God, Forgive Us

Photo by Dave Hoefler

As a dad who’s tried to raise two sons amid all kinds of treacheries in this seductive age, as a pastor who’s sat with countless wounded, angry souls walking away from their faith (or wondering if it’s ever possible to walk back again), I will tell you this: no atheistic argument has ever dismantled a person’s faith with such swift carnage as seeing someone enact persistent evil in God’s name, someone refusing to call a lie a lie, someone winking at violence or injustice while cloaking themselves in Christian garb.

This past week, as a violent mob stormed our Capitol, beat a police officer to death, and contributed to the death of four others, we saw “Jesus saves” flags and other religious rhetoric and paraphernalia ensconced as part of the seamless accoutrements of this unhinged mayhem. Then, as smoke cleared and Congress climbed out of hiding, numerous professing Christians went to great lengths to downplay our President’s role where, all to save his ego, he stoked this madness with deliberate, systemic lies.

And this coddling has gone on for years. Look, I get competing political philosophies and genuine matters of ethical conviction and quandaries on profoundly important matters. But no tax policy, no abortion law, no judge, no defense of religious freedom justifies a political alliance where the faith that we are supposedly upholding contributes to such in-your-face, acute evil. David Brooks said that we are a “flawed and humiliated nation.” We are also a flawed and humiliated church.

As one who believes with all my heart in Jesus’ story of righteousness, justice, goodness and peace for the whole world, as one who clings to the world-bending story of Jesus’ cruciform love (choosing to die rather than clinging to power or using power in an unholy way), the power-grabs, the rampant narcissism, the persistent dishonesty–and our inability to clearly name it–have inflicted incalculable harm. God, forgive us.

A friend asked me why I thought so many of the younger generation are abandoning the Church. There are numerous reasons I’m still pondering—but these days it’s rarely because our teaching is too zany, never because our music lacks enough thump. It’s not typically because we believe in “One God, the Father Almighty…” One reason they’re leaving in droves is because they don’t think we actually believe the stuff we say. And I’m in tears as I write because we have given them so many more reasons to think that really we don’t.

There is much evil we could name, plenty to go around. But this moment, this bit of words, is for those of us who name Jesus as Lord. I am heartbroken. God, forgive us.