COMMENTARY: Church shouldn’t be this hard

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Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

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(RNS) Church should be different from society. Instead, it plays by the same rules: get mine, be first, be right, punish the weak, exclude the different, reward the wealthy.

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  • Earold Gunter

    Tom, Well put. I think if religions could only act in this manner, the conflict between themselves, and between them and the secular world would fade away into just bad memories. I am not a believer, and would consider myself an anti-theist. However I would gladly drop the anti part if religions would just stop trying to force their beliefs on anyone else. Stop the violence, stop the indoctrination, stop the proselytizing. Believe what you want to believe, but leave others alone.

  • John

    Good article that I would agree with in terms of its analysis of institutional church today. Would also be interested, Tom, in what you see as the reaction against this by those who are seeking authenticity in their faith. Is the growing house church movement or abundance of new church plants, etc., a real Spirit-led response to this current state of affairs? It may be a normal or expected situation that church, like any other institution, can degrade into what you describe in the article. Churches can have life cycles too and become self serving, rigid and manipulative. But correction can come none-the-less, especially when talking about the life giving God we serve. So, do you see any hope here? This article begs the question of, “So what now?”

  • Great post! Yep, institutional church does seem to be this way and becomes even more so up the food chain to judicatory level, alas. Yet another reason why to embrace social media as a way to be and do church “in the trenches” and as community that’s not necessarily carved up by denominations and hierarchies within them. Not that I have a strong opinion or anything.

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  • Duane Lamers

    Earold, religions are based on principles that followers consider fixed. To say that, generally, religions try to force their beliefs on others is simply not true. There is a glaring exception, though, with much strength in the MIddle East.

    Show me where any religion in this country is attempting to force everyone else to abide by its beliefs. The major conflicts these days are centered on the attempts by the liberals controlling the federal government to force their secular beliefs on everyone else. Why should the federal government think it has the power to force every employer to buy someone’s contraceptives?

    Liberals among us have everything backwards. They accuse Cathoics of trying to deny contraceptives to others. No! They are trying to protect their own right to abide by their consciences and religious tenets as the Constitution allows and protects. People can get contraceptives as they’ve always been able to get them. If the taxpayers should provide this, why can’t I insist that the taxpayers also supply me with my chosen brand of beer or pay for my fitness center fee? Not to mention buying my 72% cocoa chocolate bars or shrimp scampi?

    Indoctrination? What about the government’s insistence that we are responsible for global warming–a warming which isn’t even scientifically demonstrable–and that coal mines should be shut down and that incandescent bulbs cannot be manufactured. Liberals’ idea of freedom is the control of everyone to abide by their decisions regarding what is good and bad. Religious groups do not exercise this control.

    I’m amazed at the utter lack of intellectual insight and rational discourse exhibited by liberals who post in these parts. I also note that when they are faced with objections they cannot counter, they simply disappear or go on to other subjects. This is a sign that they know they have “no there, there” when it comes to political or philosophical discourse, that they have nothing firmer than an emotional grudge against any idea they cannot rebutt.

    Conservatives maintain that contemporary liberalism, not that of a half-century ago, is a totally bankrupt “philosophy” not worthy of that name. This judgment is exemplified by the behaviors I note.

    Earold, we wish that the liberals, the secularists, would leave everyone else alone. Instead, they bend the power of goverment to do their will. Nothing democratic nor Constitutional about any of that.

  • Duane Lamers

    Meredith, if you have no strong opinion, why are you even concerned? What can be found in social media that represents anything of a rational attempt to explain the nature of existence or the requirement for society to form some sort of framework to enable it to survive?

    One can justifiably paint an ugly picture of the human condition just from the utterances we find in social media. It is clear from much that many people say that they are drifting about, having no foundation for anything they believe other than their own personal, narrow judgments based solely on what pleases them. “The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now” ! Flip Wilson’s unforgettable parodies.

    Someone should make t-shirts proclaiming “I am lost, haven’t a clue, and couldn’t care less” and sell them to this crowd.

  • rockscryout

    MeredithGould– It’s quite plain to me that the last sentance in your post is meant to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek.

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  • George Waite

    Religion’s main problem? It’s really boring.
    Why bother with something that’s this boring and that you have to pay for? At least at the gym you get to see results if you keep coming back; with religion all you get to do is sing stupid songs.

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