November 20, 2017

Chris Kratzer: I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian”

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Note from CM: Today we hear from Chris Kratzer, who blogs at Putting into Words What Only Grace Is Brave Enough to Say. Chris, believe me, I understand. Thanks for letting us share a bit of your journey today.

• • •

I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian”
by Chris Kratzer

I promise, it’s not you, it’s me.

That, I’m convinced.

I’ve tried, I really have. Twenty-two years of ministry—even more time, simply being a “Christian.”

I can’t do it, and it’s high time to call the wizard out from behind the curtain.

This whole American-Christianity thing, I’m just not good enough. I can’t pull it off.

Church, ministry, “Christian” stuff—I simply don’t have what it takes.

I mean, you Church folks are amazing, I don’t know how you do it. The way you keep your righteousness and closeness with God afloat through a vigilant life of sin-management, do-gooding, and Christian faithfulness, I can’t even begin to lift that kind of weight, let alone hold it up. For me, every time I’m admonished with things I need to do in order to be a better person or become a more “fully devoted” follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t even get close to mastering just one of them, not to mention the five others listed in the sermon notes. And before you know it, the next Sunday, we’re on to a whole new set of things I need to go after. Honestly, I just can’t keep up like you. I’m so far behind from being a “real deal Christian.” And quite frankly, I’m ashamed of my incapacity to spiritually perform at your level. I truly don’t know how you field that kind of pressure and keep good going with all the spiritual consequences ahead of you if you don’t. Your fear management skills must be impeccable.

Something is wrong with me, I’m sure. All the accountability partners, prayer warriors and small-group interventions have somehow fallen flat. Years of Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors, and mentors hoping I’ll get serious enough to get my life on track. I feel like such a hypocrite and fake to just take a step towards your fellowship, as if I’m even close to making the grade or would ever be capable of drawing within your lines. It all leaves me so empty. I feel everything in my soul shutting down at just the thought.

I look around, and everyone else is so much more spiritual. All the inspirational posts they have on Facebook, all the good things they are doing for the Lord—so deep into worship and prayer with their eyes closed and hands raised, loving every minute of it with complete abandon. There’s this ardent love and commitment to Jesus that’s just dripping from everybody’s lips with such eloquent and Jesus-flavored verbiage. And here I am—riddled with serious doubts and questions, embarrassed that I’m not feeling nearly as into Jesus as apparently I should. Heck, truth be told, I’m still struggling with a good amount of the bad stuff you folks seem to be so far beyond. My beliefs change, my behaviors fall short, my passions fade—no wonder why, from time to time, I’ve gotten the disappointed looks, cold shoulders, and leadership “time outs.” What was I thinking, I’m way out of my league. Repentance here, pointing out sin there, keeping people from an eternal torture in hell prescribed from a God who is Love—I don’t know how you stomach it all. It’s true, I really should be so much further along by now, but for some reason, all the formulas, disciplines, rituals, steps, and “soaking” in worship aren’t working for me. And trust me, I’ve tried—really, really hard.

Church, I want to fit in so badly, I want to feel like a genuine follower in American Christianity, but I just can’t. Whatever it is you have, I simply don’t have it in me.

I mean, you people in ministry—you got it going on. All of you, rockstars for sure. How you keep up in the whirlwind of competitive Christianity is beyond me. It’s everywhere—in all my searching, I’ve been hard pressed to find a layer of Christian ministry that hasn’t been turned into pretty much a kind of all-out ministry cage match. Quite frankly, I don’t know how so many of you do it—making sure your ministry is out-growing the next, your blog posts are the first written on the latest controversial subject, your platform is increasing, your branding is on point, your engaging your following, updating your Twitter account, promoting your latest “thing”—on and on and on, keeping up with ministry trends, making sure you’re “in” with all the right people, all while having the picture perfect marriage and family pimped with the latest fashions, fohawks, tattoos, and skinny jeans required in order to be relevant. Wow, I bend a knee in your honor and awe.

And then, the criticism. All the people determined to misunderstand you—the people who treat you unfairly, kick you to the curb, and hang you out to dry. The fellow people in ministry who sabotage you, seek to undermine your influence, use you, and are always trying to “out minister” you. How you shrug it all off and plow through—my hat goes off to you.

I’m sure I just don’t have enough faith and I am way too insecure. I should be so much stronger in my identity in Christ, but a lot of times, I’m just not. Thank God there are celebrity ministers out there within every camp and kind who do, say, and write so much better than the rest of us—makes up for all my floundering for sure. You folks are heroes, how you stomach and swim in the business and enterprise that is empire Christianity is way beyond my capacity—the compromises you have to make, the duplicities you must have to embody—yours is a high wire act I’m just not good enough to swing. As much as your table in the lunch room captures my attention, I can’t hang with you all, though my ego might keep on dreaming. I must concede, I just don’t have it in me.

I mean, “Christian” stuff—your imagination is mind-boggling. Christian yoga, Christian yoga pants, Christian basketball, Christian football, Christian dance, Christian art, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian television, Christian bathrooms, Christian food, Christian fast food, Christian books, Christian book marks, Christian clubs, Christian groups, Christian values, Christian principles, Christian nations, not to mention, Christian ___________. Oh, and I almost forgot, Christian_____________.

I am amazed, you are the masters of drawing lines—defining who’s in and who’s out, what’s in and what’s out, what’s good for me, and what’s not. My radar for sin and uncleanliness just isn’t that good. Thank God, you label it for me.

But even still, if I’m honest, I find myself deeply wanting to “be with” and “in with” so many of things that aren’t necessarily “Christian.” And for that, I know I am suppose to feel, “dirty”—but, I don’t.

