“Although I left Christianity over 20 years ago, it took a long while for me to erase the doctrines that had been embedded within my consciousness for 15+ years. Learning how and why certain doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g., final judgment, burning fires of hell, Satan and his demons, the end-times) were introduced into the faith was extremely liberating … and removed a ton of guilt and fear.”
This individual* could be speaking for much of society.
Our entertainment culture is embroiled in a race to paint Christianity as evil. And it’s got ammunition.
From Carrie to The Shape of Water, from Handmaid’s Tale to Family Guy, Christian faith is portrayed in modern media as a heartless and oppressive force in people’s lives, gone wild to the point of ostracizing, dehumanizing, handcuffing, and even killing in the name of God. Such excesses are so normative in TV and film, in fact, that I can’t remember the last time Hollywood filmed a church as a positive force, or even as a neutral one.
Yet there’s no doubt that such tragic systems have existed, and still do.
Some people have gone through it and escaped. Their testimonies poison our reputation. Christianity is seen as an agent of guilt, an imposer of shame that can only be removed by – I don’t know, what do they claim that churches are selling as a solution? Submitting to the system? Staying in church? Ceasing to dance or have fun? Accepting doctrine? It’s never really made clear.
That horrifying, cringe-inducing, hateful, joy-sucking, monolithic wrecking ball of a word that so many have come to fear, that evokes structure and hate and frowny-faced elders in suspenders beating you upside the head with a Bible.
Doctrine actually tells a different story entirely.
Christianity is not a faith of guilt and fear, but of forgiveness, freedom and joy…and it is doctrine that tells us that.
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2 HCSB)
Meaning that though Christians must avoid sin, the penalty for it – shame and death – can be escaped through Christ.
True and Biblical doctrine is nothing like the cliched armchair stuff choking the airwaves. It reveals a faith that isn’t excited about hellfire, but trying to spare people from it…not to preserve its own institutional strength, but out of care for people. Christianity is here to remove all guilt and shame – not through works, but through faith.
Do Christians distort this? Mess it up embarrassingly?
And all that does is prove Christianity true.
Indulge me here. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that nobody is perfect. We all agree on that. Doctrine agrees that all men are hopelessly flawed. We’re living in an era that’s bearing that out, despite our technological advances.
Bring medicine into society and institutions only rarify it for profit.
Bring money into society and it only converts the crime from blue-collar to white-collar.
Bring power into society and you get Harvey Weinsteins and Roy Moores. Everything is twisted.
So why should it be such a shock when men, whom we agree are evil, mishandle religion as well?
Christianity was never going to produce perfect churches. Jesus didn’t expect it to. Paul didn’t expect it to. That is not an excuse for the appalling abuses seen in Westboro Baptist Church, religious cults, or their avatars in modern entertainment. It is simply acknowledging that people are flawed, that flawed people infect churches without ever understanding its message. That’s why I would say that this Nan has not left Christianity, for you cannot leave something you were never in.
As the saying goes,
True Christianity is here to remove guilt and fear. It removes them by placing them on Jesus, who willingly bore the penalty for our sins.
Good churches do exist. Churches that teach freedom, whose members look to their own sins first before identifying others’, who love fiercely and deeply. Yes, they’re rare. Find one anyway.
Yes, there’s a cost to following Jesus. Yes, sin must be avoided. But it’s a much lesser cost than the alternative – and the rewards are much, much greater. We do not avoid sin to earn forgiveness – we do it out of gratitude for the forgiveness already given.
Trust me. I’ve actually been in the church. Quit relying on the word of filmmakers who were never in it, or who only saw its corrupt perversion. Jesus Christ is life and forgiveness. And he offers it to you.
To my believing blog-followers…this post is obviously intended for those who don’t yet believe in Jesus. Please comment accordingly.
* Link credit to Nan’s Notebook