Monday, 24 August 2015

The Fantasy of Church Culture

In my last post, I mentioned watching the efforts of my ex-fellow elder to pretend he was unaware of my presence. I also mentioned how funny I found them. (I also admitted that I used to find this sort of behaviour deeply painful and hurtful.) So when a friend commented on my Facebook page that it gave her hope that she might also get to that same point of freedom from the pain, it made me stop and think about my response to his performance, and how I have got to this place myself.

One of the biggest factors at play has got to be the 'awakening' process I've journeyed through. I call it that because when I think about it, I am reminded of the lyrics of the Keith Green song:
Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through
That's how it feels sometimes - that I've lived so much of my life in a dream-like state known as 'church culture', and finally the real love of God has opened my eyes to how much rubbish has been substituted for the simplicity of following Jesus. Christian culture too often blinds us to the unadorned call to love God and love others.

Waking up was a process. It didn't happen overnight. At first, I grieved the loss of all that is seen as important in church culture - things like a 'position' in the church and an officially recognised 'ministry'. I had fallen for the lie that I needed these things to be effective for God and it felt like I'd had these things stolen from me. I wanted to love and care for others, but I wasn't allowed to.

Sometimes, waking up is a process...

To make matters worse, those who had ripped me apart emotionally in this way were being held up to me as shining examples of how I should be. They were right (& righteous!). They had forgiven. They had 'moved on'. I should be like them.

But I kept hoping for an apology from those who'd abused me. Wanting justice for the wrong that had been done to me. Seeking validation of my claims against others.

I wanted something from these people, but they wouldn't even look at me!

So when they judged me and shunned me - when they treated me like I wasn't there and looked straight through me - it just re-opened all the wounds they'd inflicted on me and rubbed salt into them.

And then I started to wake up. To open my eyes. To see that these people were victims of their own fantasy. They'd built up a world that didn't exist. Where everyone was happy and loving and forgiving and perfect. Where all you had to do was say the magic words and everything was all ok. They couldn't afford to have the fantasy exposed, so anyone who saw things differently was a threat to the illusion, and they had to be dealt with! (What a pity burning at the stake was no longer an option!)

It seemed to me that they had locked themselves in a cage and thrown away the key... and were now desperately trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that they were the ones who were free. And it occurred to me that if these people couldn't even face me to acknowledge my presence, let alone actually meet with me and deal with our issues, it wasn't me who had the problem.

As I watched the contortions and the pretence, it became obvious which of us had really "forgiven and moved on".

And it was when I realised I no longer wanted - or needed - anything from these people.

It was then that I realised that I'd woken up from the dream-world of church culture. I didn't need official platforms or the approval of 'church leaders' to love and minster to others. I was free to love God and love others... wherever and whenever. It stopped being a performance and became simply the way I lived. I realised that I was happy... and I was free.

And I pray that my friend finds that place of freedom, too!


  1. Really nice post here... very encouraging and spot on!

    "For freedom Christ has set us free; so stand firm in your freedom and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1), i.e. the yoke of church life that pretends to be the faithful Bride of Christ but in all spiritual reality is an idolatrous Whore of Babylon.

    The Church, for the most part, is a twisted house of bondage forcing all her enslaved participants to play the whore!

    God says, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues" (Rev 18:4).

    Leaving her rebellious darkness is perhaps the first step of obedience a saint might take toward seeing clearly the true Light of Life, even feeling the Light break the chains that bound and dissolve the scales that blinded our sight.

    O to breathe the fresh pure air of the simplicity of Christ, how it works to cleanse our lungs from the toxicity of being in the belly of the beast.

    For freedom Christ has set us free!

    1. Thanks, Monax. Freedom in Christ is a truly precious thing, and I'm so grateful that I've been learning to live in it :)

  2. Your post has me thinking of Ephesians 5:11-17

    Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

    But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

    Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

    Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.