"Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so reapid, the overthrow so complete." (from Frankenstein By Mary Shelley)
Jesus came to set the captive free but my personal religious experiences have not at all lead to freedom. In fact, I often feel shackled by "church-ianity" and the ways in which I have experienced the more institutionalized faith of today. It seems that the typical current model of American church doesn't function unless fear and spiritual slavery is added to the mix in healthy measures.
I often have to remind myself of the sentiments of the Croatian Theologian, Miroslav Volf. I take from his book, Exclusion and Embrace, the timely and convicting message that my reaction to evil, abuse or injustice can be just as evil and ungodly as the initial offense. If I am honest I must report that often the anger and sarcasm I direct toward "church" is rooted in the expectations and dreams I once held for "church". There is a word used to describe such expectations and dreams...idolatry.
Attributing saving power or absurdly high hope to anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. I have mistakenly used "church" and "God" or "Jesus" interchangeably. Why else would it be necessary for one to attend church? Whether we admit it or not, we believe that is where we encounter, commune and experience God. Why else would it so wound when ministers and pastors cheat, lie and steal? We elevate them as "super-christians" and we even compensate them as "professional-christians"...don't we all make a living with work we are gifted, experienced or educated to do? Why else would church doctrine increasingly stray with scripture over time? Why else would people blend preference and scripture to a degree that canonizes preferences? I just feel that we ascribe a worth, a holiness and a necessity to the institution of church and the nominalization of "christians" that isn't in step with God's intent for His people and His church.
It is just so easy to protect our positions. It is so easy to have an opinion that can be substantiated by a Bible verse. It is so easy to turn a blind eye to other verses not as clear cut or not in favor of our positions. It is so hard to wrestle with scripture...its meaning, its intent and the ways in which we can live faithfully according to scripture.
Mark Twain wrote, "men and rivers both become crooked when the easy way is taken". In my opinion, the easy way has been taken by the people of God and churches in general for far too long. I can't change that now...in fact, I am not capable of something that huge. What I can do though is to continue to humbly put my frustration, anger and hopes at the foot of the Cross. I can be an agent of change through proactive behavior and attitudes. I can assure that my reaction to what I consider to be a hijacking of faith and gross injustice in the name of God does not lead me into a place of impurity, harshness or any place void of the grace of the Father...in whom and for whom it is all about anyway.
Maybe one day the "bitterness of disappointment" and dreams that have become a hell for me will only refer to the disappointment and shattered dreams known outside the embrace and presence of God. I pray that the "overthrow so complete" will only refer to the degree to which I have yielded to the agenda set before me by God and God alone. May it be so.