Saturday with Michael Spencer
From a 2008 post
Sorry to disappoint, but I suppose the career of the Internet Monk has been full of the kind of things I couldn’t say around Christians or in church, but felt I could say to thousands of readers on the same journey via the blogosphere. Mistake? Depends on whom you ask, and when, and where they were in the journey. But in thousands of posts, I tossed a few good pitches and I hit a few batters. I’d take some things back (and have,) but other things will be there for those on the same journey I’ve been on for as long as I can find the space.
There are some places that Christians will allow you to stand up and say “the sermon is pop psych” or “I’m not a young earth creationist” or “why do we act like we just invented Christianity this year?” What a gift it is to be able to speak truth and be supported by a community of the one who IS the truth.
In the church I grew up in I always heard that we believed in freedom of conscience, the right of private interpretation, the priesthood of the believer, soul competency and the sacred right to differ from the majority.
I heard about all of that, and I heard that it was other denominations, with their bishops and their hierarchies, that were hung up on conformity all the way down the line.
Well….let’s just say that it’s a good thing they don’t give awards for “Ironic Reversals of Reality” anywhere. Someone would need to build a shelf. A long one.
I’ve discovered there’s a good reason you can’t speak your own convictions among many church and denominational Christians. And I’m not just talking about a crabby email or comment.
My own denomination has a population of leaders who have been openly condemning certain bloggers for several years now, as for the first time, the usual regime of assumed power-preachers and denominational power-brokers discovered there was actual, real, thoughtful, articulate dissent being published out there. And that dissent was treated as a threat to the denomination’s unity and mission of evangelism, to the point that bloggers were publicly ridiculed in many denominational speeches in the past 2-3 years.
Be clear on this: I have no problem disapproving of the blogger who uses his/her power of personal publishing to lie, insinuate, gossip and undermine. But I am stunned and saddened to see how legitimate dissent, honest questioning, personal struggle, authenticate analysis and necessary discussion or consequences have been called sinful and destructive. It’s a tragic error.
Some bloggers have been irresponsible. I may have been too honest, too vulnerable, too transparent in my blogging at times. But when we mistake the silence of pre-programmed, enforced conformity with Christian unity, we’re already the victims of our own delusions.
There are still doors in Christendom where the truth needs to be nailed, and some of them aren’t far away from where you are.
We need to talk about what is and is not happening among real Christians living real lives.
We need to hear the truth about the Christian experience, not just the scrubbed and glowing testimonials.
We need to have the assumed wisdom and answers of denominational leaders scrutinized, just like every pastor has to face his critics in every healthy church anywhere.
We need a vibrant discussion of the “whys” and the “what fors” in the things we require of one another in church, denomination and ministry.
We need courageous writers who will tell the stories that can’t be spoken among Christians who are determined to create a culture of secrecy and religious conformity.
There may be a price for honesty, asking questions and telling our stories. But there will never cease to be a need for someone who has the courage to ask tough questions and tell honest experiences in the midst of organized religion. We won’t ever get the truth of our human and Christian journeys from the official spokespersons or the press releases. We have to speak it to one another and support one another in the consequences.
We can’t speak falsehood to ourselves, one another and our children. Even if the truth is clumsy, painful, inconvenient or unwelcome, it is still the truth and we should love it for Jesus sake.