Growing Out of Church

Interesting article about a prominent church author leaving the institutional church. The comment that caught my attention was this one the blog author wrote:

Finally, John Eldredge says, “The accusation is that we are backsliding, but the fact is, we are living a richer Christian experience than ever.  It’s mature Christians who have opted out of church.

That’s a good way of putting it. Church is mainly designed for new believers who are clueless about what it means to be a Christian. Once done teaching that, it only makes sense that one gets “out of school” as it were, and goes out into the big world as it is. It’s like leaving home for the first time to go to college or to get married. Some of us leave happy homes and have a hard time getting out there. Some of us leave bad environments and can’t wait for freedom. Church is like that. It’s a religious school for the baby Christian. I know that I felt church could no longer offer me much, especially if I was learning and believing vastly different things than they were willing to teach. When someone with an insatiable curiosity chooses to stay in that environment, one learns to either turn off one’s questioning ability completely or come up with some pretty creative answers to hard questions. Like going to the movies, when you go to church and listen to what they tell you, you need a high threshold of suspension of disbelief in order to get through it. At least I did.

I miss it sometimes.  However, while I can romantically and nostalgically remember my time in church, while I can read about doctrinal disputes and dogmatic questions, while I can keep an eye on the establishment and decry the base wickedness of clergy abusing children or parishioners swindling each other, I cannot seem to accept it all at face value any longer. There’s a time I’d like to crawl back into that comforting womb and be innocent and wide-eyed again (not that I was ever that!).  But leaving church is like the child who realizes her parents aren’t these god-like beings she always thought they were. She discovers they too have feet of clay and don’t know what’s going on either. They just act like they do. It’s an evolutionary necessity to get the young raised and out the door. So like a parent, a healthy religious institution should send “mature” Christians on their way into the world like we send our children into adulthood. Wouldn’t that be the logical thing to do? Because what makes it all worth it is that moment you realize that you are now on your own. It’s scary, but what a giddy, wonderful feeling to be free and trusted to make your own decisions about your life!


4 thoughts on “Growing Out of Church

  1. Church is mainly designed for new believers who are clueless about what it means to be a Christian

    I’ve thought it a maturing process.

    • Wordsmith,
      It is, but I don’t believe it’s designed for mature believers, at least the evangelical variety I’m used to isn’t designed for it. Most modern Protestantism has lost that process down through history. The ones I’ve attended were all designed to be “seeker” friendly and to educate in first principles. But a lot of it after that seemed to tread those first principles again and again and didn’t really move on anywhere, certainly not to clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, or sheltering the homeless. We can do this without church really. What I it provides is a shelter from the outside “world” with like-minded people. I couldn’t live in that constant state of wariness. It was so tiring and non-productive.

  2. I know I keep saying this, but I think it’s a point with which the major churches and faiths have failed to engage. Any human institution is, first and foremost, human. The tighter hold an institution seeks to have upon its adherents, the more its human objectives are revealed; I.E. the acquisition of a power base. There are just too many organisations going around claiming the ultimate hotline to God for any of them to be taken seriously in my view. that glass through which we see “darkly” can be tinted in all kinds of shades. To me, the very idea that any one human being, or group of human beings, can claim some kind of monopoly of the kind of truth we may glimpse so “darkly”, through filters designed to confirm our personal prejudices, is preposterous to me.

    • If you keep saying it, Reg, so do I. I don’t think anyone can say it enough really. We set such store by “experts,” yet these experts know little more than we do when they are found out by scandal or obvious sin; sin being any context in which our dignity is denigrated, marginalized, or abused. I think I’ve finally been convinced by your view that the ultimate purpose of institutions is to further the institution, at all costs, apparently as can be attested by the Catholic church’s hierarchy trying to hide the crime of child abusing priests. In any case, we can do no worse than to go by the “Light that is in every person” when it comes to reasoning about religion.

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