Surely, something is wrong with me—terribly wrong with me. I’m damaged goods, falling away, chasing wayward spirits of doctrine, or something “biblical” like that. Yet, I can’t help it. Something inside of me that I have been told for years is so weak, meek, and poor feels, yet all so strong and divine, drawing me away— far, far away.

I’m pretty sure I am going to hell, at leasts that’s what “they” say. So, I guess that’s just how it’s going to have to be, because I simply can’t fake-it-to-make-it anymore. You folks have it, I don’t.

I know breaking up is hard to do, but I’m done. I’m walking away.

Church, ministry, so much of this “Christian” stuff.

I’m done playing the game, running the rat race, never measuring up or doing enough. I’m done competing, sacrificing my sanity, and being spiritually cross-checked every time I have an open shot on goal.

I’ve simply resigned myself to a life of trying to fully be myself—relying on Grace and loving some people along the way as best I can, believing that in so doing and in so being, Jesus is somehow pleased.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t lose friends, you lose people who you thought were friends.

And better than that—you don’t stop loving, you just learn to love more honestly.

I sense I’ll be doing the former, and I know, I’ll be doing the latter.

For honesty is the first thing that grows from a life planted in Grace.

Comments

  1. Yikes! That’s as good a rant as I’ve ever seen!

    • I don’t actually recognize the church you reference Chris, and I attend a conservative, Evangelical church – 100 people or so.

      CULTURAL CHANGES seen in conservative churches over the past few decades include:

      Women wear pants
      People go to movies
      People drink alcohol
      Elders are sometimes divorced
      Many, many churches no longer have the quintessential “altar call” with 10 versus of “Just as I am….”
      My church stopped Sunday evening services 30 years ago [ as have a lot of others ]
      Wednesday services are primarily summer occurences
      We haven’t hired a pastor who “brow beat” us EVER

      FINALLY – working thru Hebrew the pastor actually talked about sin – quite a rare occurrence in even conservative evangelical circles these days.

      • Really? All my conservative churches, I can’t recall a sermon that DIDN’T talk about sin.

        • senecagriggs says:

          It’s changed a lot StuartB, at least in my southeastern neck of the woods in the last few decades. SIN is not a popular sermon topic in our “enlightened” culture – even at conservative churches.

          • It might have. But I’m speaking specifically of the last 30 years in conservative churches in the Midwest. They talk about sin. A lot.

            Side note – it’s still talking about sin with the whole ‘law/grace’ dichotomy. If someone today were to say the whole paradigm of preaching is to first beat down with law so you can offer the sweet release of grace, I’d wonder if they’ve seen a therapist or are on the spectrum.

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          Man, I’d love to hear a good clothesline sermon.

          Nothing makes me feel better than forty minutes listening to a man condemn things to which I am not drawn by temperament. 🙂

          • –> “Man, I’d love to hear a good clothesline sermon.”

            A clothesline sermon!? Oh, that’d be a great one to sit through!

          • And nothing makes a man feel better than forty minutes of condemning things to which he is not drawn by temperament to a captive audience!

        • Stuart, you were more in fundamentalist churches than conservative ones. There’s a difference. Fundies never miss a chance to pounce on sin. Conservatives have plenty of other hobby horses.

      • I hear sin as a talking point in church, but it’s never sin as a broken connection between me and God, but sin as bad stuff I do. So, if I’ve not cheated on my spouse, watched pornography, lied, murdered, stole, or coveted my neighbor’s cattle, there isn’t much in it for me. And I can tell by conversations I have with other church people, sin for them is mostly stuff other people, those bad non-Christians out there, do. So, I guess there isn’t much in it for them either.
        Being part of a system that exploits people, or the refusal to give every spare dime you have to help the poor, or saying you would not allow a foreign refugee into your midst, those would generally not be considered sin, but matters of opinion. At least, that is my church experience.

  2. Great rant! Bet it was fun to write!

    On a different note: Cubs win Game 2 of the World Series!

  3. Thank you Chris Kratzer. You are not alone.

  4. How many American Christians, I wonder, think these same things alone at night in their beds, or when they look in the mirror in the mornings… but are too afraid to say them aloud in public?

    • Eayore, that’s exactly why I wrote it.

    • Sure, I think any Christian with an ounce of self-honesty has these sort of doubts and misgivings about what American church culture has become (by and large). But we’re certainly not the first Christians in history to feel dissatisfaction with status quo Churchianity. The monastic drop-out of the Desert Fathers and the Protestant Reformation are two big historical examples, but there have been thousands of smaller reformations, schisms, splits, breakaways, and “reinvent church” movements.
      Like Father Abraham, I think some of us are always looking for that city not made by human hands, while those in charge keep on advertising their pet construction projects and institutional babies as the place we’re looking for. And, century after century, we keep on being disappointed with the product we’re sold.
      I spent several years being militantly anti-institutional, but I ended up finding a lot of the same BS in small home groups and alternative church experiments. Most recently, I have found myself drifting back in the front door of institutional church — but with a much more tolerant, relaxed attitude when it comes to religious BS. I just try to sort through it all to find the few gold nuggets hiding out there in the mix. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant by His parable of the field — that you have to buy the whole dirty, weed-infested lot to get at the buried treasure.

