We've had so many threads where people have taken pot shots at "organized religion" that it might be helpful to get it all out in the open in one discussion. This can then be a resource we point to when someone comes along with such issues.
My focus, here, will be organized Christianity, i.e., the institutional Church. But we can talk about other religions as well, if someone wants to. I don't know their history and issues as well as Christianity, so I'll stick to what I know best.
Let's begin at the beginning with a few basic questions.
1. Did Jesus Christ come to found a Church?
- A. Yes, he did, if by "Church" we mean a community of believers who would gather together in his name, share Eucharist, and continue his work on earth. The New Testament is so obviously clear on this point that I won't even bother to cite passages (read Acts of the Apostles and Paul's letters, if you need sources). From Pentecost (the birth of the Church) onward, to be a Christian has entailed belonging in some manner to a Christian community, where "he is in our midst." Christ identifies himself with his Church, and so to truly experience the fullness of what he came to give us, one must belong to the Church. To desire otherwise is to insist that Christ communicate his life on one's own terms, rather than to meet him on his.
2. Did Christ intend for the Church to be "organized."
- A. Yes, of course. Organization is superior to dis- or un-organization, as it enables a more focused pursuit and execution of one's mission. So it is that we learn from Paul's writings and those in Acts that, from the middle of the first century onward, there was an order in the Church built around the teachings and decisions of the Apostles. Again, this isn't speculative opinion on my part; it's all over the New Testament. See 1 Cor. 12: 27-30 for a specific reference.
Without "organized Christianity," it doubtful that the Gospel message would have spread throughout the world through the centuries. There would most likely be no Bible and very few people having faith in Jesus. So if you do know the Gospel message, you can thank "organized Christianity" for handing it down through the centuries.
3. Did Christ intend, then, for "organized, Apostolic Christianity" to carry out on with his mission? What about the gnostics?
- A. That IS one of the issues of the day, but only because people don't know much about early Church history. I've taken up this issue on many other threads, so I'll just briefly state, here, that gnostic sects never really caught on because their message was incongruent with the message preached by those who actually knew Jesus and experienced his resurrection.
4. Did Christ intend for the organized Church to become "institutionalized" with all sorts of "rules and regulations?"
- A. Sure, why not? As noted above, organization is better than dis-organization, and there's no doubt that institutionalization can help to support organization. Canon Law, doctrines, formal ministries, etc. are not incongruent with "organized" Christianity, nor do they necessarily detract from the Gospel.
5. Do all these "rules and regulations" really help people become better Christians?
- A. Depends which ones you mean. Some are more focused on the governance of the Church than on forming Christian character, but it's not as though the latter concern is neglected. But, sure, one can get all caught up in rules that don't seem to have anything to do with the Gospel. It's not an inevitability, however, and if one wants to turn from that to the Gospel, they'll find ample support for doing so in the Church.
6. Does everything done by the institutional Church represent Christ's will? What about inquisitions, crusades, etc.?
- A. This point doesn't follow from the above 5. Within the context of "institutional Christianity," one can find unhealthy leaders -- even policies ensuing from numerous leaders whose concerns aren't properly informed by the Gospel message entrusted to them. The problem, here, isn't the fact of organization or institutionalization, but of bad leadership. There's no doubting that the institutional structure makes it possible for them to do more harm than if they were out, acting on their own. So, in that sense, institutional Christianity can be a force for great harm when directed by bad people. Historically, this problem has been "self-correcting," in that the very Gospel which justifies the existence of the institution in the first place ends up condemning the unjust acts. Of course, this might take a few decades to turn around.
That said, institutional Christianity has been a far greater force for good -- something that doesn't receive much mention these days, it seems.
OK, it's your turn. What questions, comments, or additional points would you like to offer?
God is not distant, but is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
Phil, I respect your above opening topic views
It is no secret that I am not a member of an earthly Church. I am a member and joined together with everyone who flows in the spirit of Christ, may they be within earthly Churches or outside of Churches, joined together we are as one within the body of Christ in His Church above.
As you indicate, Paul's encouragement in his letters is to already formed communities, ones he instigated or helped form and sustain. And this was while believers expected Christ's imminent return. Never is there encouragement from Paul to live one's faith in isolation. He speaks of the whole body functioning together with its head, Christ, its source.
I knew a strict Calvinist who once noted that Paul, or the other apostles, never said, directly, "You must meet regularly in order to be a Christian." But this is begging the question, as Paul is assuming the importance of community, continually teaching in the Temples and drawing membership mainly from there, which was obvious to both Jew and Gentile. How else would Christians learn about their faith expect through "the apostles teaching (Acts)," the breaking of bread (never done alone), and the prayers?
