayal of 'self.'

There is a truth in this discussion, somewhere: none of us own it, or can ever personally transcend it; hopefully we are all seeking to find it, and align our selves, perpetually refine our own course*, thus.

I started out sympathizing and merely testifying of an ambiguity in regard to this issue. Upon reflection, I've a view that is growing ever contrary to his present paradigm.

This silliness of everyone just doing what they think they should do, and everyone else just saying 'hey whatever man.' is [ ] in the guise of love/enlightenment.

I'll never presume to judge Dan, but I will raise my voice if I think he is making a mistake.

*Truth/God is absolute/unchanging; we are creatures of flesh and forever in flux; ergo we must continually compensate for that innate tendency to inadvertently deviate from said unchanging absolutes.

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heathir

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from: seventhstar
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 06:47 am (UTC)

I'm making a mental note to come back and comment on this tomorrow. Hopefully I won't forget, hee.

And just in case... for the most part, I agree with what you wrote. Just slightly disagree with a few things. Or maybe it's not that I disagree, rather there are just some things you neglected to mention that I think are important (which you kind of hit on in one of your comments to someone else).

Tomorrow. When it's not 2:46 am, I'm not dillusional and my laptop is not dying. Can't forget.

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from: ex_physician553
date: Aug. 3rd, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)

>"When I go to church, I feel like I am being a part of the problem, not the solution."

I went through a period likethis around 15 years ago, when my Southern Baptist church seemed more concerned about national American politics than about the Word of God. I considered leaving it and finding another congregation, but I stuck to it and things (eventually) turned around. Even in the most horrible parts of that journey, it never crossed my mind to leave CHURCH altogether.

The joys, as well as the despairs, of being a member of a local congregation are all part of the Christian life. The Lord uses those experiences to produce spiritual growth, in my opinion. In the New Testament, we see how disgusted Paul became with individual congregations, but we see him not walking away and saying "good riddance you losers, I'm outta here;" rather, we see him standing in the gap, continuing to write to them, trying to lead people away from false teaching and living and into proper relationship with Christ. The example of the NT writers seems to be to encourage and correct the churches, not encourage people to flee because of flaws.

Even the most respected families in history have a few bad apples... and so does the family of God as seen in the Church. There will always be members who lack spiritual humility and act out as though they are holier-than-thou, and there will always be people who think THAT is what church is all about and despise it accordingly. Neither is a valid reason to disassociate oneself from the opportunites for spiritual self-growth and ministry to others which the Church provides. Neither is a reason to declare oneself a Lone Ranger Christian and harbor thourhts and attitudes toward Church members who do not see things the same way.

In the end, we know that it is Christ's sacrifice which secures our salvation and not our actions of attending or not attending church - but given what Jesus said about His church and the attitude of Paul and the Apostles toward the established congregations of the first century, it is difficult for me to see how a Christian can be long away from a formal assembly of believers without worrying that he may be out of step with the will of Christ.

That said, you still have my respect.

- Physician

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Dan

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from: spacebird
date: Aug. 4th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)

I appreciate your post, and I hope I don't come off as sounding critical of those who do go to church - the church DOES have its place, and it's obviously an important one. I just believe that it is not as vital as some believe it to be, and that for me, at this point, it does me more harm than good. Perhaps this is a shortfalling on my part - it's certainly possible. But at this point, the only local churches I have found whose doctrinal stances I can agree with are so ripe with fraud and anger and exclusivity, I cannot worship in that atmosphere. Maybe I just need to find a better church, but for now, I don't think that I'm disobeying any commands by not attending.

I still wonder why people backlash so against the idea of a very small group comprising a church, though. Why is a group of 100 spiritually superior to a group of 6? Did Christ not say, "where 2 or 3 are," not "where 100 are?"

Again, I appreciate your posting here as always.

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