  5. As a longtime member of mainline churches, it’s hard for me to identify with a lot of the grievances expressed here. I just don’t feel the kind of pressure from the pulpit or the church leadership or my fellow parishoners described in this post. The sermons do not excoriate me for moral failings, nor set before me a level of spiritual attainment too great for me; the fellowship does not exist in a Christian subculture meant to be hermetically sealed from the wider culture’s contamination; hell is rarely mentioned, and certainly not used as a motivator to get me in line. I’m just not feelin’ it. Perhaps things are too lax? I guess it’s a very different world from the one described, where the taken-for-granted world of the wider society is just as taken-for-granted.

    • Of course, my experience in the mainlines includes suffering from normal human foibles, often exaggerated by the vulnerability that church activities and life involves when one is really engaged with them. On more than one occasion I’ve felt that, if my wife’s profession didn’t involve being a church musician, I would disengage, such was the pain and frustration experienced; but then, the same feelings have made me at times wish to disengage from the human race…

      • Oh, I hear you Robert. My spouse has a job related church connection which makes me feel I need to attend, although I increasingly would rather stay home and meditate or read some Rilke.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I guess it’s a very different world from the one described

      I remember this kind of thing. Going to church became a dreaded burden, a place where one was required to be silent.

      But it was a long time ago now. I wonder how the narrative will change with the passing years, once the person has “walked away”.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        How I would love a church that required more silence. Maybe I should accompany CM the next time he goes to visit that monastery in Kentucky.

        Silence is precisely what I’m missing.

        • Don’t Orthodox monasteries provide guest facilities for laypeople to make retreats?

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            They do, and I should go. Due to the relative prosperity of American Catholicism and American Orthodoxy, a visit to an Orthodox monastery can be a rather rustic experience.

            I believe CM’s monastery is a Trappist monastery. Catholic monasteries that follow the [pre-schism] rule of Saint Benedict are permissible for Orthodox laypeople. Indeed, I think there are Orthodox monks who are actually members of Benedictine monasteries, who are communed by and confess to their own clergy. I know there are Orthodox Benedictine oblates. I’ve met one.

        • >> How I would love a church that required more silence.

          Mule, you could come up for the Wednesday evening Friends meeting I attend weekly. Usually six or seven folks there and we meet in various homes. Occasionally someone reads a short selection of something aloud at the beginning, but not always. We sit roughly in a circle for roughly 45 minutes or so, in unstructured silent contemplative meditation or prayer or worship or reading a book or magazine if you so choose. Followed by choice refreshments and laughter, conversations usually avoiding politics and religion. Yes, it would be a hard two day round trip for you, but I’ve got a place for you to stay and you could stay longer. I’ll bet you could find some Quakers even closer.

    • I wish you well as you embark on this new length of your journey, Chris. Godspeed.

    • Robert – yes, if you’ve never been in evangelical churches, Chris’s post won’t ring a bell. But for those of us who have, it’s a whole different story.

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””I’m a firm believer that you don’t lose friends, you lose people who you thought were friends.”””

    This is something young people need to be told / reminded-of over and over again. Such knowledge helps to grease the making of better decisions.

  7. Burro [Mule] says:

    I could write a word-for-word post about American corporate managerial culture. Nothing generates more bullshit than a job interview for a mid level IT management position, unless its the marketing department for that same company. Unfortunately, my failure to conform there leaves me poor as a churchmouse. I wonder if they aren’t in some way related.

    I notice Mr Kratzer doesn’t allow comments on his board. I don’t recognize too many of my Evangelical friends in the broadly-brushed caricature Mr Kratzner paints of them. The single one who did is one of the most fear-stricken men I know, and is more the object of my prayers than my scorn.

    There is some genuine anti-human evil abroad in our land, but Evangelical Christianity, as an institution or even as a movement, ain’t it.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      My bad. Mr. Kratzner does allow comments.

    • Burro, there are tons of comments on this and other articles at my blog. You have to press the “comment” button or scroll down to see them.

    • There is some genuine anti-human evil abroad in our land, but Evangelical Christianity, as an institution or even as a movement, ain’t it.

      It may not be the heart and soul of that evil, but it sure has bought into a lot of its tenets (focus on “success”, “keeping up appearances” versus authenticity, mania for getting and keeping political power, managerial structures over relationships, etc).

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Evangelical Christianity has certainly been deeply infected by Lewis’ Macrobes, but then, so have Rome and the East, but the disease is not the patient.

        Secular Liberal Democratic/Oligarchic Capitalism is the heir of sundered Christendom, and was born when Europe threw up her hands in exhaustion in 1648. William of Orange and Cardinal Mazarin attended at the baptism. If I were looking for Anti-christ, I wouldn’t look farther afield than that.

        Anyway, Christianity has been wrestling with its offspring for three hundred-odd years now, and losing nearly every match (only Franco comes to mind as a limited victory). I made a remark on another board that the strife between Islam and Secularism resembles the conflict between Sauron and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, of which Merry comments that ‘it would be good if nothing separated our enemies, so that they could fight each other to exhaustion’, and to which Gandalf replies that ‘the victor would emerge stranger than ever, and free of doubts’.

        To this remark of mine, a wit replied that Islam is obviously Mordor, but Saruman found the Ring.

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          Why do I get moderated so much?

          • I don’t know, Mule, there are several people to whom this happens with the filters and I haven’t found a way to adjust them. Sometimes it is because links are included, but I did loosen that restriction up a bit. I’ll keep trying to figure it out. Thx for your patience.

            • GBTC from TWW says:

              I’m going to send you an email. Maybe we can work together on moderation. I have issues (headaches?) with keeping TWW moderation reasonable.

        • Franco, a “limited victory”? I count Franco as an object lesson in the futility of attempting to enforce Christendom-esque cultural and political norms by force. And whatever the flaws the sundering of Christendom has brought on, the evils of Christendom made it, if not necessary, then inevitable. Any marrying of Christianity and politics is doomed, sooner or later.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Any marrying of Christianity and politics is doomed, sooner or later.