Even Buddhism, which of all the great religions could most easily justify individualism, assumes the "Sangha," or community, to be as essential as its "Dharma," or teaching, and no less so than the "Guru," the latter having responsibility to the community that gathers for teaching from mostly ancient traditional sources. This is both true for Tibetan Buddhism as it is for Zen and Chinese traditions.
Hinduism is no less oriented in this way, as is Islam. As for Islam, which seems the most rigidly defined in terms of community obligation, one would expect Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity to pale in comparison, yet they really don't. And of course Judaism only locates the Torah and Tabernacle within its Temple, whether orthodox or reformed, but most of the folks taking cheap shots at Christian community are equally nasty and ingorant of this faith.
Sorry, Freebird, but Christianity in any form would expect you to participate in community. Probably the most urgent reason for this is because of the relational nature of the conscience, along with our Fallen condition, where we are never able to completely live in moral harmony without the mirroring of such tendencies the community provides. And this requires being a peer to others, not their teacher, toward the same end of bringing out the woundedness of the false self which isolationism only breeds; this is true even for the most hermetical Christian communities, such as the Carthusians, who meet daily for the Holy Eucharist and undergo spiritual direction under the guidance of others.
This thread is less about people justifying their Church involvement or lack thereof (if some want to share about that, it's OK, of course) than in discussing whether "organized Christianity" (or another religion) was intended by Christ. There's no small number of people who deny this, and who, curiously, proceed to pick and choose New Testament readings to prove their point -- forgetting that these Scriptures were written by the Church to instruct people in the faith.
Generally, it seems the problem people have with "organized religion" comes from painful/frustrating experiences they had with a minister, a teacher, a religious fanatatic family member, etc. This would come under point #6 above -- that there are indeed unhealthy people doing things in the name of God and Church which give Christianity a bad name. Generalizing beyond #6 to say that 1 - 5 are somehow suspect is fallacious reasoning, however. A similar situation would be for someone bullied by a policeman to blame the Constitution and say the Founding Fathers never intended there to be local police and laws. We'd all recognize that as a very extreme position, but when it comes to unhealthy religious leaders, people are often quick to say that Jesus never intended to establish a Church -- certainly not an institutional one -- and that this is the problem.
Taking a closer look at points 5 and 6 together, we find many critics of institutional Christianity calling attention to instances when it seems that certain rules and practices are more about perpetuating the institution than about promoting the Gospel. This is the stuff that turns people off, in addition to unhealthy leadership, which we've already noted.
I don't think institutional Christianity is immune from the pitfalls connected with any institution, and so we shouldn't be surprised if we find cases where it seems that the institution is more concerned with preserving itself than with fulfilling its mission. This is usually the root cause of dysfunction in an institution, and the Church is no exception. Whenever this situation occurs, you can expect to find certain leadership roles that benefit from the institution, and which also resist changes that might weaken their authority or power. This, too, is easy enough to find in Church history, and even present circumstances.
I am not denying that these problems have existed, nor that they are frustrating. What I am saying is that this does not negate the fact that Jesus intended to start the organized, institutionalized religion we call Christianity. I am also suggesting that the problems we find in Christian institutions do not, on the whole, negate the Church's mission to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Truly, no individual can say that there are only unhealthy Christian communities around to choose from. Even within a particular denomination, some communities are healthier than others. And, much more often than not, institutional organization is a boon to supporting community life. Saying the Church is only about rules and regulations is generally a "cop-out," an excuse to avoid becoming part of a community.
I have seen great miracles come out of organized religion, and for many it is the right place to be. I have also seen the devastation and the other side of organized religion, that make me cry.
I agree Phil that members of organized religion are greatly affected by an unhealthy experience with a Priest, Minister and or Elder within a Church and/or have conflicts with congregation members, thereby leaving and renouncing their association with any given Church. This is unfortunate, but true.
I am not against organized religion for it gives joined members a place to assemble and to celebrate their beliefs within their minds and hearts. It is a good thing to share together as a spiritual family. It is not for everyone and we should not judge, lest we be judged ourselves.
We are like snowflakes, one as part of the human family, yet loved by God and given an individuality in our love for Him and the way we should serve Him as His instruments in our love for Him.
