I keep trying to write my thoughts about religious people and how I feel about them, but they never come out right. Most of my tries morph into some sort of open letter diatribe combination of Matthew 23 and Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut you Down." My other tries end up being an academic and theological essay on why religious people hurt us sometimes and how we should respond.
But right now I'm done with the anger and the should's. In the Psalms, David always seemed to think that God could deal with his uncensored emotions, whether they were right or wrong. So I want to be Davidic for a little bit. I don't know how I should feel right now, but I know how I do feel.
I’ve had a super Christian background. My dad has held ministry jobs since I was born and among my family, we’ve had a double-digit number of jobs with different churches and ministries. It would be a huge lie to say that all these churches and ministries have ever done is disappoint me. For the most part, my experiences have been positive and fulfilling.
But I've been punched in the gut a few times and not long ago, I was punched in the gut again.
Politicians, businesses and teachers readily disappoint you, and sometimes Pastors, Deacons, and Seminary Professors add to the burden. Purposefully and pointedly, beyond simply having a sinful moment, they take that swing that leaves you staggering. And it just hurts.
I realized recently that if I ever wanted to turn my back on religion and Christianity, I'd have a good excuse. I could play the role of a wounded Pastor's Kid, hurt by the hypocrisy and jaded because of all the lies. I am hurt by the hypocrisy, and I keep waiting to feel jaded, but it never happens.
I may sound like a Jesus-juker here, but I have found my faith in God strengthened every single time I’m hurt by a religious person. And as strange as it sounds, I’m more surprised than anyone.
I'm fighting the pressure right now to wrap everything up with a neat little bow. Things are not wrapped up in a bow right now, but I can’t help but share my whole experience here. And while I’ve experienced a lot of disappointment and hypocrisy in the religious world, I've also experienced God, the way He really is.
I've found that when someone wears God’s name tag and has no business to, God’s voice and character shine that much brighter and I remember a couple of things.
That's not God.
Hypocrites, liars, cult leaders, power-hungry ministers. They may be religious people, they may claim the name of God, but that doesn't mean a thing. God is God. He gets to decide Who He is and what He’s about. No one else does. And when we’re hurt by religious people, God is the only One who can heal us. In fact, God is the only one who made a way for us to get out of this crazy religious system. That’s God.
He hates it too.
Every time I feel knocked down by a religious person and every time I see the pain in someone else, I overwhelmingly hear one thing from God: I hate it too. Knowing that side of God has possibly been what has kept me from jumping ship every time. He hates injustice and hurt and hypocrisy. He hates it.
But He still loves people. Which is why I can rely on His grace when I find myself being the religious hypocrite that disappoints others. Which is why, no matter how hard it is, I can seek to forgive as the antidote for the poison of bitterness that could easily eat away at me.
So I’m disappointed right now. And all my questions are lying in a heap on the floor. I don’t have to clean it all up right now. I don’t have to deny my emotions or the awfulness of it all to confess that I trust God and I still believe that He is good.