Sometimes It's The Babies....
.... who do the throwing.
There's been a comment thread of interest to me, on another blog, about Anne Graham Lotz. It concerned an interview, with Ms. Lotz, published by Time Magazine, about how she'd stopped "going to church" some years ago. So I dug up the article, printed it out, and read it.
It's disturbing on several levels.
First, let us never forget: Church is not there to produce happiness in us .. it's there to produce Holiness .. holiness through teaching and building us up into a life of faith and obedience to Him.
Faith in God (in all His Persons), and obedience to Him .. made possible via the workings of the Holy Spirit .. are Jesus' Plan A for the redemption of the world. And there's no Plan B!
Ms. Lotz doesn't recount the trials and tribulations she experienced at the hands of church people, but they're referred to a number of times. And I can certainly sympathize with her (as a Pentecostal Calvinistic Southern Baptist, called to teach, I've bumped into a few of them .. but never from my pastor, I might add ..), but that's simply not an excuse for a decision to disobey clear scriptural teaching:
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV)
That seems pretty clear to me. And when you add the various commands to the church as to how to conduct the resolution of problems which arise, within the Body, it'd be hard to rationalize that getting together with folks in the occasional seminar is tantamount to obeying that passage in Hebrews.
Ms. Lotz also states that "..religion can be one of the greatest impediments to finding God". I disagree; my dictionary says that religion is:
"...the state of a religious person; the service and worship of God or the supernatural, commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance."
Of course I understand what she's saying; that false religion, mean-spiritedness, slavish insistence on tradition which may no longer be relevant, things of that sort, may be more of a hindrance than a help. But those things in and of themselves are hardly "religion". So let's call them what they are, rather than turning folks against religion itself, which I'm sure will happen (given the likely readership of Time Magazine, and the more-or-less universal appeal of the Graham name).
She also said that church is supposed to be a community of like-minded people who encourage and strengthen each other. And, as she observes, that's not always how it works. While I believe she's correct in those statements, it's hard to prompt folks to love and good works, when you just leave. Leaving will surely mislead more people than just those who read the magazine.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." (Matthew 5:11, NIV)
When I find myself subjected to anything approaching persecution, the first thing I must do is to follow Romans 12:1-3, and examine myself with the soundest judgment I can muster. If I cannot find anything wrong, then I must confess I am blessed. And I fail to see where that's any excuse to flee the very venue in which God has chosen to bless me.
Another statement that troubles me is the statement, referring to people in the church .. "When they're hurt by the church, they feel hurt by God as well. And so sometimes their tendency is to reject God as well as His people". But isn't that what she did, herself, and shouldn't people in leadership positions be modeling what followers of Jesus should be doing, rather than that which is "natural" for folks to do? Isn't rejecting the assembled church, rejecting the assembled Body of Christ?
Ms. Lotz may know more about the Old Testament than I do, but I don't agree with her assertion that Abram "..rejected religion in order to pursue a personal relationship with God". That may be the case, but I don't recall seeing it in scripture.
He's held up as a model for us, not because he gave up religion, but because he believed God, and evidenced that by his obedience to what God told Him to do.
Ms. Lotz also states that she was, to an extent, alienated from her parents when she started the Bible Study Fellowship. I've always thought that, when events God told us about in advance (as He has, in Matthew 10:34-36) occurred in my life, it was a encouraging sign. So I really don't understand why it was brought up as another "downside" of going against a family tradition, or of rebelling against God's chosen vessel for His Kingdom work, the church itself.
Perhaps it was all part of God's plan. As a Calvinist, I smile and say "Of course it is...". That causes an immediate observation that God will even use our sin .. just as He used Pilate's mocking sign he'd prepared, and placed on the cross over Jesus' head, to (apparently) point a thief, on an adjacent cross, to the Kingdom of God.
I suppose that, from time to time, we all tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But sometimes it's the baby, itself, that does the throwing.