Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Church is a Whore and She's My Mother


I first heard this quote a couple of weeks ago while watching Lord Save Us From Your Followers.  It was attributed to St. Augustine.  When I first heard it, it really set me back.  I had to rewind the movie and watch that part again.  The words whore, mother and church in the same sentence are shocking. It's been on of those quotes that keeps coming back to my mind time and time again.   I only wish I had thought to say it first because it sums up my complicated relationship with the church from the time I was about five years old right up until today.
 
I would not be the person I am today without the church.  That is something that will never change.  In a sense, the church has given birth to me.  I often hear atheists claim that morality is possible without religion and I suppose it is.  But, whether I stick with the church (or Christianity) or not, I cannot deny or ever change the tremendous impact all of the Sunday school lessons, sermons, Bible reading, etc. have had on forming who I am.  I was taught morality in the church.  I was taught generosity in the church.  I was taught compassion in the church.  I was taught that each person is an image of G-d and therefore has inherent infinite worth.  A couple of days ago a friend asked me who had more impact on my life, Jesus or Buddha.  The answer is Jesus, by a mile.  Jesus has been embedded into my psyche from the time I could understand language.  Without the church we wouldn't have the Bible.  The church has preserved the teachings of Jesus through the centuries.  Without the church I would have never heard the name of Jesus.  So, yeah, the church is my mother.

But, the church has been a whore, both to the world-with its oppression of women, condoning slavery and racism, inquisitions, homophobia, witch hunts covering up pedophilia., etc.  The church has also distorted the "good news" and used it to psychologically torment little boys and girls like me.  The church turned the God of unconditional and unlimited love into a schizophrenic bloodthirsty tyrant .  The god I was taught about wantedto eternally torment for being just what He made me to be .  But, at the same time He sent His Son to be tormented in my stead. The church taught me eternal security in my salvation, unless I backslid, in which case, I was never "saved" in the first place.   The only time I would know I was eternally secure was when I passed from this life to eternity.  The church told me that works could never save me. But, unless I led a good enough life to be evidence that I had truly had been saved, my faith alone was not enough.  Because of the church, I have had a morbid obsession with death.  From as early as I can remember, life wasn't about living for today. This life was only worth anything if you did what it took to get to heaven.  This was a throw-away, a dress rehearsal at best.  It was in church that my panic attacks started decades ago and it's in church where they persist to this day. 

I hate church and I love church all at the same time.
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14 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

I liked the tension you present in this post Brian.

I think that church is really a mixed bag because people are a mixed bag. Reminds me of a conversation that I had a number of years ago with a guy named Tom. He was not a believer. He told me that he thought that the church was a mess. I answered his concern and told him that I knew why the church was a mess and wondered if he would like to know why as well. Perplexed by my response, Tom said that he would like to know why the church was mess. I told him that the church is a mess because "I" am a mess … and I am in good company.

You know that the church has always been a mess. The apostle Paul spent large parts of his letters dealing with messy situations in the early churches. Even he himself struggled. He said that the things he wanted to do he did not do and those things he didn’t want to do he found himself doing.

There is no denying it, families are not neat and tidy. Relationships, even good ones, are often messy. So it is with the church.. seems like all of them (liberals as well as fundies) have good and bad stuff.. church is a mixed bag.

brian said...

Great point, Bob. We expect more from the "body of Christ". But, the body is made up of members that are all dysfunctional to some extent. I should know not to expect too much from the church, yet I continue to do so. I do hold the church to a higher standard than I do say a corporation. Yet, so many of our churches behave just like corporations caring more about the bottom line than being there for the individuals that make up the church.

Kansas Bob said...

In a sense we are the whores you speak of.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think our experience in church organizations is much like "The Law" experience was for Christians in the first century. It was the tutor that led to Christ.

Jesus was born under Law, was baptized, anointed with Holy Spirit, went out to the Wilderness where he relied on God alone, resisted the temptations of "the devil" and then was sent out by God for a ministry; oftentimes going against the badness in the religion around him; holding up the goodness.

I think our lives go this same way, don't you? :) --rhonda

Anonymous said...

"In a sense we are the whores you speak of."

Steady on Old Chap! Actually, well put, Brother!!

In God's love.

brian said...

Rhonda,

Yes and no. I think the church is like a tutor to a lot of people. It certainly was to me at one time. I no longer look to the church for guidance though. For me, what I'd like to see in the church is fellowship. I'd like to see people sharing a spiritual journey- not one person or even the organization leading me. Also, the church should empower us to do more together than we could individually.

So, yes. I agree that we should outgrow the need to look to the church for leadership. But, what I wrestle with is whether the church is useful for other things.

okiedragon said...

I left church at 30 to walk as an athiest - at 35 I find God more as I had beleived in IT as a child than as I had in church - and I am satisfied. Church is sometimes not more than a building - wasted space during the week that leaks energy and helps no one. Christians - those who profess, come in those worthy of all Christ was and those who make others hate Christ. I don't do church anymore. I prefer to work and pray in my garden, give what I can to those in need, still trying to forgive and be kind to a mother who is one who would tend to make one hate Christ.

I don't miss church - smiles - and God doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with you, Okie. Being in the "wilderness" is such a beautiful part of this journey; I'm so much happier (and closer to God) out of church than I ever was in it. :) --rhonda

Anonymous said...

Brian--so sorry. Can you remove the 2 copies of my post?

I have a hard time here; it never registers on the first click; and this time, it went haywire on me! --rhonda

brian said...

No problem, Rhonda. Actually, it might be worthwhile for you to sign up for an account so you can stop posting as "Anonymous". I'm toying with shutting off the capability of anonymous posting because it allows a lot more spam through.

Rhonda said...

Thanks, Brian. Yes, this is much better. :) --rhonda

Don said...

I watched "Lord Save Us..." last night. It started a little slow, but soon it became heart-wrenching for me. It was a DVD that Christian churches need to show their members.

Dan McGuire said...

I know that tony Campolo says that the quote, "The church is a whore..." is from Augustine, but I have not been able to find it in any of his writings. Does anybody know where Augustine said it? Perhaps Tony Campolo misquoted or did not do the research to find out where the quote came from.

Dimitri said...

The original quote is from Dorothy Day: "As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother. We should read the book of Hosea, which is a picture of God's steadfast love not only for the Jews, His chosen people, but for His Church, of which we are every one of us members or potential members. Since there is no time with God, we are all one, all one body, Chinese, Russians, Vietnamese, and He has commanded us to love another" (http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=250).

Forget Augustine (Tony Campolo cited this wrong in his Letter to a Young Evangelical), Luther, Luther King, etc. Dorothy Day was the original author. Q: isn't there a famous whore called Babylon in Scripture? Could she be the true mother of Western Christians, seeing that both her & them have a long history of violence and bloodshed (genocide vs native Americans, Vietnamese, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc)?

I don't know why Evangelicals, including the Lefties and social activists, waste so much time defending the Evangelical churches. Millions of dead indigenous peoples in the Americas and worldwide is evidence that Christians support genocide and oppression of others, especially non-Westerners. And this proof shows that Evangelicals cannot be the true Church, because "no murderer has eternal life in him," according to 1 John 3:15. So just as Luther (although he himself promoted genocide against Jews who refuse the Gospel in his last book) rejected the Catholic Church, we must refuse the Protestant one, especially that of Evangelicals.

Jeremiah 1:9-10 - build afresh and stop frittering away the time defending a Harlot who will only end up in the place where all promoters of genocide go.

Cheers,

Dimitri