            That is a big statement. It needs a lot more unpacking that I can give it at present.

            Any divorce of Christianity and politics is doomed, sooner or later as well. I’ll agree that Christendom, as originally constituted by St. Constantine and brought to its highest pitch by Justinian and Theodora, is unworkable now. It appears that our race has entered an unruly adolescence that made the restraints that el Generalissimo imposed on Spanish society for well nigh forty years as effervescent as morning mist.

        • Large sections of evangelicalism are on the verge of becoming, or have become, indistinguishable from Trumpism; even if Trump goes away soon, Trumpism has taken control of the Republican Party, and much of evangelicalism. I see this as an unmitigated evil, and I see the churches that embrace it as having embraced genuine evil.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            I dunno if you’ll see this, but I do not believe there is a “Trumpism” . You have many different factions gathering under Mr. Trump’s banner; you have the alt-right, who will indeed be something to be dealt with in the future. I don’t think there are too many evangelicals who are being swayed by the alt-right. the increasingly open anti-Semitism is at odds with the general pro-Israel stance of Evangelicalism.

            They are genuinely evil, but a word of warning. True alt-righters are not cowed by accusations of racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism. Those epiphets are badges of honor to them.

            Another group under Mr Trump’s banner, currently, are the economic nationalists or the anti-globalists. They are following Mr Trump because there is nowhere else for them to go. Globalism has been good for Mr. Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, and fabulous for the Davos crowd, but it’s been very unsettling for the bourgeoisie of the advanced countries. I fully expect you or Finn to browbeat me with the fact that life is improving for the lowest 96% in Bangladesh, Upper Volta, Bolivia, or Vietnam because of their leap-frogging industrialization, but I ain’t that altruistic.

            Finally, the Evangelicals have literally nowhere to go this election season. Most of my evangelical friends will vote for Trump and hope he explodes from self-inflation with his hand on Justice Roberts’ Bible, and Mike Pence becomes President.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Most of my evangelical friends will vote for Trump and hope he explodes from self-inflation with his hand on Justice Roberts’ Bible, and Mike Pence becomes President.

              That anything like 2008, when Evangelicals voted for McCain so he could die in office leaving God’s Anointed Palin as President?

    • “There is some genuine anti-human evil abroad in our land, but Evangelical Christianity, as an institution or even as a movement, ain’t it.”

      I don’t know. The anxiety and hopelessness one feels because they think they aren’t “doing enough” for Jesus to be in His Grace, thereby driving a wedge between someone and their Savior feels pretty evil to me.

  8. Today I have learned that there is such a thing in the world as a “fohawk”, and pretty much figured out what it is. Who knew? Well, probably everyone else but me. Interesting that I had to find this worldly bit of information at a Christian enclave, and no doubt an indication that the fashion is passing, if not passed, or even past. I’ll be keeping my eye out for this now and I’ll know what to call ’em as I sees ’em.

  9. I see the problem…he uses a hockey reference which means he is a northeasterner. Everyone KNOWS that hockey fans cannot be Christians! 😀

    Seriously though, I do not recognize ANYTHING in his rant. Perhaps he needs to spend some time in an inner-city church or, even better, Nadia Boltz Weber’s church where Grace is a tangible thing.

    In my time at my present church I have come to recognize that the “holy” people are just as insecure in their faith as am I, but they are tenaciously hanging on to grace and hope as their only option. If truth be told we ALL secretly doubt the validity of the faith enterprise we are involved with but still HOPE that it is true. The only other option if nihilism, subjectivism and moral freefall, and THAT is precisely the reason I grabbed on to Christ!.

    • Seriously though, I do not recognize ANYTHING in his rant. Perhaps he needs to spend some time in an inner-city church or, even better, Nadia Boltz Weber’s church where Grace is a tangible thing.

      Spend some time in an upper-middle-class suburban megachurch. His rant is Spot. On. If you haven’t encountered this, count your blessings.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Having lived for a decade in Peachtree City, Ga [google it], I agree that this particular demographic is a true turd parade, but it’s heading off a cliff anyway.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “true turd parade” — gotta remember that phrase!

        • Dan from Georgia says:

          Wife and I have lived on both sides of PTC (Fayetteville and Newnan), GA, and I agree with your statement Burro [Mule]!

      • Yes, Eeyore, yes. Upper middle class suburban mega stepford-wife mentality church. I know a number of people who attend them. There is a Christianese lingo that goes along with it, certain books you must read (hint, not anything secular), and certain music you listen to and movies you see. In general, they express amazement that I am a church goer and don’t know the newest Chris Tomlin song nor have I seen any of the God is Not Dead movies or visited the Creation Museum.
        In that context, yes, the rant posted is spot on.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Having spent some time on his blog, I have to admit also that I don’t recognize the saintly same-sex-attracted folk he writes about They are different from my gay friends and acquaintances who have the same unfortunate predilections to exploit and be exploited as my straight friends. If you spent all your time on pissed-off-at-evangelicals boards, you could be forgiven for thinking that most gay Americans were perfectly coiffed, tastefully upholstered, faintly Episcopalian young men who wanted nothing more than to gaze into the scented sunset together, hands lightly intertwined, with the stains of Fauré and Satie playing in the background, if only the Evangelical neanderthals could be bludgeoned into compliance.

      I see no virtue in exchanging one bullshit marketing campaign for another.

