Monday, November 13, 2006

Credibility: How do I know who is credible?

I have been wrestling with this issue for the past few days and figured I would throw it on a blog. Credibility within the Christian faith is becoming increasingly something I look at more intently, as if I would find answer to who is and why? What I have found is that credibility is something the church thinks they can decide as to 'who speaks the truth within their faith'.

Being an outcast (of sorts) from within the Christian juggernaut (which consists of many a strand of denominations) I have come to see my own credibility (as a person that speaks for the faith)...it is close to non-existent. It's not because I don't have the background or study to so speak for the Christian faith, I only lack one thing...harmonizing with the denominational beliefs. I am so spooled as an outcast with no real way to speak into the very thing I claim, faith in Christ...at least until I hold some position within the juggernaut or rightly uphold their missions, visions, and laws (see any denominational church website for more on that). But I accept that and continue to strive for more clarity on the subject of credibility.

I see the church as something that designates itself and has lost some it's 'voice' and in need of real accountability. They claim to be following the faith in it's fullness and it lacks nothing...right from the way the church is set-up, worship, offerings, interpretation, and prayer. If you are within the structure in some position then you have the 'say' of what can be done, if you are a lowly peon like myself (a congregationalist not striving for more then that) then your 'say' is limited to the group of congregants you 'hang with'. Top that off denominations cannot speak with other denominations and you get a ball of confusion with no end in sight (for clarity). Begging the obvious, if this denomination thinks it's right and the other thinks it's right (yet practicing varying beliefs)...which is credible?

They will tell you they gather all their beliefs from the bible and 'thus and thus' says the passage of scripture they base their beliefs on (or doctrinal statement)...but if you read any statement they take scripture from 'here and there' in a paste job for justification. To be honest, is that true to the intentions of the biblical writers? If we follow their pattern (paste job I call it) then I can justify anything I so choose and I have seen it done...slavery, tongues, war, and circumcision to name a few. I ask then, if they being credible do use the bible as a 'paste job' for justification, how is it if I read the whole book or letter (and find the context and intent) without using a quoted scripture have none? Simply put, I am not on the 'A' list of people within the faith nor do I use the bible as a scripture quoting machine.

In my questioning is the 'rub'...call it credibility but it also leads to accountability. I suppose they my faith does not have it all together as they so seem. We have denominational splits and a church choice for every day of the week (which Paul was adamantly against saying there is one body not 100's of them). These denominations rarely, if ever, work of the same page and discuss their beliefs as to what needs to be taught within their strands of faith (as in councils of Nicea and the early church fathers did to hash out their ideas), thusly they are not working together as much as they make it seem (not even in the same cities). No one calls into account people within their Christian faith that are giving it a 'bad name' or mis-using the scripture for what seems 'evil' ends (ex: gay-bashing). There are list upon list of such things and if I were to go into them all I would be writing to no end (wouldn't have room for it all). But what I am saying is on the question of accountability is the church has no avenue within it for such questioning.

But my solution is simple and is one I live by, we have the right to question our respective churces on their practices if they do not follow the intentions of the biblical writers. I have come up against 2 in recent days and I will recite them here. (1) A certain church in my city is telling a person to stop taking prescription meds and psychiatric counselling since they are deemed 'evil' and not of the faith (this person has schizophrenia) and reveal a lack of trust in God. (2) A person within my city who claims 'Christianity' as his faith is going around passing out leaflets, posting things in the paper, wearing t-shirts, and picketing anything 'gay' as 'doomed to hell'. He has been fined by the city $17,000 for his abuses but refuses to quit. He is not only an outright 'gay-basher' but claims this is from his biblical beliefs and has been 'called' to do this.

