Perhaps Monday’s post deserves a little more clarification as to why the debate about what the church should actually look like still rages on today and why it annoys me so. Well, here it is.
I’m frustrated with the church as a whole.
Yeah, I know. Big surprise there. Seriously, though, isn’t anyone else tired of this? 2,000 years since Christ ascended to Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the helper who was supposed to help us bring the whole world to Him…and we’ve hardly got any of it right. Of course, we’ve been arguing about what Jesus meant about different things in his teachings and how we’re supposed to do church since the second century, but it seems to only get worse and worse as the years go by; we’re always finding something else to debate and argue about.
The Catholics and the Orthodox have been doing things mostly the same way since their inceptions, especially the Orthodox, who have managed to maintain an almost pre-modern stasis since the Great Schism in 1059. Unfortunately, their lack of dialogue with the RCC, as well as many Protestant churches, has left them isolated from the rest of Christianity (though they don’t think so; far as they are concerned, the RCC and the Protestant churches are not the true church, as I once heard a priest tell it). Keeping mostly to themselves, the Orthodox do not allow their own doctrine to be changed by outside influences or even internal reform, it seems.
The RCC (Roman Catholic Church) has fared better in recent decades, but comes from a history of dissension and disagreement, even from within their own ranks. Beside stirring up war with other religions, such as Islam, for long periods of time they faced corruption from priests, cardinals and popes oppressing the people they were supposed to be guiding and helping on their journey to God. Even they faced a sort-of schism at one point (what they call the “Babylonian Exile”) where there were two popes, one residing at the Vatican and the other at Avignon, France, and neither of them willing to give up their title. As a said above, however, the RCC has made great strides in recent years to fix issues with corruption from their past, as well as tackling new issues that arise even today.
As for Protestants, well, we were founded on reform, which became dissension. When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church, he did not intend to start a new church, but to reform the one that had trained him and indirectly shown him to his thoughts and understandings of scripture. What he didn’t intend was the subsequent splitting of denominations worldwide from the Catholic Church (though some reformations did occur without his inspiration; case in point: the Church of England). Even today, churches split apart over matters of doctrine or programs or direction of even which charity to donate to (probably just some hyperbole, but it wouldn’t surprise me). Near where I live now, there’s a United Methodist Church that has actually had to have armed cops sit in the back to prevent fights from breaking out. They’ve been through several pastors in the last year, with the clergy accusing members of the congregation of being wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the congregation balking at new programs and directions the clergy attempt to introduce.
And that’s how it goes. Things go well for a church for a period of time, then things either get stagnant and freeze, and when someone in said church attempts to move things in new ways, the church balks, and forces the individual out. Said individual will take some people with him, and a new church forms. Though reproductive, it is a method by which new churches should not be born, as it will only lead further to our own demise as a body. We will be but a shell of what Christ and his Apostles envisioned.
What we don’t see is that we’re a bunch of people looking at the same light bulb from different angles. There are many movements today to bring the church back to a model similar to that of the church in the book of Acts, pushing for greater discipleship and bringing the church into people’s homes instead of just into a building twice a week, and I concur with this movement. What worries me, however, is how often these movements reject the organized church and leave them behind, when they need to be in these churches working to bring them along, as well as using organization to form the ideal church.
I feel like the church today better resembles Hinduism than it does Christianity. We have our temples spread out across the world, and people can come in, do their worship, and leave, no matter where they are, and though we all claim to have the same brother, somehow, our Gods differ in many ways. The church we have today is a corporation, an ethnic establishment, not an organism that lives, breathes, and loves the world about it.To be established is not wrong, but we must be established in a fashion that allows us to grow and mature and be further unified by the discovery of new ideas and understandings of God, while still defended against that which would tear us asunder.
Problem is, right now, I have no idea what that looks like. I’ll be exploring that as the week goes on, but I don’t know how far I’ll get here. I know I want to see everyone included, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, and I want to see people brought to a more holistic form of the faith, but that’s for another day.
See you guys. Thanks for reading my rant.