  10. Wow. Nailed it. Thank you for this Chris.

  11. Man, institutionalised, bureaucratic, hivemind religion is an ugly thing, but I find it really hard to get past this essay’s unrelenting passive aggressive tone. Like, after reading this I feel like I can’t say “I love Jesus.” without sounding like a tool.

    • I love Jesus and Chris articulates what I think. I’m a tool I guess. I hope God lays it on your heart to pray for us. If not just write us off as lost without hope.

      • Oh no, what I meant was it *reads* like Chris is saying people who express their love of Jesus in churchianity-appropriate ways have no integrity; tools. It comes off as a really harsh condemnation that indiscriminately targets everyone who happens to find themselves under a steeple (or million-dollar megachurch roof).

        As I’m writing this, I’m thinking if the pious of Israel might not have had the same reaction when Amos told them “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”

        So maybe I’m in the wrong – I pray for you, and you pray for me, please!

        • Ok I see. It’s a sensitive topic for me, being surrounded on all sides by conservative evangelicals. It’s a lonely place to be. I have black sheep syndrome and get a little defensive. Sorry for my sarcasm.

          • Feeling like an alien in a crowd is no fun. Conservative evangelicalism has not been a big part of my life, but I know how it is to not have anyone you can be your true self with and how one develops defense mechanisms in that kind of environment.

            My guess is everyone who visits here regularly has some variation of black sheep syndrome, even if we end up in different places. I wasn’t quick enough in trying to understand where Chris was coming from either.

            • Now Osti, you’re being so kind and now I feel like a real heel for jumping on you for your comment. I am glad we have this “sanctuary” to come to.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > who express their love of Jesus in churchianity-appropriate ways have no integrity

          Well… in a dark mood I would be inclined to agree with that. There is a whole lot of obfuscated aggression in Evangelical Churchianity – and sometimes not so obfuscated.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      It is a rant – a category of Literature – and needs to be read as such. Who hasn’t ranted on occasion? On occasion a friend’s rant is a very therapeutic thing.

      • Christiane says:

        it sounds more like a desire for a more meaningful integral way of ‘being’ . . . . . something that was deeply needed early-on but not ‘nourished’ in a way that mattered or even came close to hitting the mark

        sometimes ‘walking away’ is a journey forward

        I also like the thought of spending time in a monastery where silence is valued and maybe time spent in a garden, or camping at a lakeside, or walking the Camino . . . . . or just ‘being’ and ‘breathing’ and being thankful for both opportunities

        some private time to heal, yes

        wouldn’t we all benefit from the same?

  12. We’re also “dones”, but are glad our adult children and families are church goers( in full disclosure, one is on the edge of done). We’ve heard many people say why they are done. Perhaps in this comment you can surmise why we are done but appreciate church, especially for our grandchildren.
    There is an American writer on business management, particularly in relation to team management, Patrick Lencioni. He was asked his philosophy and responded, “It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board”. And the truth is that bureaucracy and ego needs followers rather than contributors. This is especially true in relation to “Christianity”. But, of course, this could be said about business, sports, clubs, schools, gangs, families.
    Can’t help but believe being done has to do with maturing and contributing as intelligent adults. There are further stages of faith and grace that many a church finds to be questions, doubts, and a life lived that they think outside the bounds. In this regard we have always appreciated Clark Pinnock and Robert Brow’s “Unbounded Love”.
    How many know that Love keeps no records of wrongs? That makes any position of in or out irrelevant . All are, some are not. Totally illogical, beyond human understanding. Overcomes the world. Really appreciate Chris Kratzer on honest love..

  13. I would have found myself there a few years ago, until I found the people who gave me permission.

    Read the Fathers, the mystics, the spiritual formation writers (Willard, Nouwen, et al). They give us permission to pursue with passion the one who calls us “beloved.”

    Interact with the peacemakers. Merton, Claiborne, Boyd, Zahnd, Jarod McKenna, Michael Hardin, and the best of the Anabaptists. They give us permission to eschew Christian culture’s disposition towards politics and war, and embrace the Prince of Peace who is no wimp.

    Interact with those who see much more beauty in the Gospel than a legal transaction that absolves our depravity: Wright, McKnight, Boyd & Zahnd (again). They give us permission to dream about Jesus in a whole new way.

    Interact with those who give a wider scope to the drama and complexity of the Scriptures. Interact with those who have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit without the abuses and cultural excesses. Interact with the people of racial reconciliation. Interact with the people of simplicity. They give us permission to be the kind of people that the world needs.

    There is so much good out there. And it goes beyond mere book recommendations. Communities of Jesus people really go exist. They really are out there. WE really are out there. Internetmonk.com is proof.

    • Great post, Sean. It’s true.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > There is so much good out there.

      +1,000

    • “There is so much good out there.”

      There is a tendency in evangelical circles to believe that this world, and particularly our culture, is a cesspool and we are “going to hell in a handbasket” and much of this type church culture reflects this belief. There is no doubt we live in a broken world, such has it ever been and it is enough to break your heart. But I see so much good all around me and not just individual acts of grace but, for lack of a better word, institutional acts of grace.

      For instance, I was listening to a discussion on the radio yesterday about how when the hosts were young, bullying was common (and they’re right–I was both subject to and an instigator in those days). “That’s the way the world is” administrators, parents, and yes, even students said in order to justify such behavior. But in schools now, bullying is not tolerated. We, as a culture, have said this is not right; it is an affront to common decency and dignity to allow this to continue and we have taken steps to confront it and protect the weak.

      Another example–the Americans with Disabilities Act gives equal access to citizens with disabilities in a myriad of ways. Yes, it’s expensive; yes, sometimes it is abused but again we, as a society, have determined that disabled people have a worth, a dignity that is important to promote and preserve and we, as a society have made the decision to protect the weak.