Although I live alone, God does not allow me to be idle. He will never allow us to lead a selfish solitary life if we are truly committed to Him. I have shared that the First Commandment is my life and being together with loving my neighbor as myself. Even during my own healing, God used this healing time for me to be an instrument of love.
Freedom of the mind does not mean we are stubborn, nor think of ourselves as being exclusive or special. Freedom of the mind for me means exactly this, free in my service and love for God without any encroachments by a certain mind set or rules set doewn by men.
I will add more of my beliefs as time passes sharing the great joy and knowledge I have attained by my love for God and in His workings of His will for me.
Bless the ones that have gathered and united together in an organized Church family, and also bless others who for reasons unknown to us have decided to follow Christ in their walk away from organized religions and Churches. Can we state who is more in service to God, or loves Him more, the answer is no. My love to all.
I agree, Freebird, and the intent on this thread is not to be judging those who don't belong to a Christian community. I can't for the life of me understand why a committed Christian wouldn't, as it's clear that there is an encounter with Christ to be found in community and Sacrament that cannot be had otherwise. It's also clear that he intended his followers to belong to a Church. But why people choose not to is between them and the Lord, for sure.
Your seem to be saying that these "rules" are mostly restrictive, and that they are only of "men." Maybe that's your experience, but it certainly need not be the case.
I agree that the Church is the body of Christ. I also agree that Christ is one body exalted and seated in the right hands of God. The body of Christ is experienced both as one's individual experience (because it feels like one's own energetic spirit body) and as the whole of the body of Christ. Through Church we can manifest what revealed within us with other fellows. In addition we can get support and inspiration from the Church. We can also feel Christ tangibly in the sacrament of Eucharist. One of the reasons why I visit Catholic Church is because of the Eucharist sacrament. I can tangibly feel the presence of Christ spirit in it. Here it is important to stress that the body of Christ is not a physical body separated from us. The Christ does not have form on the physical level until it becomes integrated into someone's consciousness. I think the mystery of Trinity explain well the meaning of Christ body and Holy Spirit.
Having said that I want to point out that membership in Church alone doesn't make us automatically part of the mystical body of Christ. I met some Christians who really embody the spirit of Christ. I have also met many Christians who know Christ only through what they have read or what others have told them. Many of these people are frequent church going persons. They say the right words and preach the gospel, yet do not embody the Christ energy. This is not a judgment in the human sense, as I previously explained (about the gift of discernment) it is the Spirit within me that reveals the Truth, thankfully independent of the thinking mind. Calling oneself a Christian does not automatically make one part of the body of Christ.
Church is a big institution. In addition to those problems Phil mentioned above I also see another problem in Church. As I see it today this big institution expects to provide help to those people who undergo fundamental transformation. The mystical experience including kundalini is almost unknown phenomena in all churches. To understand their experience and hoping to find some help many Christians with mystical experience drawn to East religions or New Age. Through this venue they are exposed to impure energies. Many with mystical experience need to draw back from the world in order to integrate the energy passes through their body. A person who is in his/her Dark Night doesn�t need necessary attend Church and be active. This doesn�t mean the person is against Church. The question is what can the organized Church provide for these people? Catholic Church at least acknowledges the mystical process and even encourages Contemplative prayer. It is good but this alone is not enough to a person who need urgent help for his/her mystical experience. A person with mystical experience needs a spiritual director with deep knowledge and experience in this area. How many of the Church�s clergy are capable to do this job? I wonder if the Church clergy took courses on this issue before they ordained.
A distinction needs to be made between theology and experience, when it comes to Church membership. Theologically, there's no doubting the teaching of the New Testament and the Church through history concerning the intent of Christ that his followers be baptized and active members of a Christian community. The reasoning behind this is that Christ is not only present to and within the Church, but even AS the Church. It is his mystical body in space and time, and, as I (and Grace) noted above, he is present in Sacrament and the gathered community in highly distinctive ways not to be encountered elsewhere. In addition, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are most fully developed and administered in the context of the Christian community. So, theologically, to be a Christian means to be a member of Christ's mystical body, the Church. This principle applies to all Christians -- no exceptions. You won't find one Christian Saint or mystic saying that belonging to a Church might be OK for some people, but not for them. They all (even the hermits) understood themselves to be members of the Body in some manner, and their lives to be lived not simply for Christ, but for the members of the Body as well.