2 scenarios of many but they will suffice. Who holds these people and their teachings accountable to what is really taught in the Christian faith? Are they credible and who deems what they say as such? Problem is they are within the structure and have their haven in some denomination that see's no problem with their actions. I see a problem in their actions and a strong rebuke is coming (if I ever get a chance to find out where they worship). You see even in my lack of credibility I still have enough sense to know these people are wrong in their interpretation. If a 'gay person' does not have the right to be treated as I am treated, then show me justification for such an action? As far as the church not allowing the schizophreniac the help he so deserved and offering teaching that triggers problems within him, I also have to step in and question their tactics. I know we live by faith but this is ridiculous. If he has does have 'that kind of faith' then we should do all the more to support someone who I consider of the 'poor' in society.

I am asking for accountability (and it stems from the church perspective - or credibility). If it is too much to ask then I will ask again and again until something is done. How can I, a person of the same faith, sit back and watch this game of incredulity go on? I can't. It's driving me and many others straight out of congregations in droves. Time we stood up and in these 'non-profit' organizations and offered some checks n balances. So if you give money, ask to see the books and how your money is spent...if you don't like it request a change. If the teaching in your church is not quite right...step up and question the leadership about it...they are no more than designated leaders anyways...and request a change. Start programs that allow for your faith to be enacted in some way...if the leadership so disapprove...request a change in leadership (if the idea you hold is true to the faith). It's a call for accountabilty and working together in this faith to stop the destruction from within.

10 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

Hi society
Good read. My answer to your first instance of silly church behavior would be to ask them "what is their biblical argument against medicines?" Throw at them 2 Kings 20:7 - Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs." They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

Remember Hezekiah was going to die then God instructed Isaiah to give this prescription, "and he recovered".

Your second problem is even more black and white. Protest that man's church, his house, his blog, his dog whatever. Attack his action as it is un-Christian. Satan is using him to make Christ look like a fool.

That said, I know what you mean. Most churches operate under a totalitarian system of a handful of tyrants. They muffle dissent, end debate, and bury tragedy.

In my church a young lady who was 9-months pregnant residing with a live-in boyfriend was brutally murdered by that boyfriend. The lady was my daughter's Sunday School teacher and I had the horrific job of breaking the news to her. The next Sunday at church it was as if there was a gag order on the tragedy. No one engaged our questions; did she ask for help, was there any outreach for her, is anybody on the look-out for her boyfriend (still on the loose - later he was found hanging from a tree)? This whole nightmare went by without anyone saying boo. I sent this article here to my senior pastor and he never replied, never mentioned it once. Everything disagreeable is simply ignored or swept under the rug if it comes that close.

You can see that I share your frustration. Our churches have become Protestants who protest NOTHING, Presbyterians who ignore the presbyters, and have nurtured pastors who follow and do not lead.

What can you expect when pastors try to be all things to all people instead of what they're supposed to be, one people to Christ?

chris said...

Wonderful post! The question is what can we do about this situation? Honestly, I see no real answers. Until the day comes when western Christianity stops being a beacon for the rich and powerful, and starts living as Jesus truely taught. It will not change!

kevin beck said...

If you feel worse for being in a "fellowship", then maybe it's time to leave the fellowship.

I did, and it has made all of the difference.

SocietyVs said...

Kev, it's not so much the fellowship I am a part of, but the bigger picture of what we call 'christianity' and maybe a reform is needed in some areas. Just posing the questions and looking at the problems to find answers...which I think we all should do as responsible parts of the bigger picture (I think there is room for it anyways).

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Trailady said...

Thanks for stopping by 'My Journey'. Feel free to visit and comment anytime.

I can feel the melancholy and can SO relate to this posting of yours. I too am an outcast who is losing her religion. Raised in a church that is quite similar to a cult and stepping outside the juggernaut as you have, my voice has largely been silenced. I am a speaker/musician, but without the endorsement of a denomination, I am reduced to nothingness. Basically, I WANT to know the truth. However, in asking the questions that I needed to ask in order to find the truth, the church has been VERY intolerant of independant thinking or my heartfelt convictions. In fact, I recently had to change my URL due to some harassing e-mails from people who were offended by my blog and wanted me to take it off the web.

Keep asking, seeking and knocking on doors until you find what you are looking for.