      For Christians, these are not political issues, though they are often cast as such. Whenever we as a society uphold the least and lost among us, we are doing kingdom work, allowing a little bit of “God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

      In many, many ways, our culture is reflecting kingdom values and not “going to hell in a handbasket”. There is, indeed, so much good out there.

  14. Bill Metzger says:

    As someone once put it: The trouble with theology today is there isn’t any. Perhaps that’s the real issue here. No real Jesus. No real Cross. No real Gospel. No real blood. Just a lot of phoney expectations, insecure competition, who’s church can be bigger (whatever the hell that means), ad nauseum. We’ve taken our eyes off Jesus. It’s that simple.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The trouble with theology today is there isn’t any

      Or that is all that is out there. Evangelicalsm is the land of orthodoxy., with only a passing interest in orthopraxy [before it calls out “LEGALISM!”].

  15. I want to write more, but very busy right now so can’t.

    But that title? Yeah. Amen. I agree with it fully, 100%. Good for you, sir. My life did not start improving until I did exactly that, and I hope you have as many blessings as possible by removing yourself from that toxic world.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    (oh and the followup post on your regular blog is AMAZING)

  16. As much as some commenters may think this rant was a little harsh, to me it sounds a lot like some of what Michael Spencer wrote and focused on. The Evangelical circus at its worst can be a fearful and crushing place. I’ve seen it and experienced it, too. Combine that with a culture war mentality and it can get pretty toxic.

    And I don’t think this segment of American evangelicalism has fully realized this or done any real self-examination as a result of it. Change from the inside won’t happen quickly.

  17. Ben Carmack says:

    Here again we see another aspect of the cognitive dissonance of this website.

    On the one hand, we want to emphasize the Church and her Tradition. Liturgy, Word and Table, Monasteries, Ancient Future faith. Many of the communions well represented are governed monarchically with priests, bishops and archbishops.

    Then on the other hand, we’re committed to de-legitimizing the Church at every turn. If you’re tired of the church, flee! Ministry is a drag! Church people are a drag! Just do your thing! Have communion in your living room, watching the World Series. Who cares! Michael Spencer famously wrote he regretted having ever become a pastor. One wonders why he continued in the ministry at all.

    It’s two odd poles between High Church Churchianity and Abandon the Church/Church is Bad/Christians are Duds/Un-Churchianity. Every man and his Bible is wrong so let’s listen to the Pope or Holy Tradition, except no, don’t do that, just do your own thing out there in the world. Forget those stuffy church people. What???

    It’s enough to make your head explode trying to make sense of it all.

    Until you realize it isn’t supposed to make sense. It’s just pure emoting. Whatever make me feel good. Maybe it’s abandoning the church today, but tomorrow it will be Holy Mass. Thankfully, the local Catholic parish only cares if you show up and doesn’t keep up with your daily life…unlike the stuffy evangelical churches where there’s more insistence on follow-up and community—sometimes.

    Sacramentalism, divorced from the Word, is a great way to give yourself happy thoughts, but it’s a poor substitute for a living faith in Jesus Christ. But modern-day Pharisees aren’t interested in living faith in Jesus, they just want flashy ceremonies, long robes and plenty of smells n bells. Hence my accusation that this blog is a festering nest of Pharisaism. We’ve left the spirit of the law long behind, we just want the forms, thank you.

    • Ben, what in the world does giving one person a chance to tell his story about leaving American Christian subculture have to do with all this “high church” stuff you’re talking about?

      • Ben Carmack says:

        I’m talking about the obvious dichotomy represented by post-Evangelicalism. On the one hand, we’re tired and it’s time to leave the church behind and do our own thing, because 1) Evangelicalism is oppressive. On the other hand, we want to flee the free-for-all of Evangelicalism and run toward hierarchically governed, ornate and refined High Church traditions (such as Rome, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism with Lutheranism as a middle ground) grounded in what seems to be the Ancient Christian Faith. This is because 2( Evangelicalism has not roots and no tradition. It’s too free-wheeling.

        Well, either Evangelicalism is too free wheeling (Thesis 2) or it is too oppressive (Thesis 1). It can’t be both at the same time and in the same way. That would violate the Law of Non-Contradiction. It’s offensive to common sense.

        Yet somehow one is led to believe both of these things are so. It doesn’t make sense. What’s really going on is that, no matter what, we must hate Evangelicalism. We must hate for any and every reason, even if those reasons are contradictory. We must do everything to make ourselves feel good. That’s really what it comes down to.

        So you’ve got the accoutrements of Rome and its rigid hierarchy and legalism (which is what monasteries represent) on the one hand, and pure, unadulterated anti-nomianism (this article) on the other. No rhyme or reason. Except that, whatever it takes, we have to find a way to express our loathing and hatred of Evangelicalism. Whatever it takes. It’s a purely reactive, negative ideology that focuses on a common enemy.

        • Ben Carmack says:

          By “it” I mean “Post-Evangelicalism.”

        • Ronald Avra says:

          If you don’t understand how something could be free-wheeling and oppressive at the same time, perhaps you could consider the example of Charles Manson and his acolytes.

        • I’m not sure what you’re responding to, but it certainly isn’t Chris’s post.

          If you’re talking about the blog as a whole, our writers cover a wide spectrum of church experiences and commitments, from no church at all to Roman Catholic and Orthodox. As for me, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a mutt, unsure if I’ll ever find a true church home, much like Michael Spencer.

