Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Lest anyone who reads this is tempted to judge my motives, please know this...I love The Church. I believe The Church is the body of believers and not a building. I also know all too well that The Church's reputation is seriously broken - and deservedly so. I'm ashamed of the way we treat people we supposedly love.

I'm reading the book, UnChristian - What a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book has brought me to my knees. The title describes perfectly what this book is all about.

For the past ten years I've been speaking the truths that are spelled out in this timely book. However, I've been poo-pooed by naysayers. "Oh Liz, don't look to people. Just look to God." "Your personal experience is rare. The Church doesn't usually treat people the way you were treated."

Those naysayers are WRONG. My family's ordeal as it pertains to the church is NOT unusual, it is NOT rare, and it is NOT okay.

The Barna Group is a well respected evangelical Christian polling firm located in Ventura, California. UnChristian gives all the data it has collected from non-believers and Christ followers alike to explain why Christianity has an image problem. Oh boy, does it have an image problem.

People under the age of 29 have been particularly turned off by The Church. We think we can bring them back if we play a certain kind of music, or use cool graphics in our video presentations. Well, it's just not that simple. They're sick of hypocrisy and they crave (as I think we all do) authenticity.

In Luke 15 we read the story of The Prodigal Son. We Christians use that parable as the perfect picture of God's grace. I think that's true. However, we gloss over the older brother in the story. He is the picture of The Church. Don't miss this - he is THE CHURCH.

The older brother does not want the prodigal to receive grace. The older brother folds his arms, stomps his feet (my interpretation), and whines to his dad, Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! Luke 15:29-30

We call one another, "brother" and "sister". But when someone messes up (or is accused of messing up), we refuse to call him "brother", but rather we say, "this son of yours". And by the way, that nasty older brother hadn't even spoken to his younger sibling, yet he assumed the prodigal "squandered your property with prostitutes".

I shouldn't have been surprised when I was accused of saying, doing, and thinking things I didn't say, do, or think. Jesus himself tells us in this parable that The Church WILL make assumptions about its very own brothers and sisters. Ugh. Shameful.

Again, I LOVE The Church. Grieve is a love word. You don't truly grieve the loss of something or someone unless you loved them. You might feel sympathy or sadness, but not grief. I grieve for The Church. My heart breaks for all the people out there who've been disenfranchised, kicked out, or damaged by the Pharisaical hypocrisy of The Church.

We're all broken. No one is better than anyone else. Love is such a simple word. Love is a powerful healer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Photo Friends

For the past several weeks I’ve been working on putting together a video tribute for a birthday party. I had a great time going through boxes of old pictures, programs, and clippings. My kids were so stinkin’ cute when they were little.

Among the fading photographic images were several pictures of a few people I once believed were very good friends. The smiling faces and intertwined arms tell a story of fun birthday parties, relaxing church picnics, busy mommy days, shopping excursions, and goofy theatrical mishaps—a life shared. Sadly, the happy memories are overshadowed by the realities of betrayal, gossip, and loss.

What do you do with pictures of people who betrayed you?

I used to be able to walk into a room full of strangers and feel confident that I would leave there having made at least one friend. I loved people, I saw good before bad, and I welcomed new experiences. I miss that Liz.

Now I look at those slightly discolored old photos and I wonder if anything I see was ever real. One woman with whom I shared so many precious times actually told me I was “never that good a friend”.

But the pictures are all about friendship—a relationship brimming with love and trust.

So, today I’m a much more cautious person. I hear what people say, but I listen with skeptical ears and a suspicious mind. The door to my scarred heart is rusted shut.

Angry ex-girlfriends literally cut the faces of philandering boyfriends out of photographs. Should I do the same? Do I smudge the image, or do I just trash the pics and attempt to wipe my mind’s memory card clean?

Yep…. I miss the old Liz and the friendships she once trusted. Now, excuse me while I look for my scissors.