‘The higher, the more in danger’. The ‘average sensual man’ who is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, sometimes tipsy, always a little selfish, now and then (within the law) a trip sharp in his deals, is certainly, by ordinary standards, a ‘lower’ type than the man whose soul is filled with some great Cause, to which he will subordinate his appetites, his fortune, and even his safety. But it is out of the second man that something really fiendish can be made; an Inquisitor.
C.S. Lewis, Reflection on the Psalms (New York: Harvest Book, 1964), 28-32.
How have you (if you have) clung to Jesus and his community after supposed Christians have acted the part of robbers on the road to Jericho beating you and leaving you for dead? That happened not too long ago to me, my family, lots of friends, and now I think the number is up to more than fifty people. I write about this wilderness experience in chapter five of my book, A Beautiful Disaster (<click here to order it). Many have asked me how it is that I am still a Christian. And I’ve had some readers comment that they too have suffered in this way at the hands of supposedly Christian brothers and sisters that act more like the devil than a lover of Jesus and his community. I’d like to hear from you – how have you learned to forgive? Or maybe you’re still in the process of forgiving. Why haven’t you walked away when betrayed by some of the people of God?
Excerpt from Chapter 5 of A Beautiful Disaster
What happens when sin spreads through a community? I must admit that I have seen not only Jesus but also the devil standing in the midst of community. I’ve experienced the downright diabolical within Jesus’s family. Serpents will always be hissing about in the garden. As a result, we must watch our steps. No matter how many times this sabotage of community happens, I am still horrified when it appears that a fellow believer has morphed into one of Satan’s agents. Coming face-to-face with evil masquerading as Jesus is the vilest of all evils—a soul-scourging experience. No wonder some of us never recover. No wonder some of us abandon the faith or cannot bring ourselves to trust the church and its kind. We’ve seen the devil take a peek out from under his Jesus mask one too many times, and we want nothing to do with him. As Pascal noted, “Men never do evil so completely or cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” So we take flight, running for our lives from community lest we be completely devoured. This is a legitimate effort at self-protection. I used to have a radio program on a Christian radio station. The general manager once told me that churches were the worst groups of people with whom he did business. Too many didn’t pay on time or didn’t pay at all. At the time, his words greatly surprised me. I didn’t have a clue. Now, I’m no longer surprised. I am greatly troubled but not surprised. When I was younger, I thought like a child. And for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why so many people despised the church; all the church folk I knew were beautiful. But since then, I’ve been on staff at churches and Christian institutions. I’ve met the most beautiful people and tasted life. But, unfortunately, sometimes I’ve been severely tempted to take up permanent residence in disillusionment. I’ve grown up since the days I couldn’t imagine any wickedness within the church, for I’ve seen and heard plenty to sober me up. I’ve seen greed, lust, and vicious power plays cloaked in piety behind the veil of leadership. This reality begs me to shout, “Amen!” in solidarity with a line out of the Woody Allen movie Hannah and Her Sisters: “If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he’d throw up.” To me, it is very ironic that, frequently, unbelievers are more adept at spotting Jesus imposters than we are. Despite mounting evidence of wickedness, sometimes we don’t want to believe that our leaders, friends, or even we ourselves could be guilty of wrongdoing. We are blind to our own sin. Why do some of us casually gloss over odious and harmful behavior—why do we excuse sinful behavior in ourselves or our Christian leaders with, “We’re all sinners saved by grace”? More often than not, sometimes without knowing it, we pick and choose who gets a pass for their sin. We are inconsistent in our judgments and confrontations and with whom we choose to turn a blind eye.
Not long ago, I witnessed serpent-like Christians engaging in a full-scale witch hunt. Their sinister behavior almost destroyed the livelihood and Christian hope of an entire community.
[i] Blaise Pascal, Pensees (894), www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm (accessed December 26, 2013).