          You seem to suggest that we post anti-evangelicalism articles day in and day out relentlessly. I don’t think that’s an accurate depiction of what we do here.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Do you affirm the Creed when it says, “I believe in the holy Catholic Church…the communion of saints”? Because when you post antinoman articles that advocate leaving the church behind, you seem to me to be denying the Creed and thus leaving Christianity altogether.

            • Ben, you seem to be under the false impression that every post we publish is presented as “gospel truth,” and that posts here at Internet Monk have to conform to the standards of some kind of doctrinal magisterium. This is a discussion site, and sometimes we discuss things that are uncomfortable and that challenge us to think and work through our responses in order to gain wisdom about dealing with the world as it really is.

              Having someone tell a story about his spiritual journey does not imply that I or anyone else agrees with everything he says — it’s Chris’s story for heaven’s sake! It was not presented as a path that others need to follow or should follow, was it? No. It was presented as an example of something we’ve been discussing here on the site for months: people are leaving the churches — why?

              Now, what are we going to say about this? How are we going to respond? How are we going to work through our thoughts and feelings when we hear a story like this? Is there something we should be doing for people in this situation? How do we react to these criticisms? Do we know people who are having similar struggles? How do we relate to them? Have any of us had these same struggles? And so on.

              If you want a site that is presenting rigorously vetted teaching, go to the neo-puritan and neo-reformed sites where they don’t allow discussion because they believe they are presenting the last word on a given subject.

              That ain’t us, brother, and I for one am glad.

              • Ben Carmack says:

                I’m all for discussion and debate. Why do you think I’m here? Hint: it’s not because I don’t believe in disagreement or in talking to people different from me. Try to understand that and stop stereotyping.

                However, Christian sites who explain the faith do have a duty to their readers to present the true Christian faith as best they are able, warn against false teaching and exercise some discernment motivated by the pastoral care of souls. Because people with great faith or some faith or no faith are affected by what they read, and the vocation given to Christian ministers and writers is to explain the faith accurately. I should think that is fairly un-controversial, even Lutheran (except you seem hostile to your own tradition, but nevermind).

                It is also the vocation of Christian writers and ministers (such as yourself) to have zeal for the Lord’s house, to love the truth and expound it, and protect it from error. Both Scripture and Tradition are clear that if you want a relationship with Jesus, you can’t do it alone, but as part of the Body of Christ, the Church.

                If I have to explain that to you, you’re so ignorant of basic Christian theology that you have no business writing on theological topics at all. You’re embarrassing yourself and wasting everyone’s time.

                • Oh Ben. Are you seriously saying that we don’t promote Jesus and the faith here?

                  You say, “Christian sites who explain the faith do have a duty to their readers to present the true Christian faith as best they are able, warn against false teaching and exercise some discernment motivated by the pastoral care of souls.”

                  Gosh, I thought that was exactly what we were doing! Sorry if you can’t see that some of that pastoral care involves ministering to people who’ve been broken by the church.

                • “If I have to explain that to you, you’re so ignorant of basic Christian theology that you have no business writing on theological topics at all. You’re embarrassing yourself and wasting everyone’s time.”

                  And you are embarrassing yourself by trying to pass yourself off as some kind of authority. What, because you can wave a Bible around and quote a few verses? Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself Ben? Where is all this snark coming from? Oh, you’re just “disagreeing”. Nah, you seem to be trying really really really hard to boil everything you’ve read on this site down to a short bullet list of offenses, case closed. That just isn’t going to work. You are not that good. You don’t “get” everything. On top of that, I read an abrasive tone in pretty much all of your comments, as if you feel convicted to indict whatever it is you see wrong here, as if you are exposing some kind of “pharisaical” conspiracy. Well, if that’s your thing, carry on I guess, nothing I can do about it (except ignore any comment signed by “Ben Carmack”) since I’m not the moderator here. But you might want to remind yourself that you are just one person with one opinion, no different than the rest of us.

                  • ….you are just one person with one opinion, no different than the rest of us….

                    Nailed it!

        • Christiane says:

          “Evangelicalism has not roots and no tradition. It’s too free-wheeling”

          wait a minute ….. people who are evangelical accept the Bible as ‘God’s Word’, so they are connected with the early Church through that Bible, whether they want to be or not . . . . . to turn one’s back on the Councils of the early Church is to turn one’s back on the efforts of those early Christians to coalesce and organize all of the extant writings of their day and attempt to verify and affirm the writings that were handed down from the apostles and taken throughout all of the Christian centers of the early Church and used in the liturgical worship of those early days, even BEFORE there was a New Testament. If a writing was used throughout the known early Christian world in the Service of the Word over a period of time, then it had the gravitas to be considered as valid. The canons of the early Church connect today’s evangelicals to that time and to that Church.

          If evangelical people have turned their backs on the whole Church, that is THEIR doing. But many evangelical people do understand that the history of the early Church is also their history and that is something they do not deny.

          I’d say fundamentalists are the worst of the lot at denying the roots of the Scriptures. Out of fundamentalism, you see cult formation and patriarchal teachings that defy even the Holy Gospels of Our Lord in the manner in which these cults abuse women and children. There is a destructive spirit in the fundamentalist movement, yes.

    • “Hence my accusation that this blog is a festering nest of Pharisaism. ”

      Opinion noted

    • But modern-day Pharisees aren’t interested in living faith in Jesus, they just want flashy ceremonies, long robes and plenty of smells n bells.

      That is…literally the exact opposite of the posts and comments I’ve read at Internet Monk since I started here back in…2006?

      You’ll need to explain that one more clearly.

