[Early Ecclesiastical Rant]

I get weary of well-intentioned Christians using their air time to run down the church.
Yes, by all means, Christians have done and continue to do dopey, destructive things, too often in the name of their faith. That’s a true, significant problem, and no one better try to sweep it under the rug. Clear? Okay.
On the other hand, exactly what good do we accomplish by furiously parading our most grievous follies before people? It begins to seem as though part of the point of Christian faith is to talk at length about what a terrible historical force Christianity has been. Remember that I’m not talking about folks from outside the church here; their gripes have a different texture, and one would have to discuss the merits of their complaints differently. I’m talking about people who get up and preach (often) about bad stuff Christians have done.
Is there a way to communicate about the faith without either suppressing our failures or making it seem as though everything to this point has been a more-or-less grievous flop, but perhaps beginning tomorrow we’ll get it right?
Part of my point is my own general orientation toward encouraging people to learn and self-correct without getting hung up on having tried something that didn’t work out (here I’m thinking of my students, not about big terrible ideas like tolerating slavery or persecuting Jews); when I look beyond my classroom to the broader horizons of institutional practices, I still think that the only way forward from grievous error is a manifest commitment to doing better. Self-flagellation elicits titters from students who know how misguided that ascetical practice is, but numbers of them then go on and practice ecclesiastical self-flagellation in the name of candor about the church.
There’s a difference. It’s more complicated than the binary alternatives of belaboring sins or papering them over.
And I’m weary of folks behaving/speaking/preaching as though the only way to exorcise the demons of the past is to dwell on them–especially because no one (hardly anyone) ever did these beastly things in the full knowledge that they were wrong, but precisely because they were convinced that it was the right way forward for their faith, every bit as much as the earnest denunciators of today’s church are convinced that they now are in a position cavalierly to reprehend the guilt of past generations.
They may have understood more than we guess, and we may understand less than we guess, so let’s concentrate on what we can do, now, among the people with whom we live, and encourage one another to do better. And remember that if the church really believes what it teaches about repentance and the forgiveness of sins, that repeating conventional outcries against sins of the past itself may lock us to those sins, binding us up in Jacob-Marley-like chains of our own, forged in life link by link, and yard by yard.
Part of our recuperation from past sins is a willingness to acknowledge them, and to build lives that have been freed from those sins. And though we may never forget, we may well decide that there are more constructive things to highlight in the limited time that anyone’s paying attention to us.
Well, that’s off my chest.
[Early posts to this blog, in the halcyon days of Blogger, did not have topic headers or comments. I’m adding these posts retrospectively to my WordPress blog to tidy things up.]

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