There is an old song called Cathedral by Crosby, Stills and Nash. This song has a haunting piano part lovingly played by Graham Nash. I've seen them perform this live twice and have listened to it untold times. It seemed so perfectly to tell my story and relationship with Christianity when I first heard this song...
Open up the gates of the church and let me out of here
Too many people have lied in the name of Christ
For anyone to heed the call
So many people have died in the name of Christ
That I can't believe it all
Sometimes, I still feel this way. That so many people have lied in the name of Christ how are we to discern what is right and true? I feel this way when I hear preachers preaching hate or pastoral leaders indicted with sex crimes or embezzling money or building monetary empires that finance gold faucets and heated dog houses.
Oh yeah, I grew up in the Bible belt and was in the same city as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker when they were enjoying the pinnacle of their success. That led to creating Heritage USA which was a monstrosity of a theme park. Then Jim Bakker was in hot water over sex and money. We learned of the gold fawcetts in their mansion home. That was never my image of what a pastor should be.
Of course, this is after my high school church literally ran the pastor out of town because he was too liberal for them. He failed to force his wife to be submissive and demure enough. And he refused to back down. There were no pastoral shenanigans, but there were certainly people lying in the name of Christ.
We are really good at doing horrible things in the name of our religions.
(I will only address my own religion, Christianity, but overall, this holds true, yes?)
Cathedral, by CSN, held the key to my young adult relationship with the church. I was a little standoffish. OK, a lot standoffish.
I'm flying in Winchester cathedral
It's hard enough to drink the wine
The air inside just hangs in delusion
But given time
I'll be fine
Yeah, drinking the wine can be hard. And sometimes the church is covered in delusion. But so is it all. We are expert at "drinking the cool-aid" or going along with the crowd. We are expert at joining in the delusion of being the holders of the truth. The only truth.
But that is all it is. Cool-aid and delusion. In Christianity, Jesus teaches us to challenge authority, think outside the box, and to serve humanity where it is hurting. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned. We are also taught to eschew riches and to challenge the status quo with what I call downward mobility. Giving up our riches.
What would the world be like if we chose what was fulfilling instead of what was richest? If we chose what was loving rather than what was self-serving? If we truly loved our neighbors and ourselves?
I think it would be an amazing world. And it already is. The kingdom is now but not yet.
Want to join in some kingdom building? Then go out and serve the world! Bring peace, compassion, and love to the fore and leave behind the lies and delusions of self grandeur.