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Church Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Tom Ehrich wrote a commentary at the Washington Post outlining why “church shouldn’t be this hard.” He explains,

My conclusion: Religion shouldn’t be this hard.

An assembly that exists to help people shouldn’t be so willing to hurt people — by declaring them worthless, unacceptable, undesirable or strangers at the gate.

An assembly that should relax into the serenity of God’s unconditional love shouldn’t be so filled with hatred and fear.

An assembly that should do what Jesus did shouldn’t be so inwardly focused, so determined to be right, so eager for comfort, so fearful of failing.

Faith should be difficult, yes, because it inevitably entails self-sacrifice and renewal. Life, too, is difficult. Dealing with Mammon is difficult. Speaking truth to power is difficult. Confronting our own weakness and capacity for sin is difficult.

But the institution whose sole justifiable purpose is to help us deal with those difficulties shouldn’t be making matters worse.

When we bring our burdens to church, we shouldn’t find ourselves feeling intimidated by the in crowds, caught up in conflicts about who is running things, budget anxieties, jousting over opinion or doctrine, or relentless demonizing of whoever is trying to lead.

Maybe I’m the last one to see this dilemma. The millions who are fleeing institutional Christianity in America aren’t escaping bad doctrine, shoddy performance values or inconvenient calls to mission. They are escaping the institution itself.

It doesn’t have to be this way. God certainly doesn’t want it this way.

Does his explanation resonate with your experience? In what ways? In what ways do you wish your religious community were unlike the situation he outlines?

Moreover, in what sorts of ways does your community’s culture perpetuate a fear of opening up, or a sense of intimidation of being vulnerable?

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org