Jim Palmer, a former megachurch pastor, left that ministry because he could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy. He shared some of what he calls misguided religious establishment thinking. I call them dirty little church secrets.
- Much religion today is toxic, especially from ultraconservatives. It is rooted in fear, false doctrine (e.g., hell being a place), and the idea that people are bad and need to be constantly punished. Inducing guilt raises big money.
- Clergy have no real authority even though they say they are called or chosen by God. I wonder, by which God? My clergy friend keeps reminding me, “Twenty-five years ago I was ‘called’ by God. I haven’t heard from her since.”
- What the church calls “sacred” isn’t necessarily sacred. For example, why is the Bible sacred? It was written by many human beings over many centuries who had different ideas. The Book of Revelation will never be sacred for me.
- The Bible was written by Jews and for Jews. It is not a historical history but a religious one. Most Christians don’t know that, so they read it literally and misinterpret it often.
- Very few Christians know that Jesus was born and died a Jew, never heard of the word Christian, and didn’t start a new church. The Followers of the Way (the early name for Jesus’s group) were almost entirely Jewish until 88 CE.
- Many clergy are atheists and a few are agnostics, but they’re not going to tell you because they could lose their paychecks. Deep down, many clergy know that God is a man-made concept, but speaking the truth leads to being fired.
- Theology masquerading as truth is only truth if one wants to believe it. The doctrine of the trinity never made sense to me and never will. At ninety-one, I don’t think I believe one piece of Christian theology.
- Religion can’t save us from whatever people think they need to be saved from. It’s an empty promise but a great marketing tool. We can be saved from ourselves only by recognizing our human weaknesses and then making the necessary changes.
- Prayer doesn’t work the way most people think. There anyone up there in nonexistent heaven operating as a master puppeteer pulling strings to make good or bad things happen. Prayer is a chance for self-examination and a call to action.
- Never bring your critical-thinking skills to church. They’re not welcome! Ask the thousands of clergy who have been fired for the sin of questioning.
A healthy religion is one that helps people grow in their faith by welcoming questions, doubts, and disbeliefs. A healthy church is one that helps people figure out their own spiritual path. There is no one way. Critical thinking is the core component in developing an inward and outward spiritual—and authentic—life.
My faith has grown substantially over the years primarily because I have not been a paid member of the church for forty-eight years. My faith comes from Jesus and not the Episcopal Church that wants to have little or nothing to do with me because I think way outside the box.
I still go to church. It’s an open and affirming one that welcomes critical thinking.
I’d love to hear your reactions to the church’s dirty little secrets.
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo courtesy of Freepik