One of the things I’ve been tracking is the current Christian trend of hating religion and religious establishments. Sometimes is takes rather hostile and aggressive tones (Derek Webb for example) while other times it takes the form of well meaning Christian encouragement and empathy. I say “encouragement and empathy”, because I’m not really sure what to make of books like Mike Erre’s Death By Church, and other such books. Regardless of its goal and genre, Death By Church is certainly not pleased with institutionalized Christianity. If anything it is organized Christianity that plays the part of the Big Bad Wolf as the Christian Red Riding Hood takes the Gospel to the mission field of Grandmother’s house. But why is this, and how can it be that getting Red Riding Hoods together in a way that makes you file your taxes so often — apparently — creates an anti- Gospel monster?
Personally, I don’t think that it does; or at least that this happens automatically. I think that there is a very common trendy perception that it does, and the straw man has been scotch-taped onto the real thing. It’s a part-for-the-whole error, where the sins of the few create the perceived identity for the whole. More importantly, this trendy habit created by kitsch universalists of the Hollywood variety has not only caught on but picked up steam in the Protestant world. This is sad, though unsurprising, considering that this habit of mitigating the possibility of the Church being the present body of believers who are being actively guided and corrected by Christ their Head through the Holy Spirit. For many, and this includes Protestants, maturity looks like critiquing, and there’s a certain enthusiasm and self-satisfaction that criticism breeds.
Trust me. As witnessed by this blog, I know the fruits of criticism well.
It certainly is not the case that there is nothing to criticize. Erre’s shots are moderately delivered at just targets. For him, Death By Church is a sign of love for the people of God. It is addressed to the church as a kind of warning sign. This is where the confusion kicks in: that the mean Church is the thing killing the poor innocent Church. Oh yeah, because the Church (institutional) is not the Church (invisible)?
All of this to say: hating religion and the institutional church (even if I don’t think it is the Church Christ Instituted) makes me sad. Really, really sad. It hit me again today when I was listening to the new album from one of my favorite bands, Sleeping at Last. The song is called “Naive“, and as most S@L songs do, it tries to end hopefully. I’ve posted the lyrics after the jump.
religion is a breeding groundwhere the devil’s work is deeply found,with teeth as sharp as cathedral spires,slowly sinking in.God knows that i’ve been naivebut i think it makes him proud of me.now it’s so hard to separatemy disappointments from his name.because shadows stretch behind the truth,where stained glass offers broken cluesand fear ties knots and pulls them tight.it leaves us paralyzed.but in the end such tired words will rest.the truth will reroute the narrow things they’ve said.the marionette strings will lower and untieand out of the ashes, love will be realized.God knows that we’ve been naiveand a bitnearsighted to say the least.it’s broken glass at children’s feetthat gets swept aside unexpectedly.
From the Album Storyboards
All Lyrics Copyright 2009, Sleeping At Last