Thoughts On Church History and Church Today

As I continue in my study of Early Church history this week, I find myself balking at the sheer size of the task…. Roughly 2000 years of church history. Am I really up to this?

Then I’m reminded of how little I knew, how little I was taught, on the history of my religion during my childhood faith formation. The death toll in Western Europe during the Inquisition, the brutality of the Crusades, the 3m-11.5m deaths that resulted from 30 year’s war in 17th century Europe– these things I learned in college courses. At a Secular university.  All this carnage related to the Christian Church, and I only learned about it through non-Christian sources. Why?

I feel like American Christianity has been mass-marketed; and Christian churches have been quick to sweep our violent past under the rug, in the name of good PR. 

This tendency towards sweeping egregious transgressions under the proverbial rug continues today, with Clergy sex scandals, the soliciting of prostitutes (male AND female) by big name leaders in Evangelical Christianity, the inexcusable pattern of sexual exploitation of girls and young women in the Christian Patriarchy movement. And  it’s not that this kind of stuff doesn’t go on outside of the church, it’s that it continues within at a frightening rate. In a church culture so obsessed with living our lives as a testimony to the value of relationship with Christ, when do we admit to missing the mark? When do we stop sweeping transgressions out of view, and start being honest with ourselves and with God?

If we truly believe in a God that offers forgiveness in return for our heartfelt repentence, why do we systemically hide those transgressions from view? 

The church of today is still hiding themselves in the brush, ashamed of their naked vulnerability, just like Adam and Eve. 

Very few people outside of the church care that much about appearing to be perfected. Why do we? Why do we care so much about our image, when we’ve committed our lives to a God that went on record as abhorring the worship of mere images?

We can’t be accused of being hypocritical when we are being honest about our own shortcomings, right? Yet ‘judgment and hypocrisy’ are the main complaints against American Christians. 

I think our service to a church system, in lieu of service to the Cornerstone rejected by the builders, creates a frightfully egocentric dynamic. The church system cares about the continuance of itself, and does so with blatant disregard for the individuals that make up that system. Unless those individuals have a lot of cash or political power to contribute, they are too often seen as a hindrance to the church, instead of its God-ordained mission. 

Jesus sums this up quite well:

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Matthew 6:24 (NRSV)

Who, then, do we serve? Do we serve the graven image of our institutions? Do we serve its continued economic stability? Its growth through superficial popularity?

Or, do we collectively serve God in Christ? And do so as He set forth:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

James 1:27 (NRSV)

Corporate church hierarchies, millionaire ‘Christian’ authors and evangelists– if the stain of the world is greed, then American Christianity is thoroughly stained by the world. Consequently, it becomes a religion that ceases to be pure and undefiled before God. 

I’m up to the challenge of practicing a religion that honors God and His will for humanity. Because, I know I will not have to rise to that challenge on my own. The church has Christ. And if Christ can raise Himself from the dead, I’m pretty sure He can sanctify American Christianity. That is, if we want Him to…

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts On Church History and Church Today

  1. I had this long comment written and then I clicked a button and it disappeared. UGH! Well, I just wanted to say I hadn’t thought of this perspective before, but it makes total sense to me. I must ask, do these people that sweep abuses under the carpet–are they Christian or just religious? Because I tend to think the latter. They are no different than King Saul consulting a medium. Of course we all have our moments of sin, but sweeping abuse and murder and other atrocities under the rug–that’s a pretty big deal to me in my book. You have to have a pretty evil heart to do something like that, in my opinion. In the least, you aren’t really soaking in what the gospel is or letting it change your heart. You are just serving your own self, not Christ. So, is it Christianity? or is it religion? I ask that of my former church at times. They think they are Christians. They preach good sermons, at least from the pulpit. Their actions though are far from what they preach. So are they religious? Are the Christians? Are they just sinful and need grace? I look at the fruit–if you got several families leaving your congregation, something is terrible wrong.

    This. is. right. on: I think our service to a church system, in lieu of service to the Cornerstone rejected by the builders, creates a frightfully egocentric dynamic. The church system cares about the continuance of itself, and does so with blatant disregard for the individuals that make up that system. Unless those individuals have a lot of cash or political power to contribute, they are too often seen as a hindrance to the church, instead of its God-ordained mission.

    I totally agree! Wow. This post is awesome.

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    1. Thanks:)

      As far as the difference between who is Christian –who follows Christ in real, life changing ways–and who is just Christian in a religious sense….I don’t like to try and determine what is the wheat and what is the tares, KWIM?
      I look back on my own life. My path has twists and turns, and if someone were to judge the state of my soul by my lack of fruit at certain points of my journey, they would be wrong about me. Even at my very worst, my most desperate state, I longed for God. I have always been His– I just haven’t always realized that fact;)

      Human beings are all hypocrites. None of us can live up to our own ideals, though some of us consciously try harder than others…
      My vision of a church where I would love to be, is one full of Grace. One that has full confidence in Christ and the power of His Love to change the hearts of even the most egregious sinners. I think when churches focus on external behavior– mere images– we shortchange Grace. If all of our hearts were surrendered fully to Christ, our actions would naturally fall in line with His ideals. The sharp focus on appearances tends to make Christianity a matter of mere human behavior, and with that perspective comes issues of power over others just like us and human measures of control. And Grace suffers to co-exist with human strivings for power and control.

      I think our concept of church needs a massive overhaul. It looks far too much like a strictly human endeavor, and little like one empowered in Christ.

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  2. So happy to have stumbled across your blog 🙂 Grace (and my new understanding of it) has been a HUGE eye opener recently. Love this thought on the Church and how we have been protecting an image of ourselves rather than fully leaning on Christ as our identity….I do believe those who fully embrace God’s grace and are aware of their identity in Christ will be able to shine light on all those dark areas of church history with out fear….and hopefully shed some true light on recent history as well.

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