Pastorally, things aren't so clear. Someone might agree with everything I just wrote and yet find it difficult to be part of a Christian community. There are all kinds of reasons why this might be the case, and we must honor the struggles people have regarding this issue. Some of those reasons are better than others, imo, but that's between the individual and God. In many cases, however, I think the kind of theological perspective I shared above is lacking; i.e., the individual probably doesn't recognize the importance -- even need! -- to be a member of the Body to grow in Christ. Or they say they're "not getting anything out of Church services," which in itself betrays the wrong kind of attitude for attending. And so pastorally, what we can do to help one another is to encourage one another to keep asking, searching and knocking on the doors of Christian communities, praying for guidance concerning where we might belong, and how we might lay down our lives.
- following up my post above and responding to a point by Grace (great post, Grace).
It would be great indeed if the clergy knew more about mystical processes and spiritual emergencies, but, as you know, there are only a small number of people who struggle with this. Those who have a special interest in spirituality and mysticism can pursue their studies very deeply within the Church, and some do. But the overwhelming number of clergy and religious do not go very deeply into this training, and I think that's OK.
As you know, I've had struggles with dark nights, kundalini, etc., and I did look around the Church for guidance. I was not able to find anyone who could relate, but what I did find was more helpful -- people to keep me focused in what was most important about the Christian life. In the long run, it has been this faith perspective that has been most helpful unto healing and ongoing integration. Ordinary parish life has played a vital role as well. While it was tempting to blow it all off in the name of "not-being-understood" or "being-special" (yuck, yuck, yuck!!!), I eventually came to realize that the greatest gift my brothers and sisters in faith had to offer me was the ongoing witness of their own fidelity to trying to live a good life in Christ. That's the gold, you see; the energy "fireworks" are a sideshow and even a dangerous deception, if one gets too caught up in it all.
"You have energy blocks in your brain, Phil? Tsk, tsk. That woman just lost her husband, and she's at Mass. And see this couple; the husband just lost his job: he's here. Accept your sufferings and be faithful."
That's the message that came to me again and again, and, as I say, it's gold. You can bank on it.
BTW, see chapter C - F in the Growing in Christ (note the Lite version) conferences I gave a couple of years ago. I share more about the importance of meeting Christ in community and Sacrament in those reflections.
P.S. Sometimes if we don't find what we need within Christendom, we have to look outside. There is deep wisdom concerning the dynamics of subtle energy processes to be found in the East, and I see no reason why any Christian should not benefit from this, especially if it helps to integrate an active energy process of some kind.
Just keep the Christian faith perspective, keep going to Church, etc . . .
I eventually came to realize that the greatest gift my brothers and sisters in faith had to offer me was the ongoing witness of their own fidelity to trying to live a good life in Christ. That's the gold, you see; the energy "fireworks" are a sideshow and even a dangerous deception, if one gets too caught up in it all.
Phil, that is really gold. I realized this after I have been tested violently. It could have been better to know (not mentally) these things at the beginning of the process (energy fireworks). Phil, you have been following my spiritual experience closely since its inception in 2004. At the beginning you were very careful to not pushing me towards Church. I think you were anticipated that the spirit will eventually lead me there. You did well. During this process I contacted priests and explained about my experience. Most of them were ignorant of this issue except one. In lack of spiritual director I trusted fully the real spiritual director and guide Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually I began to feel energetically his presence in Eucharist. Although distinct I also began to feel the presence of Maria, Saints and angels. From all of these holy beings I found Eucharist unique, because I can only found it in Church. When I'm alone in my prayer and meditation I feel his presence mostly in my heart but in Eucharist I encounter him in a very unique and tangible way. Many time I felt my heart has been strongly connected with Eucharist and I also observed the spirit of Christ emanated from Eucharist spread all over the Church. No words can describe this special and mysterious encountering.
Thanks for sharing your personal testimony.
And thank you for yours, Grace.
Just to note: it isn't easy for me being a regular to Mass. I'm drawn for obvious reasons, but bring my wounds like everyone else. I had this struggle in the Episcopal church before I converted recently. And I didn't expect that to change. When I quite looking for family in the church is when I began allowing myself to participate. There are church members dying of diseases, struggling far more than me to make ends meet, not knowing what they really believe, but showing up all the same. And when we receive Christ's body and blood all those conflicts seem to join us.
That said, I don't think any of the above characterizes institutional Christianity any more than the pedophilia scandal characterizes the Catholic priesthood or the problems with Enron characterize how "big business" operates. To amplify a problem into a normative characterization is what I object to, here, especially (as w.c. has noted) by someone who has so little experience in living with Christian communities.
Well, I'll definitely agree that it SHOULDN'T characterize institutional Christianity, but I think it is, unfortunately, what many of those outside see. Mostly because that's what the media focuses on. I guess I'd say that probably anyone who is "outside" of any organization that only sees these media "events" is going to, more than likely, be forming opinions based on that.
I guess I see Brad's struggle as typical of one who is searching diligently and being thwarted by the enemy who detests those searchings. I dunno..maybe I've just encountered more of it on other boards or something.
Thanks for the sharing. Yes...when one member of the body groans, we all groan. It is both a wondrous and mysterious thing how the bond of the Holy Spirit conveys this to us.
Blessings to you both,
Thank you Terri for your courage in coming forward to speak of what is in your heart and mind. I also support your defense of Brad.
What I myself am about to reveal also takes tremendous courage and may I be led by the Holy Spirit in my presenting truth.
This thread is about organized religion, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am here to speak of the ugly, and it is only the love of Jesus Christ that prevents me from hating.
At the age of 17 years while taking conversion lessons for Roman Catholic conversion, I was brutally raped by a Priest, became pregnant and went into a Salvation Army home for the pregnancy and birth of a baby daughter. My family were immigrants and not aware of the judicial system of being able to sue the Roman Catholic Church. The Priest never denied his paternity. He also had relationships with many other women and upon his death his death notice was not put within the local papers due to the many complaints against this Priest. My beautiful daughter was adopted by a Congressman and his wife. I met her at the age of 18 years and she chose to have nothing to do with me. My father reported the incident to the local parish and the Priest was sent away for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. He continued his abuse and he was not excommunicated and died as a Priest as a member of the Church.
My second experience with the Roman Catholic Church again was devastating. My late husband was a non practicing Catholic and I chose to have my two sons baptized in the Catholic faith as well as their attending parochial school. The head Priest of this parish had a tendency to come for dinners as a guest of families whose children attended the school and were part of the parish. I became aware that this Priest enjoyed the presence of little boys and some parents trusted him with their sons as the Priest took them camping and on overnight trips. I refused to allow my sons to go with him, for my spiritual guidance alerted me to my own earlier life experience of the brutal rape. This Priest is now excommunicated from the Catholic Church due to having been convicted as a pedophile. Several men who were friends of my sons and abused by this Priest have a life of sorrow and constant pain.
My third experience was when my mother, who died last year in a nursing home back East was not once visited by a Priest of the parish she belonged to, nor did any members of the Church she belonged to for 30 years visit her as well.
I choose to follow Christ who tells me in Matthew 16:24-25
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
This is my walk, and I have no desire to be part of an earthly Church. There is a reason as to why God has shown me the ugly of organized religion, and I know that my walk with Christ is a walk of love and truth. So no thank you, I do not join anything that is earthy, may it be a Church, community, or society. Within the arms of Christ is my safety and shelter from the storm.
Thank you Lord for your gentle loving heart in allowing me to forgive and love.
I'm truly sorry to hear of your experiences, Freebird. This type of thing seems to be coming to the forefront in all denominations. Though I've experienced some very harmful things in church, nothing like the trauma you've shared.
It is certainly only by God's grace that you are in this place of forgiveness through Christ. May you always be comforted by Him.
P.S. I finally saw your post on the global warming thread and responded to that. Just thought I'd let you know.
My dear Terri,
May the good Lord bless you with great abundance. He used you as an instrument for me to open and to share my story.
It was not an easy thing for me because the pain of the past although resolved, does affect the physical body and I was trembing as I was writing.
Much love to you Terri
Yes, Freebird, those are certainly of "the bad" and "the ugly" -- even "the horrible." It's a shame that incidents like those alienate people from the Church, and understandable when they do.
I felt sorry for what the organized church have done in your life. You are leading solitude life which I admire a lot. You are totally sacrified your life to Christ. I can feel the spirit of Christ moves in you. If anybody judge you negatively by not belonging to Church they don't know what a precious light you embody. Your presence and example is more than enough to serve Christ. You don't need to belong to any organized community. You are preaching the gospel through your presence and example. Through your presence Christ works to heal other people. Thank you for your presence.
Amen, Grace! Your journey is a witness to God, Freebird; there's no doubting that.
One thing to keep in mind about "the bad" and "the ugly" is that this aspect of Church life isn't of recent origin. In fact, if you read Paul's letters, which were written to communities he founded, you'll find all sorts of problems, some of which were quite scandalous and divisive. Anyone who studies Church history will find enormous difficulties in every age. It's a miracle the Church is still around, but the Holy Spirit has something to do with that. Wherever you have people doing anything together, you can expect to find problems, and the Church is no exception to this fact. And yet Paul still affirmed to his dying day the importance of belonging to Christian community, and he worked hard to form healthy ministries.
So what's important in all of this is perspective.
- Is the world better off for the existence of the Christian Church?
- Can anyone really say that things would have gone better, historically, without it?
- Is the Church still a force for goodness and spiritual transformation in this age?
- Is Christ present and active in the Church? its people? ministers? ministries? Sacraments?
When we ask these kinds of questions, I think we can affirm "the good," which is to be distinguished from "the perfect" (the criterion used by many pinheads and blowhards to justify their snobbery).
"Organized religion" (especially Christianity) seems to me to be very much under "attack" these days, and from a wide variety of sources, some even within the Church itself. This isn't new either, for the Church is the primary enemy of the devil on this earth. But it does seem to me that downing Christianity and sneering at orthodox Christian beliefs has been on the upswing during the past few decades. Christian-bashing is most definitely socially permissible in ways that would be considered un-PC for any minority race or other religion.
Perspective, friends. Without it, there can be no wisdom.
That is a horrifying story. It certainly could only be by grace you've come through this with such growth as you have. So many have been destroyed by this insanity which the Vatican has only recently taken seriously after having its feet held to the fire; it is beyond sad they have looked the other way for so long - truly disgusting, even evil.
I grew up with friends who were sexually abused, and the course of their lives has been so much more difficult because of it. Your sons were fortunate they escaped the plight of their friends, and I'm guessing you feel some deep encouragement in being able to protect them by not having repressed your own experience like many parents seem to have done.
And I agree with Phil: it is certainly understandable how you've become alienated from the church.
Re. the institutionalization of "organized Christianity" - - that in itself is a long and complicated history. At this time, Christendom has many kinds of institutions, ranging from the elaborate, highly clericalized (and patriarchical) system of Roman Catholic governance to the more loose and community-centered models of Presbyterians, Mennonites and other Protestant groups. One thing we can say about all of these is that they are all human creations and so they can be changed. E.g., while it is one thing to say that Christ intends the existence of an organized Church that is governed by apostolic leadership, it's quite another to say that this leadership must be provided by only celibate males who have no direct accountability to the communities they serve. Church history shows that this was not always the case -- not even in Catholicism.
Discerning what aspects of institutional Christianity support Christ's intent and which do not is an important, ongoing process. On the one extreme are those (of any denomination) who almost seem to be saying that the institution and all its rules, policies and procedures is God's will and so cannot be changed -- a position held by few, but sometimes by those in key places. The other extreme is more common -- holding that there is no need for organized Christianity whatsoever . . . Jesus didn't really intend to found a Church in the first place . . . let's do it like Alcoholics Anonymous or similar groups . . . More often than not, we find individuals on both sides with unhealed issues pertaining to "authority," attempting to resolve their inner pain by projecting onto the Church their pain. Not much productive discussion comes in such cases, but I suppose that's the way it's always gone.
My heart goes out to you Freebird. It does make one more cautious when they personally witness the ugly in the church. My father was molested by a priest while serving as an alter boy and as a result of his experience led a double life sexually for the rest of his life. He was a closet bisexual who fathered 6 children, but also secretly frequented gay bars. My mother stayed with him until he died at age 63 even though his secret life brought her much suffering. I must admit that I felt no sympathy for that pedophile priest in the news who was killed in prison.
Why the need for churches? I have been an observer of people my whole life and success in my work depends on accurately knowing human nature. I have observed that most people feel the need to be involved in a group. They feel safer knowing that they are not alone in their beliefs. Even though crime in rural areas is practically non existent, most people feel unsafe if there is not a neighbor next door. They usually pick a political party and won't even consider a candidate who is not of that party. Liberal democrats are just as guilty of this as are conservative republicans. Anyone who has ever been involved in sales knows that consumers love a line and the first sale is the most difficult because people don't trust their own instincts when it comes to assessing the value of a product or service. For these reasons, most people feel the need to belong to an organized religion or church in order to spiritually progress. It doesn't matter weather the need is real or not. Because they believe the need is real, they will not find peace and spiritual development on their own, so churches serve a very valuable function in our society. I'm sure that Jesus and his apostles were aware of this part of human nature and that is why they preached the church dogma regarding membership. Churches are also responsible for a great deal of community service and charitable donations. But to say that we are all called to be a member of a church in ludicrous. The kingdom of God is within, and not everyone needs a church to enter there.
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