My Brother Got In A Fight At Church.

My brother does not regularly attend church, and last Sunday he was yelled at in front of an entire Catholic Mass because he broke the communion wafer.

A lady at the altar accused him of “sharing the cracker with his girlfriend,” so my brother opened his mouth to show her the entire thing — already an embarrassing gesture — and the lady called him a liar.  Repeatedly.  My brother argued back, it became loud and heated, and then he walked out.

My brother didn’t know this was a rule, and neither did I — but even if it’s a rule, this is not how you handle things.

The most hurtful thing though is that my brother texted:

“I’ve never been picked on anywhere else except in church. When I went as a kid, those older kids bullied me.  I’m trying to find out the truth but these people won’t let me.”

I felt sick to my stomach.  I remembered when my dad took us to church a few times and those older kids mocked us every Sunday.  They only stopped after I splashed a cup of water in one of their faces.

This is exactly why I was an atheist for over half my life.  And I completely, totally, overwhelmingly understand my brother.

He is genuinely curious about faith — but the church has gotten in the way.  The egotistical few who care so much about their stupid “sacred” rules over living breathing human beings are the very reason that people think the church is a joke, and one jerk makes us all look the same.

I don’t mean to disparage the Catholic Church.  It’s not about that, at all.  I know the church sometimes gets an unfair reputation too.  But if your faith is making you more of a jerk and less gracious, there’s absolutely no point to your faith.  Zero.  It’s better you toss that out the window and start over.

If you’re using the Bible as a weapon against others instead of a mirror to truly examine yourself first, then you have nothing to do with God.  You’re in it for yourself.

I know that no church is perfect.  No community can cater to your every need.  And church-people don’t always accurately reflect who God is.  But every week, I keep hearing about how Christians are hurting other Christians, and I’m so helplessly outraged.  Not even normal everyday people do the kind of crap that so-called Christians do.  I keep remembering that my deepest hurts came from other ministries, from racism and nepotism and favoritism and gossiping and straight up two-faced betrayal.  I’ve met some of these popular Christian bloggers, and the majority of them were a-holes.  I’ve met some megachurch pastors, and a handful of them only lust after the money and the power.  Even deacons in the background be creeping for prestige like a title means so much to them.  I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of some of these things too.

I love my brother.  He’s one of my best friends and one of the greatest people I know.  He’s at least twice as smart as me and he’s been running his own business for over the last half-decade. He is not the kind of person to get in a shouting match this way.  And it’s amazing to me, a damn miracle, that my brother still wants to attend church.  He still wants to go next Sunday.  He still wants to know about God.  Even after being shouted down in front of an entire congregation, he is still seeking.  I think honestly that this is so much more grace than I’ve seen from even the best Christians that I know.

So I exhort you two things.

That 1) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you’re just a jerk, then step down.  Immediately.  Don’t lead again until you realize that unless your idea of God is making you more gracious, however imperfectly, then you’re still just playing around with religion.

And 2) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you have anger issues, then get some help.  Get counseling and mentoring and go to a recovery group.  Your anger doesn’t just “get better” over time.  Get the help, or other people will suffer.  You don’t want to stand before God to explain that one day.

Please pray for my brother.  Pray for our churches.  Pray for grace to permeate our ministries.

God, forgive us for lifting up our buildings higher than You.

— J

Originally posted here.