  18. Sounds to me like you could do with a dose of “mere Christianity”. Find a church, sit in it, quietly, and open your mind. No expectations, no “has to’s” just be open. I would suggest a Catholic church with a tabernacle where Jesus is present. But sit and be open and receive the peace that passeth understanding.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      A-men

      An hour of being with Jesus beats five years of arguing about Him.

      Pity I take my own advice so little.

      • Christiane says:

        it’s called the ‘kneeling theology’ ….. no words needed

      • Mule, Do Orthodox churches keep the Eucharist in tabernacles for adoration? I thought this was unique to Roman Catholicism…

        • I’m not Mule, but I can answer this: no, they do not. All communion bread/wine must be consumed at the end of the service. The bread is put out in baskets as “blessed bread” for the congregation to take. Priests finish off the wine – there’s very little left over, though.

          • Dana Ames says:

            A small clarification.

            The bread that is put out in baskets is indeed blessed, but it is not consecrated. Communion bread in the Orthodox Church is a square that is cut from the center of a round, leavened loaf. The square is put into the chalice and combined with the wine and hot water, and that is what is consecrated and the faithful receive, from a spoon. The bread in the baskets is the rest of the round loaf, cut into small pieces. It’s not Communion, but it is “the bread of fellowship.” What the priests and deacons finish off is the remaining consecrated bread/wine combination in the chalice/s.

            Dana

            • So, there is no equivalent in Orthodoxy to the Roman Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi, when the Sacrament is carried aloft in a monstrance and adored by the those gathered to celebrate the Festival Day?

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          The corresponding practice in Eastern Orthodoxy is to sit before an icon of Christ and practice the Jesus Prayer.

          There is some of the Blessed Mysteries reserved for shut-ins and pastoral visits during the week, but it is not adored, but the practice of crossing oneself when passing an Orthodox church stems from this.

          Just to be on the safe side, I also cross myself when passing Catholic and continuing Anglican churches. A personal practice to be on the safe side.

    • Ben Carmack says:

      This is a perfect example of a Pharisaical mindset. Forget about keeping the commandments. What you really need to do is set in front of the consecrated elements of the Eucharist and use them in a way that Scripture never prescribes. It’s an invented tradition that is at odds with the Bible, a crystal clear example of what Jesus meant by “traditions of men.”

      Because somehow, as if by magic, the consecrated elements will give you the peace that passes understanding. Not, you know, actually reading and taking to heart what Jesus said. Not, you know, loving your neighbor and obeying Christ’s commandments, the things He specifically commanded us to do to be counted among His friends. Not ordinary fellowship in a church where the Word is faithfully preached and the sacraments faithfully administered. No, what you really need to do is wait for a specially authorized priest in long, flowing robes to specially bless a piece of bread and then put it up for display for you to gaze at it…despite the fact that Christ commanded us to take and eat, not gaze. And if you do that, you’ll get the peace that passes understanding, and maybe even a plenary indulgence.

      • Can you manage at least just a little to pretend that you respect other people’s convictions even though you disagree with them?

        • Ben Carmack says:

          You’re confusing disagreement with hate. Not surprising. All postmodern men assume disagreement equals hate. Only affirmation is love.

          • I don’t think anyone’s confusing disagreement with hate. I think people are pointing out someone who they think disagrees in a disagreeable fashion.

            • Ben Carmack says:

              Disagreement, by its very nature, is going to have some friction along with it. Some raised voices. Some strong language. If you’re against that, you’re not familiar with the Biblical genre of the prophetic voice, nor the firm pastoral voice Paul often employs in his letters.

              And this from the self appointed arbiter of what the different genres of the Bible mean…

          • “Postmodern men”? Crikey…

            Note that it was you, Ben, who brought the subject of hate into this exchange…

            • Ben Carmack says:

              I did not. I merely disagreed, and strongly.

              You are the one who hates because you don’t know how to disagree or argue properly. When we cease being able to speak with one another, only visceral hate can take its place.

              • Either/or is typical of mindsets like yours: Either we agree with you and your disrespectful tone, or we’re haters….when in fact it’s you who are spewing contempt all over the place. I won’t engage your arguments, and I haven’t, because you’re a bully.

      • I gotta say, buddy, “loving your neighbor” is not an element that shines forth from your posts.

        However, I hope the venting is helpful.

      • Well, bless you, Ben. If we all believe that the consecrated host (bread) is the real presence, then one sits before Christ in the tabernacle. All the other activities you mention come from having Jesus in your heart.

  19. Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don’t really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

    Stop with the metronome existence, it’s for normal folks and you might not be normal. Church folk generally speaking are very very normal. They don’t go to church because they understand it they go inspite the fact that they don’t understand it fully believing they understand it. Clearly they do not.

  20. Emma Ross says:

    If you are trying to measure up to people you will always fail because there will always be someone better. God does not want you to be perfect. He died for us knowing that we were the worst of the worst. God loves you no matter what you do. It is sad that your definition of christians are people who are “in” with the latest fashion and know the right people. To be honest i do not think that is a true christian. It sounds more like a celebrity to me. Being a true christian is when you have God as the center. When you have a true relationship with God. When you are guided by the Holy Spirit. When you die to yourself and live for God. That to me is a true christian. You may not read this post but God loves you chris and He will always be waiting for you just like the father waited for the prodical son. Look for God and trust that He is molding you. Look to God not to people.

  21. I sense the stirrings of a new and deeper faith after acknowledging the system has failed. Good for Mr. Kratzer for being honest enough to say what many of us feel.

  22. One More Mike says:

    This sounds amazingly like Michael Spencer.

  23. One More Mike says: