I was discussing with a friend today about some of the problems within mainstream church, or at least some of the problems we ran into. I also had a friend approach me today and tell me he converted to Islam while in jail, interesting. These 2 events threw me into a conundrum and I felt I needed to address an issue I see within the church that gets little press: personal responsibility.
I see personal responsibility as a huge issue that is under-addressed in the church. What exactly gets skipped over, well here is the process. The process of repentance means that as a person that serves God we will ask forgiveness of God (and we get it). What seems to be overlooked a lot of times is that person’s responsibility to the person they wronged. Why is the process of forgiveness ‘cut-short? We don’t address the issues of human to human, main focus is human and God.
1st Shortcoming: Person to Person
The church has a way of focusing on what they deem as ‘spirituality’ and that usually means anything about you and your relationship with God (ex: repentance, prayer, worship, etc). They miss a focus on person to person, namely in responsiblity. I think it’s grand that God forgives me but does my brother or sister forgive me? Are we helping people that have been wronged or wronged others to fix those problems? Is the church really that interested in personal responsibility? Here is my example.
Someone I know had an affair with another person in the church. The problem was presented to the pastor and church board and they decided to ex-communicate the girl. The guy just had to confess his wrong doings and that he admitted to. The girl did not do that, for what reason I am not sure so she was gonzo. I really felt the church glazed over what responsibility was in that situation for both parties. They never as so much as told the two of them to work this problem out amongst themselves or offered mediation. What happened is that girl never came back and that guy stayed…only to have the same situation occur again years later…again the situation unfolded the same way (this time with spouses and children involved). It really sucks that in both situations no help was really offered to give a chance for healing. The guy knew he was wrong but nothing was in place for both sides to deal with the scenario’s unfolding.
My problem with the scenario is no one really cared enough to give both sides the due attention they deserved to ‘deal’ with the problems they found themselves in. This could be due to the fact no one cared about person to person responsibility, as long as they found themselves alright with God then all was good. But all is not good. No one has ever accepted that ex-communicated girl back into the grace of God (she must think God is against her). The couple that left after the 2nd affair never had their problems, anger, jealousies, hurts, and whatever else dealt with. To be honest, these people involved can’t be in the same room together lest something dumb should happen. All I am asking is where was the church leadership and support from the church? It was not existent since they weren’t concerned with solving problems, just each person repenting to God and getting that right…they left out their responsibility to others. I know solving the problem will be rough but it’s a worthy endeavor nonetheless. Can’t have people hating each other forever.
I guess I want to see forgiveness/redemption/unity be a bigger event, something we do one with another also. We should also be placing some focus on what we do ‘one to another’, so as to teach youth and adults how to deal with problems they will face. I know we will do wrongs to each other but the key is ‘taking responsibility’ for our mistakes – to each other and not just to God. This would also teach people there are consequences to actions that we have to both bare and try to make right (that’s repentance). Not saying we will succeed in making things right but it’s worth a try; but that also needs to support of the community around them (the church – in a healing mode and not a gossip/judging mode). We need to place focus on personal responsibility more often in the churches any of us attend, if not for us at least to teach younger people this religion is not as irresponsible as some make it to seem.
2nd Short-coming: Responsibility in what we teach others
The church is filled with hypocrites and this is getting more obvious each year. All hypocrisy is is teaching people a value while you don’t live by it (quite common). If you tell people to not smoke or drink and you do both then don’t teach it (simple). There is also a problem with some of the other ethics the church teaches, I call them ‘lofty ideals’. If people are being taught God cares about everyone then shouldn’t we live that as if that is true? The church teaches things that are troublesome, at least to me. An example.
My friend is a muslim now and I grew up with the dude, I knew some aspects of his tough life…I had been there too. His mother and family attended church with me for years and they were rather devout (I guess). The family shared with my friend about church, in words more or less. He would be in out of prison but it seemed there was no due attention paid to his situation, or bettering that situation…he got words and words should suffice. Now he is a muslim, why? They gave him the due attention and structure he required…they gave him something bigger then words…action. Can’t say I blame him for the decision, at least he’s bettering his life. The problem really lies in what he was taught (and saw) from his family to what he saw (and was taught) in prison…basically someone went out of their way for my friend. I am happy for him and if you knew him you would be too. But where was the church in his time of need? He told me straight out they visited the prisons he was in but they came up indecisive and gave nothing (unless he needed a bible or prayer).
In the end we shrugged off our responsibility for what we teach. We teach a God that loves everyone and forgives everyone. We have a parable that mentions visiting the prisons (obviously to help in any way we can). We know the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable. We teach love God and love our neighbor as the 2 great commandments. Great ideals but some are so vague that we do nothing instead of something for others (ex: love your neighbor? How? Visit a prison? To give out a tract or a bible?). Where the hell is ‘us’ in those teachings? Spout them all you want but if you can’t live by what you believe or tell others, believe this…don’t say jack-sh*t, if only to save your breath.
That’s the big problem I see right now, where are ‘we’ in those scriptures? What is our role? How should we behave one to another? How can we take responsiblity for what we do and what we teach? I like the fact God loves me and forgives me, I find that such a ‘lofty’ idea. But if that can’t translate into the ‘real world’ with the people in our communities, then why teach it? What’s the use of knowing a God loves/forgives me if I can’t be loved/forgiven by others? It’s utterly useless. All I am asking is we need to check ourselves, are we being responsible in dealing with problems and in what we tell others? If so, we need to re-examine our focus and start looking at spiritualty as more horizontal and less vertical. Guess I just want some (a) structure and (b) honesty, and (c) reality.