What are your thoughts? In what ways is the church the devil's playground? In my former career as a pastor, I had quietly come to this realization because of the injustices I often saw Christians commit against other Christians within the church, as well as to others outside the church. It was often disheartening to see Christians talk so high and mighty about how worthy they were to "the Lord," and yet all the while be exactly the opposite. It was even more damning and disgusting when I became the target of such ill will, when it came to putting child safety over church politics. So I wonder what any of your thoughts were - particularly those who are former Christians. What say you?
Please note, that I use the term "devil" not in it's generally accepted theological sense of an actual anthropomorphic being, but as a more loosely personification of the concept of evil and the injustices human beings often commit against each other.
I once read on reddit about a pastor that was driven away from the podium to outside the church by his own congregation for suggesting, gasp, to treat gays with respect because that was what jesus would do. The story repeated itself several weeks later when the new pastor suggested the same thing.
As a theist, I would say that you would think that the "people of God" would get the message, but as always, the religious are more inclined to silence those who speak truth and justice. There are a number of pastors, who face such tyranny. They are the ones who enter the pastorate because of a genuine belief in God and a heart that seeks to commit justice. However, there are more who are only interested in garnering personal power and influence within the institution, and this includes non-clergy as well. In the last church I was at, it was one family and a few of their cronies - the senior pastor being one of them.
The church is less concerned about the injustices that humanity faces, and more concerned with propping up and protecting the institution. How they do this is through indoctrination and political posturing and gaming. Obviously, it is nothing new, but it is a long way off from what the Jesus of Nazareth intended as based on his teachings and the altruism that his persona embodies.
The more and more I look at church, the more I hang my head in shame, and the more I want to cry out at the vile stench it's become. The excuse "the church is imperfect because it's people are imperfect" is not an excuse but a cop out for bad behavior they just want to sweep under the rug and keep on going with the status quo of preach, teach, but not do. I had always "known" this, but the fact that my family became a target made it all the more real. There are some churches out there who may get it right, but those are rare. The church is no longer a place that is well suited for spiritual or personal growth, there are other activities and clubs better suited for that nowadays.
"Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car."
-- G.K. Chesterton --
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
-- Mohandas Gandhi --
Oh yes, gossips. A church is not a church if there isn't plenty of those. My mother used to tell me about the old ladies in the House of Prayer (a very unimaginative name for a church owned property they use to, well, pray), it didn't matter if you were alive or barely living, a single sentence was needed and they would all treat you with contempt. She referred to them as "Having god in their hearts and the devil everywhere else".
In all honesty, if you really look at Church, it is nothing more than a corporation - and that includes the more "loosely" organized institutions such as the SBC. I once had the opportunity to meet a "church planter/evangelist/missionary" for one of the SBC's "mission organizations." All he was was a salesmen in a sales company - a cog in the machine of consumerism.
That many people are nasty, controlling, dogmatic, while most others are passive in the face of injustice is typical of the general population, is it not?
nails this to a degree which is beyond my ability. I have asked many religious people increasingly penetrating questions with regards their beliefs and it always becomes obvious that they are simply making it up. IMO, there is no god involved in the churches but rather simply people running according to their idle thoughts and vain imaginings. Subject to contrary theory, I think that hypothesis stands.....
The thing that I could never get my head around, christians are steeped in some parts of the bible, and re-write the bits they really want to push - God loves you, God is gentle - Jesus is a wonderful man - then turn into gossips, fornicators, back-stabbers, everything they preach against.
Any religion relies on the naive, faithful, non-questioning innocents to keep the whole thing going.
Hypocrisy rules, power rules, go against perceptions of what the church should be, become a whistleblower, and like all whistleblowers - you are out. When someone says I am christian - I run.
Barry, what did you do before you became a pastor. One of the problems with catholic priests etc, is that is all they know, they can't leave and get a job - what to do - stay as a priest, even if they don't believe what they are saying.
Nothing comes before the church, even children. How horrific is that?
I did a lot of things. I worked in sales, which morally to me was horrid, so I left that and became involved in education. I started first as a special education substitute, and then took a position as a behavior management specialist/program assistant at an alternative school before I entered into the ministry as a pastor.
I know nothing comes before the church. The most difficult part of my situation was being made to feel like I was caught between a rock and a hard place. The church and the senior pastor placed a lot of pressure on me to comply with their demands, act like nothing was wrong, and make my children become part of something they were turned off to in the first place because of a few messed up people. Even though I felt so terrible - a failure, a coward, a reject - and thought I should have been more active in my defiance (I was much more passive, but that was a default reaction because of issues in childhood). I just could not force my kids to do something they felt so strongly against. What I realize now is that the only "crime" I am guilty of is listening to my children when it came to a church they felt strongly against.
Even so, the pastor and church did a wonderful job of giving me a guilt complex because I was unwilling to participate in what I clearly saw a s false image. I actually only brought up the situation because I wanted to help correct the problem, but I quickly found out that they didn't want to admit that there was one. It was all church politics because the ones in the wrong were also the ones with the most money and influence.
RE: "I started first as a special education substitute" - me too. My last work in that field was as Development Director, Special Gifts for the San Diego Special Olympics.
As far as I can tell, the moral purpose of religion is to allow bad people to feel good about themselves.
Like Suzanne, I now avoid religious people like the plague.
A fellow theist friend of mine had the photo below posted to his facebook page, and he was in disgust of the woman's behavior. It just goes to show you how ignorant people are in the name of religion - rigidly clinging and blind to the doctrine and dogma they are spoon fed in the mantra, "Don't think for yourself, let us think for you." In all honesty, this mantra is often spoken by a number of our institutions: government, corporations, educational system, etc., but the greatest offender so often seems to be religious institutions - which is a breeding ground for hate towards anyone who thinks outside their little, narrow box.
Please thank your theist friend for us, for his decision to think for himself, rather than take up his pitchfork and torch and join the crowd. In case it's something you want to publicly admit, feel free to tell him that you know a few atheists, and contrary to popular rumors, we don't actually eat babies - well, not all of us anyway --