I no longer believe in church per se- but I do believe in Christ.

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life". - JC

the_burning_bush said...

Hi Societyvs,

I am still a little unclear about what you mean by 'accountability'. Accountability to God? To one's conscience? Accountability to the congregation? Or are you talking about public accountability?

My hesitation with the last two is that Paul in Galations 1 writes: "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." This seems to conflict with public accountability and perhaps accountability to the congregation.

I dig the credibility thing. Where does credibility come from? What do you think about 1 John 5:6? "It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth."

SocietyVs said...

"Accountability to God? To one's conscience? Accountability to the congregation? Or are you talking about public accountability?" (BB)

Accountability means the structure (leadership of the church) will take all actions within it's powers to make sure they do not committ things that are out of sync with gospel teachings (against the people under them or outside their walls). I guess I am also calling it 'open honesty' with all things whether that be money matters, democratic decisions for the whole church, etc. Everyone within the faith is accountable to everyone else - a consortium of sorts and we are all responsible to one another.

"My hesitation with the last two is that Paul in Galations 1 writes: "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.""(BB)

I read this scripture a little while back and studied the whole letter in some detail. Firstly, I am not asking a single person in any church to please people - just be openly responsible to one another - as brothers and sisters. Secondly, Paul is saying this about his preaching of the gospel amongst the Gentiles, not about being responsible/accountable to one another.

"Where does credibility come from? What do you think about 1 John 5:6? "It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth."" (BB)

I am not sure I would go that route only due the fact it is ambigious and can be used in any way as one so pre-supposes...also it is one verse from a whole book - and 'out of context' I am not sure what it exactly means (i could read and will if I have too). I think it is a good suggestion but the Spirit can thus be saying anything anyone wants it to - who would be able to truly verify?

I think of credibility as we all have the responsibility (as the church) to know what's happening in our midst and to speak up in the making of decisions - we might not all be correct but that's why discussion is important on issues. I see the church facing many issues but they all rise back to the leadership in those churches - I am saying all people have the right to speak into the direction of their faith (according to the scriptures they hold). I think it's time for all to speak up and even challenge some idea's in churchianity that may be 'not so gospel'.

Trailady said...

WOW- you are preaching to the choir on this one. I'm with you!

As a speaker, writer/musician, I am very limited in expression of my faith unless I force myself into a mold I do not fit. I am a free-thinker- God made me that way and it hurts to be accused of heresy and having a rebellious heart, simply because I have the guts to question what I am told and think for myself.

Each of us must find our own trail. This only comes by listening to God and not to men. Their opinions are like shifting sands, but God is solid as stone.

BrotherKen said...

Excellent discussion going here!

I am greatly encouraged when I see others willing to challenge the current church system. I totally agree that the church should have an avenue for anyone and everyone to have a say in at least the priority teachings and undertakings of the church. No-denominational churches could re-organize their system easier than denominational ones. The goal, I presume, would be to allow for input and changes without affecting the weekly worship services. But first the current systems would have to admit there is a need for change. If I ever find one that is willing to discuss this in my local area I will certainly check it out.

Ah, credibility! That would be key to the whole process. Certainly, everything must line up with the Bible. But whose interpretation? SocietyVs is right on the mark in addressing the 'paste job' style of interpretation. There would be much less confusion and indifference if the pulpit sermons were zoning in on the context of the passage rather than picking a verse here and there.

And yet there are 'grey areas'. I personally believe that if you do not have clear and substantial support for what you believe you should not be publicly vocal about it (preaching it from the pulpit).
Gay bashing is a good example. I think the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin and that we are to love sinners but hate the sin. The whole thing is quite confusing so unless someone can show me a clear teaching from the Bible (that is in context) that I should reject someone because of their homosexuality, I will not be protesting or shunning them. For you see, my life is not free of sin either. One of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible (as far as teaching us in how to treat others) was when He drew a line in the sand and said "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." John 8:7 Did He approve of her sin of adultery? No. But he clearly showed us that public judgment is wrong.