The things we do in the name of the Prince of Peace.
A friend told me a story recently of her family’s experience of church. She grew up in a very strict religious situation, with strong moral and and ethical codes for life. Her parents did their best to provide a Christian home, and her community still tried to live as they saw the Bible telling us to, for example, avoiding work or travel on the sabbath.
About 15 years ago, there was a significant split in the church over doctrine. It was an incredibly painful time for the people involved. My friend’s parents, as people of strong faith and integrity, were at the centre of it all. They were finding it so difficult, that they were considering leaving the church.
At one point they went to see the pastor, to discuss how that were feeling. The pastor told them that if they left the church (in order to attend another one) they would be leaving the Church of Jesus Christ on this earth.
The strain became so great for my friends parents that her mother had a breakdown, and ended up in psychiatric hospital. Her father had a heart attack.
The amazing thing about both my friend and her parents, is that they are all still Christians. Many people, when the scaffolding of Church is stripped away, loose faith. Our Church leadership and activities easily become the conduits through which our spirituality is expressed- the only way that we can approach God. Strip these away, and for many of us, faith goes too, at least for a while.
But the church situation above seems to me to have developed all the characteristics of an unhealthy, abusive, even toxic institution.
The sort of faith whose members Jesus called ‘a brood of vipers’. Whose religious practices brought him to such anger that he overturned tables.
This kind of Pharisaical dogmatism that places people in bondage has often been termed ‘spiritual abuse’. There are some resources available here if you want to check this out further.
In the meantime, let us remember that it is for FREEDOM that we were set free. And those of us who have been enslaved- let us reintroduce them to the table turner…